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City Discusses Community Priorities:

Neighborhood meetings are being held throughout Santa Monica so residents can give input to City officials on what the community priorities should be for Fiscal Year 2009-2010.

The first meeting, which took place in Ocean Park on November 10, began with a presentation by City Manger P. Lamont Ewell on the City’s economic outlook. He stressed that while Santa Monica’s “economy is well- diversified, it is not immune to” the national economic downturn. No mid-year budget cuts are expected for this year, but cuts may be needed next year.

Ewell also reported that the City sales tax revenues have been flattening, partially due to the closure of Santa Monica Place while it is remodeled. The City’s tourism industry has also shown signs of weakening, and office vacancy rates are increasing while office lease rates are decreasing. On the bright side, property values are up over nine percent for this fiscal year, but a lower rate of increase is expected in future years.

Residents commented on citywide priorities as well as those specific to the Ocean Park area. One repeatedly voiced concerned was that the City should continue to give its annual contribution to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and consider having free bus passes for the District’s students. Another issue was setting up neighborhood locations so people can easily refill their Santa Monica parking cards. Also requested was increasing the City’s bikeability, better upkeep of City streets, and better notification of residents on City construction projects, events, and demolition permits.

Residents also asked that priority be given to extending parking times in 15-minute metered zones, charging parking fees on Sundays in all parts of the City, continue the Sustainable Landscape Grant Program, encourage businesses to install bike racks, and fast-track bike rentals services.

Other suggestions specific to Ocean Park included placing quieter buses on the Big Blue Bus’s Bicknell route, replacing the palm trees at the end of Ocean Park Boulevard, and considering a program to remove furniture that is being dumped onto neighborhood streets.

Other suggestions on community priorities will come from the City’s boards and commissions, and the January 27 Council discussion of priorities. The Council will then hold a series of budget workshops in May and adopt the final budget on June 16, 2008.

Additional neighborhood meetings will be held November 24 at the Montana Library and December 3 at Virginia Avenue Park. All meetings begin at 7 p.m. Those unable to attend can give input by visitingsmgov.net, then clicking on the City Budget Suggestions link, or emailing budget@smgov.net.

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