CITY HALL — The youth these days just don’t seem to care about conditional use permits or zoning ordinance updates.
City Council wants to change that.
Council voted unanimously (at a meeting that coincidentally featured a rare group of young people; they were protesting changes to the Santa Monica Pier summer concerts) to try to engage the younger generation on civic issues.
A quarter of all Santa Monicans are between the ages of 20 and 35, city officials said, but they generally don’t visibly participate in civic affairs.
In response, city officials recommended happy hours, temporary art installations aimed at fostering civic pride, and push notifications on council agenda items.
Boston created an app that allows residents to adopt a hydrant, which they would be responsible for shoveling out when it snows. In Minnesota, a group hosts a monthly conversation over food and beer called “Policy and a Pint.”
Suggestions by city officials of a happy hour drew laughs from the public and the council members.
“There could be Brown Act violations at these happy hours,” Councilman Ted Winterer said laughing.
Councilmember Terry O’Day suggested they be held at Pacific Dining Car at 3 a.m.
Jokes aside, all council members favored the proposal and suggested other ways that they could engage a wider population.
Councilmember Gleam Davis proposed a civic hackathon during which residents could brainstorm about the future of the city.
“I think hackathon is a word that young people recognize and we could try to get young people to come,” she said. “Offer food, happy hour, however you want to do it.”
Davis and a number of other council members expressed a desire to expand the pool of people who participate in public discourse. People are busy, they said, and not everyone has time to wade through pages of staff reports and sit for four hours at a council meeting waiting for their chance to speak.
Notifications could be sent to smart phone users letting them know to tune into a live feed when the Planning Commission or the council finally gets around to the issue the user is concerned with.
Lenore Morrell, who spoke during the public portion of the meeting, was upset that council would “sort of dismiss” the regular meeting attendees simply because they speak so frequently.
“I aspire to be one of the usual suspects because I consider them, at least if you’re referring to people who come here often and speak often, as people who are really devoted to this city and spend an enormous amount of time researching, talking to their neighbors and associates, and coming up with proposals,” she said.
Other speakers, like Mid-City Neighbors President Andrew Hoyer, were excited about the plans.
City officials included a list of already-formed civic organizations that they plan to reach out to, including Santa Monica Next, The Jaycees, and Santa Monica Spoke.
Councilmember Kevin McKeown supported the idea and asked that the list be expanded to include the Santa Monica College public policy group and other young groups. The neighborhood groups, which he acknowledged tend to be attended by older people, could help engage their younger neighbors.
Young people care about jobs, affordable housing, and having social activities, Davis said. She questioned whether some of the existing older groups are attuned to the needs of Millennials and Gen X-ers.
“Not to insult anybody but when I’ve spoken to young people they don’t feel, sometimes, that some of the groups that are dominated by older people are speaking to them,” she said. “They’re not talking about the issues they care about.”