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Residents Weigh In on Capital Funding Priorities at City Council:

The Santa Monica City Council meeting ran past midnight on April 14, with much of the time being spent on public feedback about the Redevelopment Agency’s Capital Funding Priorities presentation. Since there were an inordinately high number of requests to speak made by the public – 47 in total – the Council made a decision prior to the hearing to view the agency’s presentation and subsequently conduct the public hearing, but hold off on making any decisions.

The Council also invited any member of the public who did not want to stay for the overly long meeting to come back and speak at a meeting in the near future, the date of which has yet to be determined. It is likely that the meeting will be scheduled as a special meeting, and it could take more than one meeting to reach a conclusion on the issue. Approximately 30 speakers chose to stay, and ten speakers alerted the clerk that they would like priority to speak at a future meeting.

The bulk of speakers, including students, parents, and staff from Santa Monica High School, were there to voice support for the high school joint use project that would link the school with the City at large. Many people also talked about the Civic Auditorium redevelopment as a huge plus for the arts community. The planned early childhood education center was the most important component for a half dozen speakers. The building of a Pico Neighborhood library was also a largely supported project during the public hearing.

Staff recommended that the Council adopt refined funding priorities and preliminary funding commitments to allow key capital projects to move forward. Approximately $1.27 billion dollars of projects are potentially eligible for Redevelopment Agency funding. The agency’s total debt capacity through 2014 is estimated to range from $283 million to $313 million. On April 8, 2008, the agency confirmed its long-term priorities regarding capital programs to be funded with redevelopment funds, as follows: affordable housing, Civic Center parks and public facilities, downtown parking strategy, traffic signal master plan, Memorial Park expansion, commercial corridor improvements, and infrastructure improvements. City Council also directed staff to review whether proposed improvements at Santa Monica High School could be eligible for redevelopment funding. Staff recommended that Council approve the following preliminary funding allocations for affordable housing and the Civic Center plan. To see a list of funding for additional projects, visit www.smgov.net and click on agendas, go to 2009 agendas, and click April 14.

Affordable Housing: $ 10 million

Civic Center Parks and Public Facilities

-Planning and Design: $2.5 million

-Palisades Garden Walk: $25 million

-Civic Auditorium Adaptive Reuse and Renovation: $25 million

-Civic Auditorium District Projects: $21 million

-Early Childhood Education Center: $3.4 million

-Freeway Cap Park: $2 million

-Expo Green Streets and pathways: $20.9 million

-Santa Monica High School Joint Use Project: $46 million

-Shared Parking: $25 million

On the topic of homelessness and the city’s progress, staff presented a report that showed Santa Monica is at the forefront of the issue. Councilmember Bobby Shriver repeatedly pointed out that, as the report stated, it is more expensive to keep people on the streets than it is to provide them with housing. Shriver is working to get housing for homeless veterans at the Los Angeles Veterans Administration Building, a project that is about to come to fruition. A representative from Los Angeles County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky’s office commented on Santa Monica’s success in dealing with homelessness.

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