The State of the City II luncheon on Thursday, July 17, sponsored by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, had a decidedly anti-RIFT flavor to it in this election year.
Last year’s Chamber chairman Tom Larmore noted the “ambiguities” in the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT) on the November ballot and argued that the City Council’s consultants had found that it would have no impact on traffic and result in an $11.3 million annual loss to the City’s economy. Mayor Pro Tem Richard Bloom, sitting in for an ill Mayor Herb Katz, praised the more flexible draft Land Use and Circulation Elements (LUCE) of the City General Plan, calling it a “forward thinking document” and stressing the importance of “maintaining our leadership in the health care industry,” whose research facilities would come within the development limits of RIFT.
City Manager Lamont Ewell reported on the first city budget to exceed $500 million, allowed that Santa Monica is “blessed with five major revenue sources” none of which account for more than 15 percent of revenues, but warned that there are “strong signals that we are in for tough times.” Bayside District Corporation Executive Director Kathleen Rawson said that the economy is soft “and retailers downtown are feeling it,” and Convention and Visitors Bureau President and CEO Misti Kerns reported that airlines cutting 15 percent of available seats come September 15 “will hurt” the tourist economy. Kerns added that new construction and development would be the “key to economic success” and that the demand was there for more hotel rooms.
The luncheon at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel was an update on the economic outlook outlined at January’s first State of the City presentation. Chamber President/CEO Laurel Rosen noted the casual format, with furniture and design elements on the dais provided by Design Within Reach (Bloom in a large and very bright orange lounge chair, and Larmore commenting that he was “unaccustomed to sitting over here on the left wing” – his left, the audience’s right).
Ben Franz-Knight, Executive Director of the Pier Restoration Corp., provided some not-so-economic but informative announcements about the Pier’s upcoming centennial celebration and its steering committee to be co-chaired by Robert Redford and Joan Baez.But the sub-text of the event seemed to be RIFT, though it was rarely mentioned by name.