Even before the first City Council meeting of 2009, Mayor Pro Tem Pam O’Connor, also a director of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was presented with L.A, County Board of Supervisors’ first-ever Green Leadership Award for 2008 in recognition of her leadership to enhance community livability and environmentally sustainable climate protection throughout the entire region.
Then, at the Council’s first meeting of the year on January 13, it approved a court settlement in Friends of the Earth v. Mosbacher, a federal lawsuit brought by two environmental groups and the cities of Santa Monica, Arcadia, Oakland, and Boulder, Colorado charging U.S. government agencies with funding overseas energy projects that contribute to global warming. The settlement required Environmental Assessments on projects with significant emissions, changes in agency practices to insure greater transparency, scaling back on projects that emit large amounts of greenhouse gases, and an increase in support for renewable energy projects.
The tone had been set for what would become a “green” year for the City Council.
Also in January, the Council released approximately $800,000 to the school district under the Master Facilities Joint Use Agreement between the City and SMMUSD – funds that had been withheld in 2007 as a result of the district’s handling of matters relating to special education students and their families. Then in April the Council extended that agreement – which represented funding of over $7 million a year – for an additional three years to June 2012.
At its January 13 meeting, the Council remembered Herb Katz, who had passed away the week before, and on January 17 heard public comment on filling his vacant seat. The vacancy was officially declared later that month, and 27 citizens filed applications for the seat, including Gleam Davis, a Planning Commissioner and education advocate who chaired Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR) and who ran for the Council in 2006, finishing fifth in the race for three seats; also filing was Ted Winterer, a Recreation and Parks Commissioner, president of the Ocean Park Association, and one of the authors of the previous fall’s RIFT initiative and who ran for the Council in 2008, finishing fifth in the race for four open seats.
On February 24, the Council worked its way through many rounds of nominations and voting to select Davis to serve until November 2010.
The green theme was also evident in the Council’s January approval of an ordinance banning smoking in the common areas of apartment and condominium buildings.
Throughout the year, the Council considered updates and reports on the continuing sagas of Phase 2 of Metro’s Expo light rail line from Culver City to Santa Monica and the City’s own Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) of its revisions to the General Plan.
In April and May, attention centered on the Council’s role as Redevelopment Agency board and the agency’s capital funding priorities. There was enthusiastic public support for the Santa Monica High School Joint Use Project under which Samohi facilities and Civic Center property would be shared to expand the school’s resources and to make school facilities more available to the public. In this connection, the Council studied proposals to “cap” the Santa Monica Freeway near the proposed Expo line station at Colorado Avenue and 4th Street so that “land” over the freeway could be used to enhance pedestrian access to the station and to downtown and Civic Center facilities.
Also among the Redevelopment Agency’s capital funding priorities were redevelopment of the Civic Auditorium, an Early Childhood Education Center, and the proposed Pico Neighborhood library.
Contact Terence Lyons