Tag: Santa Monica City Council

City Council Approves Added Renter Protections To Limit Rising Evictions

January 25, 2024 ·

SANTA MONICA—On Tuesday, January 23, the Santa Monica City Council approved a slate of added protections for renters, including prohibitions against drastic rent increases, unjust evictions and harassment.

According to a press release from the city of Santa Monica, the added protections are in response to a regional increase in eviction filings resulting from the expiration of COVID-related protections, in addition to the current housing crisis. Amendments will be made to the Tenant Protection Code, Housing Anti-Discrimination Code, Tenant Relocation Code, Tenant Harassment Code and Tenant Buyout Agreements Code.

“These amendments further solidify protections for the city’s renters — approximately 70 percent of Santa Monica residents — and create greater housing stability, in alignment with the city’s strategic priorities of Addressing Homelessness and Justice, Equity & Diversity,” reads the press release.

“Renters make up the majority of our Santa Monica community, and many have called this city home for years,” said Mayor Phil Brock. “It is critically important that families who make up the fabric of our city have the ability to stay here.”

The approved amendments will go into effect 30 days after the second reading of the ordinances, which will take place at the meeting scheduled for February 13.

Approved amendments include:

Financial assistance for constructive evictions: amendments to the Tenant Relocation Code will add five additional grounds under which tenants can receive permanent relocation financial assistance, including if:

-their housing is not covered under state or local law on excessive rent increases and their landlord imposes an increase of more than five percent plus inflation, or ten percent, whichever is lower;
-they are forced to move because their living situation is not tenable, including if they’ve been displaced for six months or more or if a building official orders relocation because the housing is unhabitable.

Protections against excessive rent increases: an amendment to the Tenant Protection Code would bar landlords from imposing excessive rent increases that substantially exceed the market rate, a tactic sometimes used to influence tenants to move out, in effect circumventing the requirement for the landlord to have just cause for eviction.

Further strengthening anti-discrimination rules: amendments to the Housing Anti-Discrimination Code will prohibit discrimination based on housing status and bar landlords from refusing to make basic repairs required by the Santa Monica Housing Authority to participate in the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program.

Added protections from harassment: amendments to the Tenant Harassment Code to clarify and expand the types of actions that constitute harassment, including:
-changing locks and doors to evict a tenant
-refusing to accept rent payments
-imposing excessive or unlawful rent increases and
-retaliation against a tenant for reporting a violation

The amendments also outline examples of prohibited coercion and intimidation, including:

-refusing to cooperate with a tenant’s request to lawfully replace an occupant who has moved out
-repeatedly offering to buy a tenant out after having been informed the tenant does not want to be bought out

The amendments increase the maximum penalty for harassment from $10,000 to $20,000 per violation.

Extending protections to tenants in non-rent-controlled units: amendments include extending buyout agreement protections to tenants in non-rent-controlled multi-family housing subject to local just cause eviction protections. Any buyout agreement — when a tenant agrees to move out of their unit in exchange for money or a waiver of rent — must be for at least the amount required by the Tenant Relocation Code, and the new rules allow tenants to cite a landlord’s failure to file a buyout agreement with the city as a defense against an eviction.

The Santa Monica City Council informed staff, in consultation with the city’s Rent Control Board, to draft a charter amendment for the voters that would prohibit evictions for tenants with small rental debts and evictions based on a tenant making authorized alterations to their unit without a city permit.

For more information, review the staff report or view the council discussion.

By Trevor

Movement Made On Future Of Santa Monica Airport

December 27, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—On December 20 it was announced that the Santa Monica City Council took a large step forward in the process of closing the Santa Monica Airport, approving an agreement with Sasaki Inc. to assess the existing site conditions, gather public input and propose options for the future of the airport land centered around a “Great Park” consistent with Measure LC.

Santa Monica is planning to hire a new principal design and planning manager dedicated to the project, pending Personnel Board approval in January 2024. With Sasaki and additional staff resources, the Airport Conversion Planning Project is expected to kick off in early 2024.

“Having been a Recreation and Parks Commissioner for almost 14 years, I believe that our city needs more park space,” said Mayor Phil Brock. “I am impressed by Sasaki and look forward to kicking off the process in bringing a great asset to our community.”

According to a press release, Sasaki will lead research and outreach efforts with the public in five distinct phases, wrapping up with a preferred alternative going to the Santa Monica City Council at the end of 2025.

-Phase 1 Charting the Course: Sasaki and staff will conduct extensive review of background materials to produce a summary and analysis that lays out a clear framework for the process. This includes looking at policy documents, historical and cultural resources and gathering information on the environmental, cultural and planning opportunities and limitations for the site, as well as the community’s initial needs and desires.

-Phase 2 Discovering the Place and Setting the Stage: This phase involves a comprehensive assessment of the current environmental conditions, transportation and infrastructure, natural and cultural resources and regulatory frameworks related to the airport site. Sasaki will also explore options for funding strategies for a proposed project and create a draft of the guiding principles. These principles will be the basis for the planning scenarios of Phase 3 and will go before the City Council for comment before moving to the next phase.

-Phase 3 Defining the Future of Place: Sasaki will work with the community to explore and test various scenarios for the future of the airport land, generating alternatives that are environmentally sound, financially viable, and programmatically feasible and closely align with the established guiding principles for the “Great Park” but explore different emphasis and organization of those principles. This work culminates in the preferred scenario that considers the previous information, community input, and City Council approval to date.

-Phase 4 The Path Ahead: The team will develop a detailed strategy for a phased implementation of the preferred alternative from Phase 3, while also considering innovative ways to initiate on-site activations from day one of city possession of the airport land on Jan. 1, 2029. This proposal would be presented to the City Council for review and approval.

-Phase 5 Preferred Scenario Plan Vision Book: Following City Council approval of the preferred alternative, Sasaki -will compile a comprehensive document comprised of the research data, reports, community outreach sessions, and the scenario planning alternatives as well as the details of the preferred plan and next steps for implementation.

During each phase, Sasaki, in partnership with city staff are set to host more than 60 meetings and listening sessions with the community, city boards and commissions and the city council in various formats.

The 227-acre airport property, which was once a park, represents nearly five percent of the Santa Monica’s total land area. The city has obtained authorization to close the airport for aviation uses after December 31, 2028, and passed a resolution in 2017 codifying that plan.

The property is subject to voter-approved Measure LC, which restricts development on the airport property to only allow parks, public open spaces and public recreational facilities and the maintenance and replacement of existing cultural, arts and educational uses.
For more details, review the staff report or watch the Santa Monica City Council discussion.

By Trevor

City Council Votes To Support Justice For Renters Act

November 15, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—The City of Santa Monica announced in a press release on Tuesday, November 14, that the City Council during its meeting on October 24, voted to support the Justice for Renters Act, a state ballot initiative set for the November 2024 ballot.

The initiative would repeal the 1995 Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which places limits on municipal rent control ordinances. Under Santa Monica’s current rent control law it limits rent increases and evictions for tenants of approximately 27,000 apartments in the city built before the law went into effect in 1979.

Under Costa-Hawkins, landlords of those rent-controlled apartments are allowed to raise rents to market rate once a tenant moves out.

“The Costa Hawkins act has a very pernicious effect on our ability to control people’s financial ability to continue to live in Santa Monica,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “The Justice for Renters Act will help local governments address some of the root causes of homelessness — skyrocketing rents and unaffordable housing.”

Rent Control Board records display that initial median rents for new tenants have rose each year since Costa-Hawkins went into effect. With the federal standard for affordability, a household would have required an income of at least $115,429 to afford a studio apartment in Santa Monica at the median rental rate set in 2022 for new tenancies.

The Santa Monica Rent Control was adopted by the voters in April 1979 in response to a shortage of housing units, low vacancy rates, and rapidly rising rents.

The law was aimed to alleviate the housing shortage and to ensure that owners received no more than a fair return.

The Rent Control Board and the Rent Control Agency focus on the following:

-Controlling the rent that may continue to be charged for a residential rental unit and providing remedies if excess rent is collected
-Determining the base amenities/services included in the rent and providing remedies for any reduction
-Limiting the grounds for eviction
-Limiting removal of units from the rental market
-Ensuring rental-property owners a fair return

For additional details on Santa Monica’s rent control program visit here.

By Trevor

City Council Unanimously Approves Private Security Downtown

July 28, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—City Council unanimously voted 7-0 to approve a pilot program that will deploy a private security company to patrol downtown Santa Monica at a regular meeting on Tuesday, July 25.

The 12-month pilot program, currently set to cost $1.7 million, would employ Covered 6, a private security company based in Southern California. 

Several residents, business owners, and employers of Santa Monica have taken to city council meetings to voice the impact local crime, in combination with the ongoing issue of homelessness, has had on the city’s tourism industry.

“Santa Monica is perceived as unsafe, unclean, and unsuitable for travelers. Addressing this perception is vital as it impacts not only the Fairmont but also all other businesses in the city,” said Sam Jagger, the General Manager of Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica.

“This is the same for our employees. They don’t feel safe going home at night. They don’t feel safe coming in in the morning,” he said.

The Covered 6 security guards will operate on three shifts; morning, afternoon, and night. Their main duties, according to Covered 6 Chief Officer Michael Grant, will involve assisting residents and tourists with directions or recommendations, aiding homeless individuals in finding resources, and de-escalating situations where there is an “imminent threat” until police can arrive.

“This resource is not designed to replace or undermine or in any way determine how we deploy our police department,” clarified City Manager David White.

Chief Grant said the security officers will make contact with homeless individuals, attempt to offer them available resources and follow up with their progress to report back to Downtown Santa Monica Inc.

Much of the questions from council members concerned the fact that one supervising security guard on each shift will be armed with a 9mm Glock. Other security guards on shift will not be armed.

“I’m not comfortable with any private security forces being armed,” said Councilmember Jesse Zwick. “I don’t understand what instance we would ever want private citizens firing weapons on the Third Street Promenade. The use of deadly force, even by our police officers who are highly trained, is a remarkably delicate issue.”

Chief Grant said that a core part of Covered 6 security guard training is being “very reluctant to use force.” 

“They’re very reluctant to use any force at all. In fact, if we see the situation is getting out of hand, of course then we would call law enforcement to standby but we don’t want to become a burden to law enforcement as well,” he said.

According to Grant, each supervising security guard who possesses a gun will have served a California State Police Agency, be licensed through the Bureau of Investigative Services, and receive additional training from Covered 6.

Councilmember Zwick attempted multiple times to add an amendment to the proposal that would prevent the supervising security guard from carrying a gun. There were no seconds on these proposed amendments.

By Paige Strickland

Balanced Budget for FY 2023 – 2025 Approved By City Council

July 3, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—On June 27, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously adopted a balanced biennial budget for Fiscal Years 2023-2025. The budget reflects the most substantial restoration of services since 2020, and builds on the work done in recent years to help respond to and recover from the COVID-19 emergency as well as make strategic investments to advance priority areas the city council identified at its workshop on March 11, 2023, which include Addressing Homelessness; Clean and Safe Santa Monica; Cultivate Economic Recovery and Expand Community and Cultural Offerings; Racial Justice, Equity, and Social Diversity; and Sustainable and Connected Community.

“As we continue to recover from the pandemic, the approval of the Biennial Budget adds to the City’s momentum and focuses our next two years,” says Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis. “I’m looking forward to the expansion of our beloved programs and ask for the community’s support as enhancements become implemented to address what’s most important to our residents.”

The city reported in a press release that the overall FY 2023-25 Proposed Biennial Budget is approximately $745.0 million in FY 2023-24 and $750.6 million in FY 2024-25, net of reimbursements and transfers. That is a difference of $4.2 million and $4.1 million, respectively, from what was presented at the Budget Study Session in May 2023.

The final budget reflects the Santa Monica City Council priorities and direction and utilizes new revenues from Measure CS adopted by voters in November 2022, including:

-Allocating resources to several public safety initiatives such as adding six police officers and one police sergeant to expand the Homeless Liaison Program team to enable the program to operate seven days per week and augment patrol operations; investing in technology to enhance community safety; enhanced patrol and security services at the Pier, Beach, and Downtown; implementing a transit safety officer program for Big Blue Bus (BBB) to enhance customer and Motor Coach Operator safety on BBB’s 19 routes and 980 stops in the City and the Westside, and further staff restorations to the Santa Monica Animal Shelter.

-Expanded efforts to address homelessness such as the addition of another multidisciplinary outreach team to work east of Lincoln Blvd., in areas outside of the current focus areas Downtown and the Beach; development of a Homelessness Strategic Plan that sets clear policy direction, promotes alignment across City stakeholders, supports regional efforts, and improves focus on measurable objectives and reporting; expansion of SAMOSHEL hours to allow for 24/7 intakes; allocating funds to support eviction prevention; a new 3-1-1 outreach response in partnership with the Salvation Army to respond to requests in the field; and the addition of a dedicated Santa Monica Fire Department case manager.

-Expanded Public Works teams for maintaining clean public spaces such as increasing alley clearing frequencies; enhancing illegal dumping and bulky item pickup services; and enhancing tree pruning in high-traffic areas.

-Organizational realignment to create the Housing and Human Services Department and the Recreation and Arts Department to carry forward the Community Services Department’s work to be responsive to the social and economic challenges residents are facing, the need for community healing and recovery, and to provide services and programs that enrich lives and help people thrive.

-Grants to support the behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents.

-Further restoration of youth programs by enhancing staffing to enable CREST afterschool programs to fully operate at elementary schools and enroll additional participants; ongoing staffing of the Police Activities League and Virginia Avenue Park youth programs that serve the most vulnerable populations in the community, building participation by 480 to 500 youth for a projected total participation of over 2,200 youth served; and supporting SMMUSD’s continued operation of the Playground Club program.

-Further restoration of Santa Monica Public Library’s programs and hours to include the Main Library extending hours to include Saturdays, extending evening hours at all open locations (Monday through Thursday) to 8 p.m., and opening the Main Library one hour earlier (Monday through Thursday) at 10 a.m.

-The continuation of the Art of Recovery program which funds inclusive and diverse cultural activities that support mental well-being, build and connect community, and spur economic recovery.

-Funds to continue essential road maintenance and rehabilitation projects.

-Support for monthly meetings for the Landmarks Commission.

-A new small businesses assistance program.

-Establishing a Citywide ADA Coordinator.

-Restoration of City Traffic Engineer position to advance mobility projects and develop a multi-year traffic signal preventative maintenance program.

-Continuing work on action plans to support zero waste, sustainable water, and electrification of the City’s fleet.

The Adopted Biennial Budget will be posted to finance.smgov.net/budgets-reports/annual for individuals to view.

By Donald

Pier Bridge Replacement Progresses With Council Approval

June 19, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica City Council’s approved an environmental impact report at a regular meeting on June 13 that will allow the Pier Bridge replacement project to continue.

According to Omeed Pour, a civil engineer and project manager for the city of Santa Monica, the Pier Bridge is an “important asset” for pedestrians to access the Santa Monica Pier. 

“The bridge attracts something around 10 million people every year to our pier, and 95% of them, so 9.5 million people, use the Pier Bridge to get down to the Pier,” said Pour.

In an environmental report, Pour detailed the viable design options to replace the 84-year-old Pier Bridge, which shows signs of wear.

The bridge’s structure is inspected annually by the Los Angeles County Department of Public Works to ensure safety. In a recent inspection conducted on March 14, 2022, the bridge was rated at 8.2 out of 100 in terms of seismic sufficiency. The deck and the superstructure have also been rated poorly. 

Images in the environmental report showed visible cracking cement under the bridge. According to Pour, all viable design options for the bridge’s replacement will have a “75-year design life” which will be structurally sound and ensure safe access for people visiting the pier. 

Restoring the bridge has been a decades-long effort. Santa Monica began trying to replace the bridge in the 1990s, but the project failed when federal funding fell through. The project was picked back up in 2006 as a rehabilitation project, but Caltrans decided that completely replacing the bridge would be a more appropriate way to use funding due to the bridge’s aged condition. 

The official replacement project began in 2010, and eight possible alternatives have been researched since.

In August 2010, the cost of building a new Pier Bridge was an estimated $8 million. By 2021, the cost escalated to $27,225,000.

The challenges for the project continue. A total of $27 million comes from Federal Highway Bridge Program funding. This means every part of the project must be approved by Caltrans.

The bridge is also surrounded by historic and cultural resources as well as scenic corridors including the Palisades Park, the pier sign, the Hippodrome building, Carousel Park, and the Pier deck. Preserving these areas limits design options.

Some of the original eight alternatives would’ve included an elevator, but it was found that it may have adverse effects on the Hippodrome located adjacent to the Pier. Due to environmental impacts, the number of possible alternatives for the bridge has dwindled down to two.

Both alternatives feature a design similar to the current bridge with a wider sidewalk to increase efficiency. In Alternative #1, the bridge would feature a 15-foot sidewalk on the North side, as opposed to the current 9.5-foot sidewalk. 

The preferred Alternative #2 would feature a 15-foot sidewalk on the South side to give more visibility to businesses and reduce the “conflict of pedestrians and vehicles.” It would also include shifting the Pier’s sign 10 feet to the North and raising it 3 feet to reduce the risk of cars hitting the sign.  

The Santa Monica City Council motioned to unanimously approve the Environmental Quality Act report.

June will mark the beginning of the finalized bridge design. The bridge is predicted to begin construction in 2025 and be completed by 2027 in time for the 2028 Olympics.  

By Paige Strickland

Garbage Collection Rates Are Set To Increase This Summer

June 19, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—Garbage collection rates are set to increase by 11% each year for the next five years after City council members unanimously approved new rates at a regular meeting on Tuesday, June 13.

For the last three years during the Covid-19 pandemic, garbage rates in Santa Monica have been frozen while residents experienced financial uncertainty. 

“Meanwhile,” said Yvonne Yeung, the City’s Resource Recovery and Recycling (RRR) Manager. “Rising costs and a stronger demand for a cleaner and greener city means a rate adjustment is absolutely needed now.”

Plans for the garbage rate increase gained support from the City Council at a meeting on February 28 of this year. 

Effective August 1, 2023, the new rates will allow Santa Monica to hire additional sanitation workers to meet the community’s needs as well as help the department comply with California’s new organics recycling laws. 

The increase will also fund a new community cleanup program where residents can apply for a neighborhood cleanup day. RRR will provide community volunteers with necessary cleaning supplies and haul away any trash free of charge. 

“A total of 93 essential workers provide 7-day-a-week services including the recycling of blue bin materials, composting of green bin materials, collection of landfill trash, household hazardous waste, street sweeping, illegal dumping cleanup, and public education in order to keep Santa Monica clean, safe and sustainable,” said Yeung.

“It takes 37 million dollars each year for RRR to provide these services including responding to up to 180 illegal dumping and bulky item collection requests per day, which is the number one most requested 3-1-1 service in the city.”

Tackling illegal dumping has been a community priority to keep Santa Monica’s streets clean and safe, but budget cuts during the pandemic created a significant loss of employees. Funds from the increased rates are set to improve and expand the work of the Bulky Item and Illegal Dumping Response Team by hiring more permanent and full-time workers. The team would monitor areas prone to dumping and proactively clean streets and alleyways.

According to Yeung’s report, Santa Monica currently has 444 residents that qualify for California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE). Based on income level and participation in public assistance programs, these residents qualify for discounted electricity, gas, and water rates. A new Solid Waste Rate Assistance Program would extend a 10% discount to garbage collection in order to minimize the financial impacts on eligible ratepayers. 

By Paige Strickland

City Council Discusses The Expansion Of Cannabis Retail In Santa Monica

June 16, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica City Council could soon permit the sale of adult use cannabis in the city. 

Ajay Kolluri, HdL’s Director of Cannabis Services provided city council on Tuesday, June 13, with a presentation to help councilmembers decide if they should expand or limit cannabis sales in Santa Monica. There was also a portion of the presentation that showed how the city of Santa Monica is unique in terms of legalizing adult use cannabis compare to other cities in the county.

Kolluri revealed how the city has the largest gap in the state between legal supply of cannabis and demand. “Santa Monica residents therefore can, and most certainly do, cross city limits to purchase adult-use cannabis from LA based businesses,” Kolluri said during the meeting.

Councilmembers discussed converting the existing cannabis businesses in Santa Monica to allow them to sell to those 21 years old or older and start a delivery service. Council discussed their concerns about the proximity of dispensaries to schools or sports fields. “Could we allow the two current medical dispensaries to convert to recreational dispensaries?” Mayor Gleam Davis asked.

No official decisions were made regarding the proposal and council will explore the issue at a later date.  

According to the Santa Monica Municipal Code only two dispensaries are permitted in the city and are only for medical purposes which means that customers must provide a doctor’s authorization in order to purchase products. Customers must also be 18 or older.

Medical marijuana became legal in California in 1996 but the City of Santa Monica hadn’t issued its first permit until 2021. 

The city’s only operating dispensary the Local Cannabis Company provided testimony to Tuesday’s city council meeting explaining that many of their walk-in customers lose interest in their business upon learning they need to apply for a medical card. The majorty of them leave without purchasing anything. 

Massachusetts-based Calyx Peak which is a permitted dispensary opened last week six years after the owners submitted their application. Their permit was granted over a year ago in October of 2021. 

Harvest of Santa Monica was also approved in January of 2022 but has yet to be established. 

In 2022, Santa Monica voters approved Measure HMP with a 66.79% “yes” vote to implement taxes for non-medical cannabis retailers, medical retailers, and all other licensed cannabis businesses.

By Christianne

City Council Approves Fines For Catalytic Converter Theft

May 30, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—The Santa Monica City Council approved a new ordinance that includes a $500 fine for suspects in possession of stolen catalytic converters at a special meeting on Wednesday, May 24. Prior to this approval, the city had no laws targeting the possession of stolen catalytic converters.

Catalytic converter thefts in Santa Monica have increased over the last 7 years. According to the Santa Monica Police Department, in 2016, 11 catalytic converters were stolen, and in 2017 that number rose to 35. By 2020, hundreds were stolen each year; there were 229 stolen in 2020, 302 in 2021, and 312 in 2022. In 2023, 215 accounts of catalytic converter thefts were reported as of May 22.  

Santa Monica Police Sergeant Alfonso Lozano indicated Santa Monica averages at least two catalytic converters stolen each day.

Catalytic converters are common in most cars; they remove harmful exhaust pollutants. The part is typically accessible from the exterior of the car, usually underneath the body, which makes it vulnerable to theft. In addition, they are made of three types of precious metals, palladium, rhodium, and platinum, which make it a profitable part for thieves to steal. 

In the past, law enforcement could not hold suspects in possession of stolen catalytic converters accountable unless there was evidence the part came from a victim’s specific vehicle. The new ordinance aims to amend that issue.

The ordinance “will make it unlawful to possess a catalytic converter that is not attached to a vehicle, unless the possessor has valid documentation or other proof of lawful possession,” said Santa Monica Detective Martin Hardy during the City Council meeting.

City Attorney Douglas Sloan said valid proof or documentation can take many forms, such as receipts of purchase, proof to be used by a mechanic, or documentation from a body shop proving ownership. 

“The context matters,” said Sloan at the meeting. “If you work for Toyota, and you’re transporting catalytic converters from a warehouse to a Toyota dealership, and you can show that, then you likely wouldn’t be convicted of this.”

Sergeant Lozano said fines may be issued based on the officers’ “experience” and “intuition.” Officers will utilize investigative discretion; if there is other evidence suggesting the catalytic converters were stolen, this will be taken into account.

“If it’s three in the morning, officers are responding to the radio call, the individuals are under the influence, there’s burglary tools, there’s multiple catalytic converters, they’re not going to have any documentation that they’re going to the mechanics or are coming from a mechanic,” said Sergeant Lozano at teh Santa Monica City Council meeting.

Sergeant Lozano also said that etching the license plate number or last six digits of a vehicle’s VIN number into the catalytic converter can help identify it if it’s found in the possession of a suspect. 

“That does help,” Lozanao stated. “It’s not required, but we do advise people to do that. It’s a linkage type of solution.

By Paige Strickland

City Council Votes To Extend Local Emergency On Homelessness

May 15, 2023 ·

SANTA MONICA—Santa Monica City Council members unanimously voted to extend the local emergency order on homelessness to May 31, 2024, at a regular meeting on May 9. The Council’s action followed a comprehensive report presented by City staff delivering the results of the 2023 Homeless Count in January. The count showed that 926 people were experiencing homelessness in Santa Monica, a 15 percent increase from the 2022 Homeless Count where 807 individuals were identified as unhoused.

“There’s an imbalance of resources in the system across Santa Monica and throughout the region,” said Santa Monica City Manager, David White. “We live in a region that has failed to maintain and develop an adequate supply of housing. Adequate levels of affordable housing and permanent supportive housing are the most critical components to homelessness prevention and resolution.”

In February of this year, the Council declared a local emergency on homelessness, and in March, authorized the city to move forward with investments in homelessness prevention now that resources are available. According to White, the new initiatives presented in the Strategic Plan to Address Homelessness on Tuesday, build upon “the police department’s homelessness liaison team, outreach teams staffed with medical, mental health, and substance abuse professionals, eviction protection, and right to council resources.” 

Santa Monica also has plans to launch a pilot program featuring a therapeutic transport van where medical professionals will “co-respond to incoming emergency calls related to, or presumed to involve, non-combative, medically stable individuals experiencing a mental health crisis,” according to a press release posted by the City on May 11. With the goal of implementing a 24/7 service, the City has allocated $464,000 to the program. 

The City’s initiatives were detailed in four pillars of strategy:

Preventing Homelessness:  Preventing housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increasing affordable housing opportunities.

Behavioral Health:  Addressing the physical and behavioral health needs of vulnerable residents by providing more access to healthcare.

Safe Public Spaces:  Continuously enhancing our approach to maintaining equitable access to safe, fun, and healthy open spaces.

Regional Capacity:  Strengthening regional capacity to address homelessness.

“Sitting here and being a lifelong resident of Santa Monica, I think it’s safe to say that this is the most robust plan to address homelessness in the history of the city,” said Council Member Oscar de la Torre. “In terms of resources, in terms of programs, it’s the most we’ve ever done, and it’s probably still not going to be enough.” 

A concern of several city council members was the large number of homeless individuals in Santa Monica not from the area. De la Torre said he spends a lot of time speaking with unhoused people in Santa Monica, and “98% of people,” he estimated, are from out of state. As a result, De la Torre also said a key focus of these initiatives shoul

d be the pillar of regional capacity, calling on surrounding regions to introduce their own initiatives and share the financial burden in support of Santa Monica. 

“On the horizon this year are new developments,” said O’Shea Stevenson of the Community Services Department. “Las Flores with 73 units, 1819 Pico Boulevard with 48 units, the Laurel with 57 units, and Little Berkeley with 13 units.” 

In addition, according to Stevenson, “Parking structure 3 located at 1318 4th Street was demolished in Fall of 2022 to make way for a 100% affordable housing development with at least 100 units, and the planning for that continues.”

For progress updates and more information, visit the City of Santa Monica’s website at https://www.santamonica.gov/topic-explainers/homelessness.

By Paige Strickland