Santa Monicans may not always see eye to eye with each other or City Hall, said Mayor Gleam Davis.
That doesn’t mean they can’t work together to solve Santa Monica’s problems, she said.
“It’s okay to complain. I know things are not perfect, but complaining only identifies the problem,” Davis said in her closing remarks at the State of the City Wednesday night. “Help us do the harder and more satisfying work of bringing real solutions to the more difficult problems that we all collectively face.”
Davis has said she wants to make local discourse more civil while she serves as mayor in light of a recent survey that showed most residents get their news from social media. On Wednesday, she again urged Santa Monicans to seek out accurate information about their community.
“Not everything on Facebook, or Twitter or many websites is true, and much of what we see there is meant to appeal to our worst instincts,” she said. “It’s fine to have an opinion, but too often we enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.”
City Hall will help provide residents with other ways to get information in 2019, Davis said. The City of Santa Monica will revamp its website with a focus on greater transparency and host more community conversations.
“We know there is widespread mistrust of government,” she said. “If we are to rebuild this trust, we need to do a better job of meeting their constituents where they are.”
During the annual event hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, local leaders highlighted the City’s accomplishments over the last year while outlining the challenges they plan to tackle in the coming year and beyond. City Council set six priorities for the 2019-2021 budget Jan. 26 and Davis discussed how the City plans to address each of them.
The City will need to focus on building more housing to prevent people from being displaced, Davis said while outlining the priority of affordability. In December, the Community Corporation of Santa Monica opened a 64-unit affordable housing complex and the City Attorney’s Office prevented Airbnb and HomeAway from skirting City laws that are meant to keep rental units from being turned into de facto hotels.
Second on the City’s list of priorities was neighborhood safety. The frequency of serious crimes increased by 8.8 percent in 2018 and has risen 29 percent since 2015. Davis said police chief Cynthia Renaud, who was sworn in in May, will combat the problem by hiring more officers and putting them on foot patrol.
Davis also detailed the City’s efforts to address homelessness over the past year. Santa Monica’s homeless population has spiked alongside the rest of Los Angeles County and there are now about 1,000 people without homes living in the city. Last year, the City deployed outreach teams on streets, parks and libraries and is hiring a full-time social worker for the libraries to direct people to homeless services, Davis said.
The other three priorities Davis discussed were climate change, mobility, and community engagement and wellbeing. She highlighted achievements the City made in those areas last year, including banning disposable plastic food packaging, providing residents with electricity from renewable sources and the success of the Pico Wellbeing Project’s microgrants program.
Following Davis’ address, City Manager Rick Cole moderated a panel with Deputy City Manager Anuj Gupta, Halogen Ventures founder Jesse Draper and Longview Global Advisors founder DJ Peterson. The panelists discussed how Santa Monica’s growing tech and media sectors could provide economic opportunities for residents.
Peterson said some longtime residents and brick-and-mortar businesses feel those industries are displacing them.
“There is a fear of the future,” Peterson said. “For many people, disruption is a great thing and it’s exciting, but for a lot of people, disruption is disruption.”
Cole and Davis said the City would have to ensure Santa Monica’s changing economy creates opportunities for residents.
“Embrace change. You may not like it, but you cannot avoid it,” Davis said. “We can not reconstruct the Santa Monica of 1950. We need to plan for the Santa Monica of 2050 and beyond.”