Council to consider City’s economic future

MATTHEW HALL
Daily Press EditorCouncilmember McKeownSanta Monica’s economy remains strong but city officials will open discussions Tuesday night on strategies for preserving economic growth in the future.
Council will be presented with a request to provide direction on a new economic sustainability plan at their Sept. 26 meeting.

According to the staff report, the study session is intended to begin a dialogue on how staff and the Council will plan for upcoming changes and disruptions. According to the report, the expected pace of innovation and disruption requires some level of though by city leaders.

“The changes not only pose threats to our traditional sources of prosperity and the local revenues that support city services,” said the report. “They also present opportunities to enhance our community standard of living, wellbeing, and quality of life. Proactive strategic planning and implementation has the potential to enhance environmental sustainability and resilience in the face of acute and chronic stressors, from earthquakes to climate change.”
The report identifies four areas of technological advancement in need of study.

“Growing globalization and exploding digital communication that allows people to work, live, shop, and visit anywhere, unrestrained by geographic advantages and disadvantages, which has the potential to undermine key sectors of Santa Monica economy, potentially leave high levels of business vacancy, and depress City revenues associated with a strong business sector,” said the report.

Staff also said the growing movement away from traditional retail sales to digital sales will have an impact on sales tax, business license revenue and could impact vacancy rates in retail areas.
Transit is the third area of concern.

“The implementation of autonomous, shared vehicles, which has the potential to transform our streets, our parking facilities, and our public transit systems, as well as depress revenues from parking fees, parking fines, traffic citations, and sales taxes on automobiles and fuel,” said the report.

The last subject is job automation.

“There is significant danger in failing to plan for change,” said the report. “Not only does Santa Monica risk erosion of its economic resilience as powerful market forces could overwhelm the city in ways that could significantly undermine our quality of life. It has been observed that ‘nature abhors a vacuum.’

In the absence of well-thought-out plans and consistently executed implementation and adjustments, global forces and faceless corporate entities could determine the shape of our business sector in ways that eviscerate our commitment to local businesses, environmental sustainability, and respect for resident quality of life.”

Council’s discussion will include if an economic sustainability strategy should be developed, what its scope should be, how much input council should have, how community partners will be involved, how resources should be allocated and when to start.

Council will meet on Tuesday, Sept. 26 in City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m.
editor@smdp.com

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