Under Cirque du Soleil’s Big Top at Santa Monica Pier, Mayor Pam O’Connor addressed residents and officials alike regarding the City of Santa Monica in her State of the City address early Monday morning.
“Access and inclusiveness” were her keywords for the address, noting that Santa Monica’s vision for the future includes quality of life, wellbeing, a culturally rich environment, a community with low crime rates, a strong school system, and a commitment to environmental, economic and social sustainability.
O’Connor spoke of Santa Monica being a city that – despite its small size – is a leader when it comes to meeting these 21st century demands.
“Given the good fortune of our location, community history of activism and progressivism, and our creative and tech rich local economy, Santa Monica is a leader,” O’Connor said.
However, while noting that Santa Monica is a “beacon city,” O’Connor also admitted that the City continues to struggle with issues that “have challenged Santa Monica for decades.”
Citing the year 1984, O’Connor said, while there were major benchmarks including the introduction of the first user-friendly Apple Macintosh computer and Geraldine Ferraro becoming the first female vice presidential candidate for a major party, newspaper coverage in Santa Monica centered on airport noise, traffic congestion and parking woes.
“Sound familiar?” O’Connor quipped.
She also pointed out that back in 1984 Santa Monica’s homeless population was estimated to be between 750 and 1000 individuals. “The City considered suing LA County for failing to address the problem at a regional level,” O’Connor said.
“While Santa Monica has made great strides in 30 years, many of the same challenges remain. So how do we overcome these challenges and become an even greater city?” she asked.
Citing research recently conducted by global management firm McKinsey and Company, O’Connor listed the company’s recommendations on what cities need to do to improve. Many of the recommendations are “already a reality in Santa Monica,” she said.
Among those are:
The need for strategic planning and identification of a city’s competitive clusters.
“Santa Monica’s strength in entertainment, hospitality, technology and healthcare are four clusters that are poised for growth in this new century,” O’Connor said.
Cities should make strategic investments to support smart growth.
“Investments -- like the Automated Transportation Management System, Bike Action Plan projects, Big Blue Bus route adjustments and fleet upgrades and fees linked to development for parks, childcare and affordable housing – all help to sustain and upgrade our critical infrastructure,” O’Connor said.
The need for a regional perspective.
O’Connor said, “Santa Monica has pressed for years to be reconnected to the LA region via transit, and the Expo Light Rail Phase 2 project is over 60 percent complete, on schedule to begin service by early 2016. Further, Santa Monica is involved with our neighboring cities and the County in bike sharing, watershed management, public safety services and emergency preparedness.”
Make urban planning an inclusive process.
O’Connor noted that public participation is a “hallmark” of Santa Monica. “… There are vigorous discussions at the many community meetings and workshops about development plans and projects.”
Invest in opportunity for all.
“From the $17 million dollars in taxes shared with the school district annually to our groundbreaking “Cradle to Career” initiative to ensure that every child in Santa Monica has the full opportunity to succeed in school and work, Santa Monica is deeply committed to opportunities for all,” O’Connor said. She also cited Community Wellbeing as a special focus with the one million dollars Bloomberg Mayors Challenge prize awarded to Santa Monica to develop an Index to measure Wellbeing.”
Building of affordable housing near jobs and transit.
O’Connor said 36 percent of all housing built in Santa Monica since 1994 is affordable to low and moderate income households and the housing authority provides rental assistance to over 1,300 low income households.
The importance of connections to the region.
O’Connor noted that the Santa Monica Freeway, The Big Blue Bus and the upcoming Expo Light Rail are all helping Santa Monica stay connected to the region. “And we are connecting bike paths and developing a regional bike sharing system,” she added.
Thinking environmentally, including green infrastructure, smart growth green districts, resource management and modern building codes.
O’Connor cited the newly-opened Tongva Park as the latest addition to 252 acres of open space and 28 parks in the city, along with the City’s sustainable city report cardand the newly adopted Climate Action Plan to reduce greenhouse gases by 2015.
“We have and we do in Santa Monica,” O’Connor said, highlighting initiatives including the City’s broadband fiber network, known as CityNet, free Wi-Fi at 29 hotspot locations and nine commute corridors to the Government Outreach or GO system.
Winning support for change which requires community vision.
O’Connor cited the following:
- Companies such as Agensys are providing internships and school projects to engage youth in bio-technology.
- Santa Monica College offering job training and internships to the entertainment sector.
- The Hotel Academy preparing young people for careers in the hospitality industry.
O’Connor ended her address stating that “Santa Monica is thriving and succeeding and we are well positioned for an even greater future throughout the 21st century. The future starts now and you are the future.”