SM BEACH — Mayor Pam O’Connor talked about the good changes and the things that never change in her 2014 State of the City address on Monday.
Hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and held under the Cirque du Soleil big top, the event was attended by leaders from local government and the business community who spoke highly of the city by the sea’s prospects.
O’Connor started by taking the audience back in time with newspaper clips from 1984 when the L.A. Raiders won the Super Bowl and O.J. Simpson ran the Olympic torch up the California Incline.
“The coverage centered on airport noise, traffic conjunction, and parking woes,” she said. “Sound familiar?”
Santa Monica has made “great strides,” she said, but still deals with many of the same challenges.
O’Connor then ran down a list of all the things that City Hall is doing right.
Santa Monica’s investment in transit, connection to the region, community-involved public process, pollution reduction, and affordable housing policies are all in-line with a national consultant’s recommendations for creating thriving cities, she said.
“Given the good fortune of our location, community history of activism and progressivism, and our creative and tech rich local economy, Santa Monica is a leader,” O’Connor.
The mayor got an ovation when she mentioned that this fiscal year the sales tax alone will bring in $90 million.
“Our local businesses generate needed revenues to support the vital services,” she said. “They support arts, libraries, emergency services, and schools.
“Here, the city’s long commitment to education stands boldly,” she added. “From the $17 million in taxes shared with the school district annually to our groundbreaking ‘Cradle to Career’ initiative to ensure that every child in Santa Monica has the full opportunity to succeed in school and work, Santa Monica is deeply committed to opportunities for all.”
She mentioned four Santa Monica sectors that are “poised for growth in this new century”: entertainment, hospitality, technology, and healthcare.
She spoke of big City Council decisions to be made this year, referencing specifically the Hines housing and office development project, which will go before council tonight.
“The transit-oriented neighborhood at Bergamot next to an Expo Light Rail station … is the wave of the future according to the nation’s top planners but it is being contested,” she said.
She closed with her vision for the city’s future.
“I believe it’s based on access, inclusiveness, quality of life for people who work, live, create, play and long to be here in Santa Monica,” she said.
L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who is termed-out at the end of the year, was honored by the chamber for his service to Santa Monica.
While the county is losing the battle against homelessness, he said, Santa Monica leads all 88 municipalities in the fight.
The Expo Light Rail, which will connect Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles, is ahead of schedule and under budget, he said. It could open earlier than projected in 2015, Yaroslavsky said. The train is currently projected to take in Santa Monica passengers in 2016.
The chamber also recognized Richard Chacker, who owns Perry’s Beach Cafe and Rentals, and Adam Miller, founder and CEO of Cornerstone OnDemand, for their contributions to local business.
They honored Cirque du Soleil, which brought out its stilt-walkers to bow to the audience.
The event was well-attended and most seats were filled.