What Is the Santa Monica YWCA Board Missing?

By Joyce Mann

Over the past number of weeks, I have been reading the many open letters from the community about the Santa Monica YWCA. In this era of constrained government budgets, the role of nonprofits and the vital services they deliver are essential to the well-being of a city’s most vulnerable residents. The Santa Monica YWCA has a strong history of serving youth and families in troubled situations through its transitional housing, life and work skills programs.

The story that has unfolded over the past year poses some questions:

1) When community nonprofit agencies have challenges that threaten their sustainability, they often look to other nonprofits with similar missions to find ways to continue their vital services. For example, WISE & Healthy Aging was formed when the Center for Healthy Aging joined with Wise Senior Services. Similarly, OPCC united with LAMP Community to form The PEOPLE Concern. Why isn’t the Santa Monica YWCA board talking to other nonprofit agencies? Specifically, why isn’t the Santa Monica YWCA board exploring how WISE & Healthy Aging, a longstanding community agency, can help carry on the legacy of the YWCA’s 90-year history of community service?

2) There is clearly mounting community support, especially from those who know the Santa Monica YWCA best, to have the current board consider a charitable transaction that would keep the property in use for a diversity of community residents. In particular, Sally Young’s letter to the editor in the weekend edition (Jan. 7 & 8) of “The Santa Monica Daily Press” is very powerful. Why is the Santa Monica YWCA board ignoring the voice of this past executive director, who is well-respected and who played a leading role in shaping the YWCA for 18 of its strongest years? And what about the voices of past presidents of the YWCA board, key volunteers, and past presidents of the Soroptimist Club and Kiwanis? These women gave their leadership, time and monies in support of the YWCA.

Why is the Santa Monica YWCA Board not at least exploring options with WISE & Healthy Aging, which has expressed interest in leveraging its service delivery know how to support innovations in intergenerational programs that would carry on much of the YWCA’s mission? The agency is an excellent example of leadership, financial stability and growth.

3) To move to selling the property to the highest bidder is coming across like a quick “money grab” by the current YWCA board. Are there conflicts of interest among those currently involved on the YWCA board as to where the monies will be going, and who will be managing such funds? Are there pet causes that could potentially receive grants from the sale’s proceeds? Or perhaps is their realtor unduly influencing the process to steer the sale to the highest bidder with its accompanying higher commission? After 90 years, is it really fair and just to have a few people decide what is to be done with the assets of this community nonprofit? Where is the community’s input in this?

4) The current Santa Monica YWCA board may be unintentionally falling short in its governance and foresight. Why not take the added time — especially after all these years and with the community’s growing concerns — to step back, re-evaluate, and at least open discussions with other nonprofits? Is that really too much to ask?

If the YWCA Board moves forward with a standard sale, and gives away the proceeds to other like causes, what’s left after all the monies are given away? It’s short-sighted and indeed shameful to be benefactors in the short term, and not work now to ensure a longer-term investment for community residents. Where is the longer term gain in the current strategy of selling the property to the highest bidder? Why not try to ensure a visible legacy for the Santa Monica YWCA?

5) Some have mentioned the possible interests of Santa Monica College in acquiring the property. The College is a source of pride in Santa Monica, but as a number of residents have mentioned, isn’t SMC’s footprint with its five campuses big enough? Why would a community nonprofit board — the Santa Monica YWCA board — do that to the very community residents and neighbors, MANY who so willingly gave their support, donations and participation for nearly a century of our city’s history?

What is the Santa Monica YWCA board missing?


Joyce Mann is a 26-year Santa Monica resident