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Santa Monica City Council Gives Green Light to Cirque du Soleil:

The regular meeting of the Santa Monica City Council kicked off Tuesday evening with the full council greeting a group of dignitaries from Santa Monica’s sister city of Mazatlan, Mexico. Santa Monica Mayor Ken Genser and Mazatlan Mayor Jorge Abel Lopez Sanchez vowed to focus on more frequent communication between their respective cities. Sanchez also invited Santa Monicans to visit his city from February 19-24, when one of the largest carnival celebrations in Mexico will take place.

The council then sang Happy Birthday to City Manager Lamont Ewell, while also acknowledging the birthday of John P. Jones, who founded the City of Santa Monica.

Two items from closed session were briefly discussed; both court cases in which the city will settle. In the case of Mahmoudi v. City of Santa Monica, the council agreed on a settlement of $40 thousand, and in the case of Cynthia Walker v. City of Santa Monica, the council agreed on a settlement of $125 thousand. Case numbers are available on the agenda packet on the city’s web site.

A recommendation to adopt a resolution declaring a vacancy on the city council found the councilmembers in a debate over the procedure for filling the late Herb Katz’s seat. The majority of councilmembers wanted to follow the rules of the city charter, which state that the council shall do its best to appoint a councilmember in the event of death, and then proceed with a special election if they cannot reach a consensus. Councilmember Bobby Shriver was the dissenting voice; he pushed for going straight to a special election. The council voted 5-1 to declare Katz’s seat vacant and directed staff to implement a deadline of February 17 for all applications for the position. The council will try to appoint a new councilmember on February 24, and proceed with a special election if necessary. Ted Winterer, the fifth highest vote getter in the most recent election, was proposed as a replacement by a handful of residents during public comment.

Next up was a second reading and the unanimous passage of an amendment to the municipal code to regulate smoking in common areas of multi-unit residential properties.

More than a dozen public comments were submitted on the topic of the city’s proposed agreement with Cirque du Soleil, which would allow the organization to use portions of parking at the Civic Center and the 1550 lot near the pier for a new show running September 14- December 31. The show marks the 25th anniversary of Cirque and the 100th anniversary of the City of Santa Monica. Two people representing Pacific Park said parking should not be granted to Cirque, reasoning that the loss of parking at the 1550 lot will negatively impact business at Pacific Park. About a dozen people, all from the hotel and restaurant industry, supported the parking agreement and expressed excitement about Cirque’s presence in the city and the boost it will bring to the local economy. The council unanimously supported the two parking agreements.

Two motions regarding the city’s acquisition of property at 1334 5th Street passed unanimously.

A recommendation to approve the concept for improvement projects at 20th Street and Cloverfield was defeated because the council decided there was not enough information about bike lanes and other measures in the plan. Staff was directed to report back in sixty days.

Two alternatives for the Ocean Park Boulevard Streetscape project were debated. The first, alternative A, involves a widening of sidewalks and a biker-friendly design, and the second, alternative B, involves a center median. The council moved to consider alternative A, based on public support, but to also keep open public comment on the topic.

An item on budget priorities for 2009-2010 and another item on budget adjustments for 2008-2009 had public hearings, but, for time’s sake, the council held their input until the February 10 meeting.

The council unanimously approved proposed Big Blue Bus schedule and route changes, including service reductions and enhancements. They also unanimously passed a resolution amending Preferential Parking Zone EE to restrict parking to residents at all times on Longfellow Street between Marine and Ozone Streets; Navy Street between Longfellow Street and Lincoln; and, Ozone Street between Longfellow Street and Lincoln Boulevard.

Items regarding appointments to a vacancy on the Pier Restoration Corporation, and the Disabilities Commission were continued until the next meeting. The council accepted the resignation of Yoram Tal’s resignation from the Airport Commission and authorized the City Clerk to publish the vacancy.

The next meeting will be held on Tuesday, February 10 at 5:45pm.

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