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Former Mayor Proposes Santa Monica County:

Former Santa Monica Mayor Michael Feinstein proposed the formation of a Santa Monica County at a University of Venice symposium on “Venice Self-Government: Strategies and Alternatives” last month.

Feinstein noted that if Santa Monica and Venice, which is currently part of the City of Los Angeles, formed their own county, they would have more power, could promote ecological consciousness and coordoidinate development, transportation and affordable housing planning.

Feinstein cited the example of the Lincoln Corridor, which passes through several jurisdictions, including Santa Monica, Venice, Culver City, Marina Del Rey, and Westchester, and is the target of “a lot of conflicting desire” that has resulted in “different jurisdictions tugging and pulling at each other.” According to Feinstein, “better planning could be done if these jurisdictions were all part of one county.”

The former mayor also pointed out that state and city affordable housing requirements could also be more efficiently coordinated and facilitated if the coastal cities were part of a separate county as that would give “the cities within the county the ability to decide how to work together” on this and other issues.

In order to form a new county, “Everyone in the county would have to vote on the issue and it has to be a comprehensive solution for people who are breaking away and for the people who are left behind” Feinstein said.

He went on to say that if Los Angels County (LAC) was ever divided into several smaller counties, it could be done by climate zones — mountains, valley, L.A. basin and coast. Or, he said, it might be done along ecological lines, with watersheds the determining factor. Under that scenario, the coastal county would range from Mulholland to Imperial Highway and include the Ballona watershed, Topanga and Malibu Creeks.

Feinstein emphasized that the formation of a new county would depend on “income sources…property taxes and how Proposition 13 screwed up our state should be addressed as part of this question. Given the land prices here and the demand here, if there’s ever a growth industry here it’s in property values.”

He concluded by saying that an alternative to a new county might be making the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG) “more of a regional government and work on regional planning” and other common issues.

The other participants in the symposium were very open to Feinstein’s proposal because Venice residents have become very disillusioned with Venice’s current role as a small piece of both the county and the City of Los Angeles, which has resulted in their having very little control of their own destiny.Much of the symposium was devoted to the ways and means Venice might become a separate city again. Venice community leader Suzanne Thompson said that Venice cityhood “offers the idea of direct involvement self-government and, of course, results.”

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