Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

If you watch a Big Blue Bus drive slowly past the Civic Auditorium while walking toward City Hall to pay for a permit, you’d pretty much have covered every topic at the Feb. 9 City Council meeting.

According to the agenda, Council will adjust several speed limits, begin deliberation about the future of the Civic Auditorium site, revise the advertising policy for BBB and hear an update on City finances.

Speed limits

According to the staff report speed limits were erroneously adjusted last year on several sections of road. Council will discuss returning those roads to a 25-mph limit. Covered roads include:

Olympic Boulevard from 4th Street to 11th Street, 16th Street from Montana Avenue to south City Limit, 21st Street from Ocean Park Boulevard to Dewey Street, 22nd Street from Pico Boulevard to Ocean Park Boulevard, 24th Street from San Vicente Boulevard to Ocean Park Boulevard, Airport Avenue from 23rd Street to east City Limit, Alta Avenue from 7th Street to 14th Street, Chelsea Avenue from Wilshire Boulevard to Santa Monica Boulevard, Michigan Avenue from 7th Street to 17th Street, Navy Street from Highland to Lincoln Boulevard.

Additional reductions will be made as a result of a 2014 speed survey. Reductions include:

26th Street between north City limit and Wilshire Boulevard – from 35 to 30 mph, Barnard Way between Ocean Park Boulevard and Neilson Way – from 30 to 25 mph, Exposition Boulevard between Stewart Street and Centinela – from 30 to 25 mph, Lincoln Boulevard between San Vicente Boulevard and Montana Avenue – from 30 to 25 mph, Ocean Park Boulevard between Lincoln Boulevard and 14th Street – from 35 to 30 mph.

The survey justifies two speed increases: 4th Street between Colorado Avenue and Pico Boulevard – from 25 to 30 mph, Marine Street between Lincoln Boulevard and 17th Street – from 25 to 30 mph.

Three streets will be reduced to 15 mph because they are less than 25 feet wide. Those streets are: Bryn Mawr Avenue from 16th Street to 18th Street, Sunset Avenue from 16th Street to Dewey Street and Wellesley Avenue from Ashland Avenue to 18th Street.

Will the band play on?

Recommendations from the Civic Working Group will be presented to Council on Feb. 9. The CWG report asks council to develop milestone schedule, draft a request for proposals, evaluate long-term management, decide on revenue generating ideas, direct revenues and investigate building an athletic field on the site. The group recommends finding a private company to operate the Civic as a performance space.

Staff has developed several alternate proposals for discussion and recommends a limited scope for the Tuesday discussion.

“Staff is recommending that the City issue an RFQ for the Civic Auditorium only as a first step in implementing the CWG’s recommendations,” said the report. “This approach would focus on the Civic Auditorium only, and make no decision about the rest of the site at this time. It is in keeping with the overall CWG recommendations, and could yield a solution for the Civic and/or serve as the initial step in implementing a phased approach.”

Should council deviate from the Staff recommendation, they could choose to develop an RFP for the entire site and leave the fate of any field up to any potential applicants. This option closely adheres to the CWG proposal.

A third option would take no action. Most of the building would remain closed to the public.

The final choice would be to specifically resolve the questions of open space, an athletic field and development priorities before making any decisions about an RFP process.

Big Blue Bus

Council is being asked to update the advertising policy for exterior space on local buses.

The current policy bars non-commercial advertising. The program brings in about $2 million a year and 90 percent of the ads sold are for movies, television or health care. Potential advertisers have asked the city to evaluate the program to allow for some non-commercial advertising in the wake of several court cases that appear to allow the city to regulate non-commercial ads without violating free speech concerns.

Staff is presenting three options and all three have a similar set of rules including prohibitions on false content, obscenity, violence, illegal activity, defamation, public safety threats, alcohol, tobacco, guns, copyright violations and content that interferes with transit operations.

“The main difference between the three policies is that only Santa Monica’s current policy prohibits non-commercial advertising. In contrast, the King County policy and the Advertisers’ proposed policy both allow noncommercial advertising but prohibit political campaign speech. Additionally, both the King County policy and the Advertising Entities’ proposed policy both prohibit adult entertainments/services and adult entertainment facilities, while Santa Monica’s does not explicitly prohibit such ads (though it may be interpreted to prohibit them). Finally, the Advertisers proposed policy also prohibits religious advertisements, while the other two do not,” said the report.

Staff is recommending the city stick with its own policy or switch to the policy used by King County. Both of the recommended options have strong legal backing while the Advertisers proposition is considered legally dubious.

Budget

Council will hear the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) discussing the City’s financial condition and activity for the year ended June 30, 2015.

“The City’s operations show signs of stability, a result of the prudent and sound management practices of the City of Santa Monica,” said the report.

According to the staff report, general fund revenue increased by $9 million due to increases in property tax, other tax, license fees and permit revenues.

The General Fund Balance as of June 30, 2015 was $375 million. Money is divided into several categories including $42.2 million that is earmarked for specific purposes via contracts/legal agreements/city ordinances, $218.6 million based on budget priorities including capital projects, investments, pollution remediation or project financing and $114.2 million in unassigned funds.

Unassigned money includes “$51.0 million rainy day contingency (15% of annual operating and capital expenditure budget), $9.7 million economic uncertainty reserve to mitigate potential revenue losses, $50.2 million for public works infrastructure expenditures and $3.3 million fund balance.”

editor@www.smdp.com