CITY HALL — In the two years since residents were interviewed about their perceptions of the city, little has changed.

Homelessness and congestion remain among the top challenges facing Santa Monica, while the lack of affordable housing and parking are still troublesome to many, according to a City Hall survey that identified the major issues in the city as stated by residents.

The biennial study, which will be presented to the City Council tonight, was conducted by Goodwin Simon Victoria Research, which interviewed 430 randomly-selected Santa Monicans during a one-week-period in January, asking they point out the biggest problems in Santa Monica and to rate their overall satisfaction with city services. The firm was hired for $30,000 to complete the survey.

Most of the interviews took place with residents on a landline, while the remainder were with cell phone users. About 30 interviews were with Latino residents.

Previously conducted in 2007, the survey is used to aid in city staff development and is frequently used by departments as a benchmark for improvement, Kate Vernez, the assistant to the city manager for government relations, said.

“The survey is a great consumer scorecard and an important management tool … to gives us in depth information as well as food for thought on resident opinions of key issues facing Santa Monica and opinions about our service delivery,” Vernez said. “So far it’s been very useful for us to respond to resident issues and to incorporate those opinions into our work program for the next year.”

While traffic remained a top issue, the percentage of residents identifying it as such has leveled off — approximately 18 percent stated it was a major issue in 2002, jumping to 32 percent in 2007, the latter figure of which is the same as this year.

The number of residents identifying homelessness as a serious issue has also gradually decreased from 45 percent in 2002 to 31 percent this year.

One category where an increase was seen was in growth and development, which approximately 13 percent of residents identified as a serious problem, as opposed to 9 percent in 2007.

The survey also found economic issues becoming an increasing concern for residents. While only 1 percent of residents in 2005 said that creating new jobs in the city was important, approximately 11 percent stated so this year. Approximately 4 percent also said that the city budget crisis and cutbacks in services were a concern.

Residents generally were favorable about the quality of city services, giving the highest ratings to the Santa Monica Public Library, Santa Monica Fire Department and emergency 911, trash and recycling collection, tree trimming, senior services and sports and recreation. High marks were also given to arts and culture and environmentalism.

City Hall’s response to homelessness — including its enforcement of anti-panhandling and overnight camping laws — and traffic were given a lower score.

Approximately 44 percent of respondents said they have given money to panhandlers.

About seven out of 10 residents said they feel they have an opportunity to voice concerns to City Hall, a statistic that Vernez attributes to the various workshops held for the Land Use and Circulation Element and other projects.

“I think it’s our good practice of involving the community across the board in services and programs,” she said.

The survey has already been presented to the department and division heads within City Hall. City staff will also be briefed on the results.

“We basically want to make sure the findings are distributed broadly throughout the organization so that we really get that good feedback on the report card from our residents into programs that we provide,” she said.

melodyh@smdp.com

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