The City of Santa Monica showed respect for its elders on Tuesday, when the Santa Monica City Council at its regular meeting declared May as Older Americans Month in the City. Barry Seid, Chair of the Santa Monica Commission for the Senior Community, led a group of seniors in accepting an official proclamation from Mayor Ken Genser.
Up for discussion were initial plans for a Pico Area Branch Library. Though it’s still in the very early stages of planning, City staff is examining the possibility of putting the new library on the grounds of Virginia Avenue Park.
A spokesperson from the Pico Neighborhood Association, the only speaker of the night on the library item, said the park would not be the best place for the new library. Between the four councilmembers present– Richard Bloom, Gleam Davis, Kevin McKeown and Ken Genser – there was an even split as to those supporting a library at the park and those supporting a library elsewhere. Genser expressed support for a library in the park area, saying young people who might not otherwise go to the library would be naturally drawn there by the park. Bloom agreed that the library should be located at Virginia Avenue Park because he said it would enhance the existing park. Davis and McKeown voiced support for a location other than the park for the new library, with McKeown voicing vehement disapproval of any removal of green space at the park. Davis appeared more open to the possibility of a library at the park, with the caveat that no matter where it is located, the new library should not just be a lending library, but a literacy center that includes space for educational programming.
City staff was directed by the Council to study the park and another unnamed location for potential library sites and report back to the Council as soon as possible. According to the staff report, locating the library at the park would cost an estimated $12.8 million, while locating it at an undetermined spot along Pico Boulevard would cost approximately $30 million.
An ordinance to permit pawnbrokers as permitted uses in the downtown commercial and downtown overlay districts passed unanimously.
Next, a new plan to keep The Woodlawn Cemetery in operation was presented by City staff.. The cemetery operations were to remain as they are, the available inventory of in-ground burial plots would be depleted by the end of next fiscal year. A study suggests, among other things, the creation of 12,000 new inventory spaces, analysis of construction of a crematorium, and a financially sustainable operation that no longer requires general fund subsidies. Currently, there is a residency restriction for all in-ground burials and casketed crypt spaces within the mausoleum, but no residency restriction for cremated remains. Removing the residency restriction is one of the possible facets of the new plan. Councilmember McKeown said it was important to get the word out to Santa Monicans that there is space in the cemetery, so local residents will have a leg up on planning to be buried there, before any move to lift the residency restriction is made.
A request by Genser that the Council waive customary fees for use of Council chambers to allow the California State Lands Commission to hold its regular meeting on Monday, June 1, passed unanimously. An additional request by Genser that the Council authorize the continued hearing and discussion of Redevelopment Agency Capital Funding Priorities, continued from the April 14 Council meeting, to be placed on the May 12 agenda, passed unanimously. Almost 50 speakers wanted to give comment on April 14 and were told they could go home and would get priority to speak at a future meeting.
A request by Davis that the City Council oppose Propositions 1D and 1E in the May 19 statewide special election was supported by Genser and McKeown, opposed by Bloom. McKeown respectfully asked Bloom to change his position, but Bloom did not do so. Proposition 1D will divert $1.7 billion over the next five years from early childhood programs to the state’s general fund. Proposition 1E will divert $460 million over the next two years from mental health programs that reduce incarceration, homelessness, and emergency room visits to the state’s general fund. Since three Councilmembers were absent, the item will be heard again at a future meeting.
A request by Genser that the Council allocate $15,800 from the Council Contingency Fund to support the production of the 2009 Main Street Fourth of July Parade passed unanimously.
The next City Council meeting will be held on May 12.