Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

The City Council is poised to recruit a team of experts to advise the city on how to adapt to economic headwinds brought on by rapidly evolving technologies like artificial intelligence, autonomous cars and online shopping Tuesday.

Internet use has already hit the city’s bottom line: total taxable sales fell on the Third Street Promenade by 2.9 percent and at Santa Monica Place by 4.5 percent in 2017 due at least in part to online shopping. Parking revenue from the city’s garages also fell as more shoppers either stayed home or got around without a personal car.

The Council will consider issuing a Request for Proposal (RFP) to private companies, nonprofits and schools to create a partnership “that could provide services and work products that are tailored to the City’s needs,” according to a staff report prepared by management fellow Julie Wedig.

“The City and community must now determine how to preserve Santa Monica’s unique assets while adapting to rapid changes affecting the economy on a local and global level,” the report said.

The potential RFP comes a year after the Council urged city staff to take a broad look at the impacts of globalization, declining retail sales and evolving transportation trends on the city. After a few panels and roundtable discussions, city staff identified three key transformational trends: artificial intelligence, customization and connectivity. All three trends led to the so-called “retail apocalypse,” for example, as shoppers use the internet to order customized products straight to their doorstep.

“Demand for delivery trips will grow exponentially, making it ever more important to determine how goods get to and through the community safely, sustainably, and efficiently,” the report said.

As more deliveries test the city’s infrastructure, declining brick-and-mortar sales have hit Downtown Santa Monica, increasing the number of vacancies. Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. is encouraging landlords to find a balanced mix of uses to replace retailers who have closed up shop and plans to promote new businesses that differentiate downtown from other destinations around Los Angeles.

Climate change could also impact the city through worsening drought conditions and sea-level rise, according to the report.

Ride-share companies and driverless cars could mean fewer people will own their cars in the future, but it could also lead to gridlock as vehicles spend hours circling downtown, picking up passengers. The staff report said cities will need to adopt new policies to avoid the projected increase in congestion and greenhouse gas emissions while promoting equitable access.

Finally, the staff report warned computers and robots will mean responsive education and job training will be vital to Santa Monica’s workforce.

The City Council will consider the RFP Tuesday, Sept. 11, at their regularly scheduled meeting inside City Council Chambers, 1685 Main Street, Room 213.


Kate Cagle

Senior reporter for the Santa Monica Daily Press

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