After 90 years of providing services for the community the Santa Monica YWCA closed its doors in June of this year. In their farewell letter they stated “funding priorities have shifted.” As their direct neighbor for over 25 years, I am concerned about the future use of the property and the ever-expanding footprint of Santa Monica College, particularly since the Y’s 14th St parcel abuts one of SMC’s parking lots on 14th and Pico.
Rapid changes in technology have radically impacted our lives – much of the entertainment post production industry now calls Santa Monica home, as well as internet/web based businesses. Downtown, our new Metro link plus the vertical integration of housing and storefronts are quickly changing the population and dynamic of our community. We are no longer a big town with an ocean view, we are truly becoming a metropolitan city.
The issue of Santa Monica College and its expansion is a double-edged sword. It is a local hallmark of educational excellence since its founding in 1929 and now boasts a student population of 34,000. With the recent bond measure Santa Monica homeowners pay hefty property taxes to support the College’s five campuses with only a small percentage of the students actually residing in our city. In the name of progress, it may be time for one of the state systems to absorb the institution and that merits a much more involved discussion.
I would hope the residents of Santa Monica and particularly my neighbors in Sunset Park would agree that one of the ways we can have change be true progress is to ensure the needs of our residents are being met. Located on two bus routes, the 14th Street “Y” property is easily accessible to our residents. Let’s keep the property for use for serving community residents. Shouldn’t we have another community-based nonprofit use the site to provide for the good of a larger diversity of residents? Certainly the neighborhood still has a need for affordable childcare. And, with more families needing care for their elderly, an opportunity to have these and other community based services within walking distance or a short commute needs to outweigh SMC expansion.