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Homelessness and Transportation Take Center Stage At City Council Meeting:

Aid to the homeless and transportation were two topics discussed at the September 25 meeting of the Santa Monica City Council.

The Council heard an update on homelessness from Stacy Rowe of the Human Services Division. Rowe noted that the OPCC Access Center has opened at its new location at 503 Olympic Boulevard. The facility has been designed especially for the programs it provides and is adjacent to the Samoshel center, which provides shelter to the homeless. Two meal programs have been moved to the center, relocated from their former outdoor locations.

Rowe also said that Human Services is doing outreach to segments of the local population including businesses, the faith community, and ordinary citizens, to get input on homeless issues. She announced the creation of an e-newsletter which will soon be going out to the various groups. “We anticipate the first issue will be out in October,” she said. The newsletter will be posted at humanservices.mailbox@smgov.net.

The City is also calling for proposals from the community in order to develop an education program on the issue of panhandling. Rowe said the education program would emphasize “constructive giving” rather than promoting itself as an “anti-panhandling” program.

Rowe mentioned the three buildings at the Veteran’s Administration that have been designated to house homeless veterans, and thanked U.S. Veterans Affairs Secretary James Nicholson and Councilmember Bobby Shriver for their work to make this happen.

In other actions, the Council heard from Director of Transit Services Stephanie Negriff about the bus company’s plan to purchase five trolleybuses for the “Mini Blue” line.

The trolleys are manufactured by North American Bus Industries and are to be tested, as are all buses in North America, in Altoona, Pennsylvania.

All the councilmembers liked the idea of trolleys but were concerned about the vehicle design reflecting the identity of Santa Monica, since trolleys are easily identified with San Francisco. The proposed design for the trolleys to be purchased has a surf motif that makes the trolleys look something like “woodies” used for transporting surfboards. But some councilmembers thought the “woodie” motif was too literal.

“I’d like to see a design that would cause people to say ‘That’s my city,’ ” said Mayor Richard Bloom.

The Council instructed staff to return with ideas about how the trolleys could be made to reflect Santa Monica in design, while not looking like surfing vehicles.

The Council also approved a one-year pilot program for automated red light photo enforcement. Police Chief Timothy Jackman recommended the program, noting that the technology for photo enforcement systems has improved considerably. The system only captures a picture of the driver so that the privacy of other citizens is preserved.

Councilmember Kevin McKeown said that he initially had concerns about the system due to the civil liberty aspect. But he acknowledged that traffic safety is of the utmost importance and that he felt reassured that privacy rights were being protected by the improved technology.

The Council also approved an ordinance relating to tenant harassment, bringing it into order with a recent California Supreme Court decision, approved an ordinance clarifying relocation benefits, and approved several stormwater management projects.

An anticipated public hearing on the noise and pollution issues at Santa Monica Airport was postponed to the October 9 meeting. City Manager Lamont Ewell explained that the Council was waiting on requested information pertaining to the airport and that the information had arrived too late for the council to be able to prepare for the public hearing.

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