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Dozens of Santa Monicans Urge More Funding for Samohi Mixed Use Project:

More than 35 people gave public comment at Tuesday’s City Council meeting on an agenda item outlining the redevelopment agency’s funding priority recommendations for capitol improvement projects. More than half the speakers, including a handful of students from Franklin Elementary School, asked the Council to make the Santa Monica High School Joint Use Project a priority. Many people called for an increase to the City’s suggested $46 million allocation for funding that project; in some cases, the community called for funding to be tripled. An additional $25 million has been suggested by staff for a shared parking unit with the Civic Center and the high school.

While not a part of the adopted Civic Center Specific Plan, the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) has developed a broad plan to overhaul Santa Monica High School that includes new or redeveloped recreational and cultural facilities that the community could access when not needed by the high school. City staff has noted that a primary concern with the creation of new joint-use facilities is the City’s long-term ability to provide the necessary operating funds for staffing and maintenance during non-school hours.

At the end of the day, the Council voted to move forward on their top priorities, allocating $58 million to the Santa Monica High School Joint Use Project and $4.4 million toward the Civic Center Early Childhood Education Center, even though the updated staff report suggested $3.4 for the childhood center. They named the other top priority projects as parking, the Pico branch library and transit stations for the Expo Light Rail.

City Manager P. Lamont Ewell urged the Council to make a decision on all projects by June 9. Approximately $1.27 billion dollars of projects are potentially eligible for Redevelopment Agency funding and the agency’s total debt capacity through 2014 is estimated at $283 million.

Though discussion of the redevelopment agency’s funding priorities took up most of the meeting time, other items included the appointment of Ellen Brennan to a vacancy on the Pier Restoration Corporation, the appointment of Steven Marks to a vacancy on the Airport Commission, the appointment of Emily Arms to the Commission on the Status of Women, and the appointment of Ted Winterer to a vacancy on the Planning Commission for a term ending June 30, 2011. Mayor Pro Tempore O’Connor was reappointed to an additional term of the Board of Directors of the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority Board. Staff also gave an update on the Draft Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

Additional agenda items were heard after midnight. The next meeting will be an annual budget study session on May 26.

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