Mayor Ken Genser was honored Saturday at the Culture of Peace Resource Center on Wilshire Boulevard. Genser, who is serving his sixth term on the Santa Monica City Council after first being elected in 1988, spoke of continued efforts towards providing a culture of peace in our community.
Soka Gakkai International, a Buddhist organization that promotes peace, culture, and education throughout the world (sgi-usa.org), honored Mayor Genser, recognizing him as a pioneer in the effort towards creating a more tolerant and peaceful way of life. Mr. Genser was invited to speak about creating values and behaviors that reject violence and support peaceful resolutions to conflicts.
Prior to Genser’s speach, Daniel Hall, Director of Peace and Community Relations, and Daisaku Ikeda, President of SGI-USA Headquarters here in SM, presented the Mayor with the Humanitarian Award and a gift for his years of unwavering service and efforts to make cities more neighborly and community oriented. Mayor Genser was a founding board member of the Community Corporation of SM, a not-for-profit corporation that is now SM’s largest residential housing provider.
He explained that by carefully planning and designing cities correctly, everyone can have an affordable place to live. Although Santa Monica has an extremely high property value, thirty percent of multi-family housing units are still affordable to low income families. Mayor Genser discussed the benefits of zoning the community to integrate affordable housing and maintain a diverse population. “The city is designed like a grid where all the streets connect and neighbors are forced to see one another” the Mayor said. He then went on to discuss how zoning can also be misused for economic exclusion, causing cultural exclusion to soon follow. “You must have all types of people to have a true sense of community and create the foundation for peace. You must have a city of inclusion.”
An additional focus was dedicated to increasing awareness about programs available to positively influence the youths of the community. These programs create a strong foundation for peace, and provide a feeling of inclusion for all members of the community. Mayor Genser discussed the development of land and city planning, saying it is increasingly important to keep all people in the community feeling as if they have been fairly and justly represented and included in all city-wide decisions. To widen the educational diversity of the city, programs for youths are more available than ever. Crest, a before and after school program, The Police Activities League, and the Pico Youth and Family Center have all created educational and sporting activities to help promote cultural acceptance and diversity.
“As a city, we try to coordinate programs to keep kids involved and connected with each other and bring them together to ensure a teaching of mutual respect and diversity.” Mayor Genser said. He was adamant that the foundation for peace starts young and that the best way to deal with these kinds of issues is through prevention, not enforcement.
Close to two hundred people participated in a Q and A discussion where residents voiced concerns over increasing traffic and the homeless. The Mayor pointed out that the resident population in SM has consistently hovered at about 90,000 for the past decade, and that interestingly enough, it is actually fiscally more feasible to house and support the homeless than not to. When compared to the cost of overtaxing the emergency services such as the Fire Department, Emergency Room and Paramedics, housing and supporting the homeless is more cost effective. Mayor Genser also briefly discussed the impending Light Rail Metro-Link Trains that will be coming to Santa Monica in the coming years. He mentioned the final stop for the line will be located where what is now the Sears Tire Center.