Despite public comment from nearly two dozen stakeholders opposed to part of an amendment to an ordinance governing design standards and installation practices of solar energy systems, the Santa Monica City Council voted in favor of the amendment upon first reading on June 30. Though most of the speakers liked the fact that the new ordinance is an attempt to streamline the process of pulling permits for the construction of solar energy systems, the majority of them took issue with a requirement that solar energy equipment be installed in the location that is the least visible from adjacent streets so long as this does not significantly decrease energy performance or significantly increase cost. Several speakers said that section of the ordinance indicated that solar energy systems are ugly. In addition, many people felt the visibility issue would create more difficulties in pulling permits rather than streamlining the process.
Single family properties will not be impacted by the section regarding visibility.
After lengthy discussion, Mayor Ken Genser and Councilmembers Pam O’Connor, Richard Bloom and Robert Holbrook voted for the new ordinance; Councilmember Gleam Davis voted against it, saying she didn’t like the implication that solar energy systems are inherently unattractive. Councilmembers Kevin McKeown and Bobby Shriver were absent.
The Council also introduced for first reading an ordinance to establish a franchise-based system in Santa Monica. The Council directed staff to consider several things when looking at cab company bids for the franchise, including discounts to seniors, benefits to drivers and safety regulations.
A recent study of taxicab operations in Santa Monica found a consensus among cab companies and drivers, the business community, and City staff that there are too many cabs. Further, there are multiple problems presented by the current open-entry taxicab permitting system which prevent the City from reducing vehicle emissions, limiting the number of taxicabs, setting uniform fares, and requiring taxicab companies to meet operating standards. The goal of the franchising system is to limit the number of taxicab companies to between four and eight companies, limit the total number of vehicles in the taxicab fleet to 250, require franchisees to meet standards for their vehicles and drivers, and be self-supporting through franchise, vehicle permit and driver permit fees.
A recommendation to adopt phase two of the Sustainable City Plan Implementation developed by the Sustainable City Task Force and adopt the Task Force’s recommendation to create a Sustainability Working group passed unanimously. Mayor Genser requested that the group adhere to the Brown Act, which dictates, among other things, that notice of meetings must be posted in advance.
A recommendation to accept Frederick Dewey’s resignation from the Arts Commission and a request to rescind an appointment made on June 23, to the Disabilities Commission due to the recent death of Commissioner Samuel Genensky, were both passed.
The next City Council meeting will be held on July 14.