Eight City Council candidates participated in a forum hosted and moderated by the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) at the Santa Monica Main Library.
SMCLC was founded in 2005 and, according to its website, “is a group of people who have come together to ensure that those of us who call Santa Monica our home have meaningful input into the development decisions that affect our lives.” Thursday’s forum focused on questions about “reasonable development, accountable government and a more thoughtful process for planning, traffic, transportation, parking and tourism in the City.”
Unlike many such events, questions were asked of individual candidates directly, rather than having every candidate respond to each question. Incumbent Pam O’Connor answered only a few questions because she had to leave early for a work-related commitment. The topic that drew the most questions was the City’s ongoing update of the Land Use and Circulation Elements of its General Plan.
Here is a sampling of answers the candidates gave:
Incumbent Kevin McKeown told the crowd, “We need to start thinking in terms of what the ultimate impacts of development are and what the infrastructure of Santa Monica can handle.” To that end, he supports developing a new traffic methodology because he believes “the traffic method we’re using right now doesn’t give us a clue to what the true impacts of development are.”
O’Connor would like the City to focus on “residential growth along transit corridors” like McKeown. She also supports developing a new traffic methodology.
Mayor Robert Holbrook “is not a fan of the population of Santa Monica getting much bigger.” However, “as public transportation becomes more convenient,” he “prefers to see transportation hubs come into where the stations are for light rail” so people can take a bus to the hub.
Jenna Linnekens made it clear that, to her, Santa Monica is more and more “missing the middle class,” so the General Plan should focus on “slow, smart growth that’s environmentally sound, that brings the middle class back to Santa Monica” and includes “affordable for-sale housing.” Both she and Planning Commissioner Terry O’Day favored including Santa Monica College’s future growth and the growth of Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center and Saint John’s Hospital in the City’s General Plan update.
Gleam Davis favors “mixed-use development that contains businesses that serve the community” so car use can be reduced. She also wants limits on “the size of buildings” because “we don’t want to turn Santa Monica into high-rise central.” Both she and Holbrook favored “putting the approval of large projects before the voters.”
Jonathan Mann supports “no more growth.” He would like to “provide disincentives for developers” and other “special interests who have taken over the City.” He also supports “subsidizing properties to rent to small businesses.”
O’Day is interested in finding “housing for community members that have grown families” and is interested in “providing housing for those being forced out of the community by condo conversions.”
McKeown is also interested in more affordable housing projects in the City, specifically “multi-bedroom affordable housing” for the “middle class.” He was asked a specific question on why he supports placing housing in the City’s Light Manufacturing District which currently has no housing. He responded, “For us to accommodate…housing needed for the next 20 to 40 years in Santa Monica and do so without over-crowding our existing residential neighborhoods, we have to look at other places to put housing.” This district was established in a different time, and “the City’s economy and needs are changing.”
Holbrook was asked a question on his record to “preserve our small-town, beach city heritage,” to which he answered, “I haven’t voted for a major development” in my time on the Council. In regards to why he supports tourism, Holbrook says, “I focus on tourism because I think it’s an industry that doesn’t hurt Santa Monica. Tourists spend hundreds and hundreds of dollars outside of the hotels” in the City.
The candidates also responded to two audience questions. The first was the growth of the City government. Says Davis, “Frankly, we need a City Council that is responsible to the people and sets policy for the staff to enact, rather than letting staff select policies for the City Council to enact.”
McKeown’s response to the same question was that it’s the “Council’s job to make sure what we ask for is what the residents of the City want done.”
The second question had to do with what type of parking would be appropriate for housing targeted for transit hubs. Holbrook responded he couldn’t “imagine approving housing without adequate parking.”
O’Day’s response was to build a “walkable community with neighborhood-serving businesses so there are alternatives to using cars.”
Linda Armstrong left early after not responding to the questions asked of her. Instead, she declared her interest in homelessness, after-school programs, University of California admission to all with a B average or above and a comprehensive minimum wage.