Editor’s note: Santa Monicans have critical decisions to make come November when they will be asked to cast votes for candidates running for the City Council, SMMUSD school board, the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees and the Rent Control Board. To help make those decisions easier, the Daily Press created a questionnaire that asks candidates to give their opinions on key issues affecting the city by the sea. Here they are, published in the order in which candidates will appear on the Nov. 2 ballot.
• Name: Pam O’Connor
• Age: 62
• Occupation: Planner, historic preservation
• Marital status/children: Single right now
• Your neighborhood? How long have you lived there?: Wilshire/Montana; 23 years
• Your mode of transportation/model, make and year of your ride?: When driving it’s a 1996 Honda Accord.
• Own or rent?: Rent
• Do you support Measure Y, the half-cent sales tax increase? If so, do you think half of the money generated by the increase should go to local public schools?
Yes, but it’s up to the community of voters to decide if city services should be funded by this locally-generated revenue stream. I hope it’s supported as well as the recommendation regarding our public schools.
• What are you reading?
“Glitter Stucco & Dumpster Diving: Reflections on Building Production in the Vernacular City,” by John Chase. John was West Hollywood’s urban designer and recently passed away.
• Do you believe there is enough parking Downtown? If not, what do you plan to do about it?
There is a good supply of parking in Downtown, but it needs to be priced correctly to optimize use and combined with real time information about availability — within Downtown and within each structure — to keep cars from circulating looking for parking.
• Now that the Broad museum is out of play, what should City Hall do with the Civic Center parking lot?
The council just initiated a process to invite proposals for creative uses at that site.
• When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
Broadway actor (musical comedy and drama); stage manager; lighting designer; late-night talk show host; major league baseball player; fashion designer; mayor of Chicago …
• Local businesses provide the majority of the city’s General Fund revenues, yet Santa Monica has a reputation for being a difficult place to do business. How would you entice more businesses, different businesses, to open up shop? How can City Hall help those businesses that are struggling in the current economy?
The timing varies with situational factors (i.e., if tenant improvements are required or not; if it’s a change of use or not). It’s a bit “chicken and egg” — standards are high in Santa Monica but businesses want to be here because of the quality of the city, which is the result of having high standards. The key is to provide clear information to the business operator about what steps are required to start/open and a timeline. In the past, Santa Monica has not done much in terms of economic development, but we should use our attributes as a sustainable city to encourage traditional and emerging green businesses and growth sectors such as biotechnology to complement the entertainment and creative arts sectors. We need to encourage incubator spaces for start-ups. One thing we can do for retail and service businesses is to help them with marketing through programs such as the “Buy Local” campaign.
• L.A. recently greatly reduced patients’ access to medical marijuana. Do you support medical marijuana dispensaries in Santa Monica?
L.A. had the problem because they didn’t do proper planning which resulted in over-concentrations of dispensaries. As with all our land-use decisions, it will take thoughtful planning about appropriate locations for dispensaries.
• Should smoking be banned within apartments?
I think most new buildings will be constructed with all non-smoking units. But it is possible an owner who smokes could provide a new building with all smoking units as smoking is still legal and a personal choice. Tenants in existing buildings should not be criminalized because they smoke.
• What would you do to make Santa Monica more bike friendly?
Develop a master plan for bike routes, including dedicated bike paths (one is being built with the Expo Light Rail), dedicated bike lanes in existing streets, “sharrows” (shared streets). Adequate bike parking facilities are also needed. And ongoing education and enforcement of driving and bicycling laws. Consider trying a bike sharing pilot program (like Velib in Paris).
• What’s the biggest threat facing the quality of life in Santa Monica?
Complacency: believing we are immune from economic decline; stopping reasonable managed growth; believing that rent control is safe.
• Downtown properties owned by City Hall. Should parking be the top priority or should housing come first?
City-owned properties should be developed to stimulate creation of a complete Downtown — in some locations it might be parking; in others housing, or some other use.
• Do you support the closure of Santa Monica Airport in 2015? If so, what would you like to replace it with and how would you make up for the loss in revenue generated by airport operations, lease agreements?
Closing the airport is definitely an option. But we need to embark on a process to understand options from continued use to closure. This will take data (on environmental impacts and economic impacts) and a robust community process to chart the path for the future of the airport and environs. This process is underway starting with a data collection phase.
• Do you believe in pension reform and should Santa Monica employees contribute more toward their healthcare and retirement benefits?
City employees should be fairly compensated and that includes access to healthcare and retirement, and may include some employee contribution.
• When it comes to getting public benefits from developers, what should be the top priority: affordable housing, public art, cash money, bike lanes or carpooling?
It depends on the location of the project and the needs of the adjacent neighborhood (commercial and residential).
• Would you support placing a limit on the amount of time council members can speak on a particular item during meetings?
And how much time would managing that take? Some items are complex and generate longer discussions to solve a problem; it would be foolish to stop short of resolving an issue because of an artificial time limit. The key is to not repeat!
• When was the last time you rode a bike or took Big Blue Bus?
I had two total knee replacements this year and they are fabulous — great Santa Monica surgeon! So I hadn’t ridden a bike in a few years but the last time was in Lyon, France trying their bike-sharing program. I took the Big Blue Bus last week (#3).
• Does the housing-first model work for addressing the homeless issue or should we focus on building more emergency shelters to get people off the streets immediately?
With innovative approaches such as providing permanent housing, we’ve reduced homelessness in Santa Monica by 25 percent since 2007. We should continue with this data-driven approach which is based on innovation and best practices.
• Free form: What’s putting a burr under your saddle?