As election season draws to a close, we are all deciding on how to best to provide for our city’s, and our families, future.
Our Expectations for a Livable City
Two factors have created the residents’ unprecedented concern about our future. What should we as residents expect from our city? As Livablecities.org describes it,
“The essential character of the city, “its urban character,” evolves through a confrontation of the public and private domains; a constant exchange, a separation and coming together of these two domains. Only when inhabitants live in both domains, can the city meet its full potential for enhancing the life of each, and serve its social and cultural functions.”
Applying this definition of a successful city to Santa Monica over the past 20 years of the residents’ lived experience, it’s clear that the instances of the essential synergistic coming together of the public and private domains has been in inexorable decline. Compounding this decline at every step has been the complete absence of clarity about what the future holds.
How and why the residents anticipate the future of the city
When the future outlook is essentially a fog, the residents default back to using the past as a guide as to what to expect going forward. Unless real change is made, the only outcome that trendline provides here in Santa Monica is continued deterioration in the residents’ quality of life.
One key benefit of the uninterrupted control of the city’s direction under one political group is the uncontested link between cause and effect. The residents have entrusted to the incumbent group complete decision-making authority on every aspect of the city’s development, both culturally and physically. The result has been deep dissatisfaction with the outcomes of both. Despite all the new housing construction in the city, the city has experienced a net decline in population over the last three years according to the CA Department of Finance. The residents are voting with their feet to become ex-residents. This is a key marker of a city in decline.
Residents exclusion from decisions impacting their lived experience
This election, unlike all previous elections, has provided the residents with a clear choice in the determination of our future quality of life. In may ways, it is our last chance to significantly influence the imminent major decisions that will impact our lives for decades to come.
Without making their case to, or asking for the consent of, the residents for the decisions that most directly impact their lived reality for decades to come, the incumbents have embraced an accelerated and unbridled out-of-scale commercial and radical residential development agenda that will permanently transform Santa Monica as we know it.
If the potential outcomes of this agenda are such a good thing for the residents, the incumbents should have been eager to share their vision with, and obtain the consent of, the residents. The fact this is being organized under the radar of the average resident, in ways that are irreversible once implemented, adds a questionable ethical dimension to what is already a set of outcomes that have been demonstrated to be hostile to the resident’s quality of life.
Choices for change in the city’s trajectory and the residents’ connection with their city
The choice we are making in this election is to create a new direction that is driven by, and laser focused on, the re-establishment of the residents’ essential connection to their public spaces, their downtown, essential commercial resources, and their neighborhoods.
- To start, the Slate is committed to transparent government. That means supporting district elections, ensuring City Staff accountability, and an end to the cycle of Council members appointing their successors.
- Financial accountability, responsibility and transparency. Financial management would be re-oriented to active management of the city’s core problem – out of control spending and mismanagement of pension risk. All city operations will be reviewed for cost saving opportunities while also enhancing quality of services. Real Financial accountability and transparency will include enhanced and real resident oversight and advisory participation in budget and fiscal sustainability.
- Crime will no longer be something to manage to the minimum extent necessary to keep residents from organized opposition. It will be based on proactive objectives measures to reunite the residents and their families with their public spaces.
- Responsible community-based and scaled development will ensure that the residents have a central role in deciding on the character of what actually gets approved, especially as over 30 additional developments are in the planning stages with four high rises planned from Ocean Avenue to 5th Street.
- Use of true sustainability metrics for water and power as real guides to development scope and city policy.
- Maintaining and improving affordable housing rather than using that term to justify gentrification. Rent control is a life-saver – it will be protected as enshrined in the City Charter.
- Residents’ cultural resources to receive the highest budgetary priority rather than be viewed as a cost to be minimized. Our senior programs, swim centers and parks and programs will be reviewed and enhanced.
- Creating and enacting policies to encourage a robust and diverse commercial environment scaled to the city and focused on residents will help reunite the city with the residents and help diversify revenue risk
It is not an exaggeration to say that we have a once in a lifetime choice. Choosing the status quo will result in irreversible decisions that will, over time, complete the divorce of the residents to their public spaces and commercial services. Rather than encouraging the residents to vote with their feet, let’s hope they vote for positive and lasting change and elect the Slate of Eight.
Council: Phil Brock, Oscar De La Torre, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, Christine Parra
School Board: Jason Feldman, Esther Hickman, Steven Johnson
SMC College Board: Brian O’Neil
Marc L. Verville for SMa.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)
Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Marc L. Verville, CPA (inactive).
For previous articles see www.santamonicaarch.wordpress.com/writings