The Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday, March 24, embraced as inter-departmental approach to a revamping of the Civic Center in conjunction with the arrival of a new Downtown Expo Light Rail station that will exist in the area when Phase II of the rail project is complete. After watching a 30-minute presentation by city staff, the council supported the idea of various departments, such as the Public Works Department and the Big Blue Bus, working together to come up with a design plan for the area around the Civic Center as it relates to the impending rail stop. Staff is currently studying the concept of a four-acre freeway cap park to add green space to downtown Santa Monica and link the downtown area with the Civic Center and the beach. The cap park would require the shortening of the Holiday Inn, which would be allowed to make up for the lost vertical space by expanding horizontally. Staff is also researching various ways to accommodate the influx of pedestrians to the downtown area that will occur because of the light rail. Ideas include a new pedestrian plaza for people exiting the train downtown, and the elimination of one lane of vehicular traffic on Colorado Boulevard. One of the goals is to play up pedestrian traffic on Colorado Boulevard and downplay vehicular traffic there. The Council also authorized the City Manager to issue a Request for Qualifications (RFQ) from firms interested in a public/private partnership for the use and programming of the Civic Auditorium, and approved the negotiation of a contract with Santa Monica College for the development of the Early Childhood Education Center on the Civic Auditorium Campus. Several residents spoke in support of the education center, saying it was long overdue. The Council also declared by proclamation March 2009 as Women’s History Month. The second reading of an ordinance amending the affordable housing production program was approved unanimously. City code will now exempt specified one hundred percent affordable non-profit housing projects from the Housing Production Program, and require that occupants of affordable housing be chosen from a city-maintained list and that affordable housing units will include very low and moderate income units. A proposed re-model of the existing Macy’s building that would turn it into a Bloomingdale’s passed 4-2. A request by Councilmember Richard Bloom that the Council adopt a resolution supporting implementation of the Marine Life Protection Act was unanimously approved. City staff was directed at the request of Mayor Ken Genser to create an interim ordinance to include pawnbrokers in the list of permitted uses in appropriate locations. The Council unanimously supported legislation labeled AB 20-Third Extraordinary Session, which would increase the local share of the federal transportation economic stimulus funds. The next City Council meeting will be held on April 7 at 5:45p.m..
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