The roughly 250 senior citizens who take advantage of government subsidized lunches at the city's will lose their coveted ocean views.
Under a plan approved by the Santa Monica City Council on Tuesday night in a 5-2 vote, the meals will no longer be offered along the scenic stretch of coastline and will instead be relocated a few blocks east at the Ken Edwards Center, where there's "no natural light, no spacious rooms and no views."
But city officials say the relocation will allow them to complete the transformation of the at Fourth Street and Broadway Street into a one-stop shop for seniors and to reinvent the recreation center as a place that offers programs open to adults of all ages.
"Change is difficult, and we’re talking about changing programming in a very cherished space," said Santa Monica Mayor Richard Bloom. He voted in favor of the relocation.
Under the same plan, the city will boost funding for its "door-through-door" Dial-a-Ride program to offer an additional 1,000 hours of service to about 50 seniors this fiscal year. It will also increase funding to offer biweekly social excursions and to expand its nighttime taxi program for seniors who are at least 80 years old.
The meals and transportation services will be provided by WISE & Healthy Aging, one of 23 nonprofits that receive a total of $7.4 million in city money to provide dozens of social service programs, including $2.8 million to serve older adults.
Just over two years ago, WISE took over operations of the city's senior lunch program, and plans are under way to transition the Palisades Park recreation center operations to WISE, which will see the Ken Edwards Center transformed into a "one-stop shop center."
"We want to build out a more robust and comprehensive level of activities," said WISE President Grace Cheng Braun. "Our plan is to have programming at Ken that’s very specific to seniors."
Bloom encouraged the city and WISE staffers to "tread carefully" when determining which type of new programs would be offered at the recreation center at Palisades Park.
There's a tradition there of serving the senior community, he said.
A number of residents spoke against the relocation at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. Many of them were dismayed that they would lose their ocean views.
"I'm not quite a senior yet, except over at .... Why change it?" asked one resident. "Someday when I want to sit around and eat at Palisades Park, it would be a nice thing to have that there," he said, referring to the program for people 60 and older.
Others, however, were pleased that the transportation services were expanding.
For the first time, city staffers said, the Dial-a-Ride program for those disabled and frail senior citizens who need help getting out of their homes and into a van is operating at capacity.