Santa Monica City Hall (File photo)

City Council will meet Tuesday to vote on the 2019-2021 budget, appoint new board members and commissioners, raise fares on a ridesharing service for seniors and more. Here’s a preview of what to expect.


Adoption of the 2019-2021 budget

The revised biennial budget the council will vote to adopt Tuesday is $1.3 million higher than the budget city manager Rick Cole proposed last month.

About one-fifth of the increase will go toward the cost of stationing hospitality ambassadors in Reed Park. Residents have called for the city to manage the large homeless population in Reed Park and the council decided to fund a pilot program in which Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. ambassadors, who are already present in other downtown parks, would work to make the park cleaner, safer and more welcoming. The program will cost $250,000 over six months.

Other new expenditures include a grant to develop a plan to house Santa Monica’s homeless population and contracts to manage transportation policy and the Airport Arts Studios. The council also rejected several cost-saving measures in the budget Cole proposed last month.

The council chose to extend its contract with KCRW to broadcast council meetings rather than end the contract. It also decided to close the Santa Monica Swim Center for three weeks in the winter instead of the proposed six weeks and opted against ending enforcement of the city’s leafblower ban.

On Tuesday, the council will approve increases to fees for city services, fines for violating local laws and parking rates to bring in new income in the face of ballooning pension costs and flatlining sales tax revenue. Parking rates will go up across the board, including for city meters and the Santa Monica Pier, beach and Main Street parking lots.


Board and commission appointments

The council will appoint 31 people to 16 boards and commissions. The Urban Forest Task Force leads the pack with seven spots to fill. The Planning Commission, Social Services Commission and the Arts Commission all have three vacant positions. Other bodies need one or two new members. Most terms for this round of appointments will end in 2023.


Mobility On-Demand Every Day (MODE)

Any verified Santa Monica resident over 60 or older than 18 with a disability can use the Big Blue Bus’ MODE service to travel within city limits, parts of Venice and Los Angeles medical facilities during regular business hours and in the morning and early afternoon on weekends.

MODE moved into the digital age last July, replacing its Dial-a-Ride program with a partnership with Lyft that has doubled the number of rides taken each day under the same $600,000 budget and $0.50 one-way fares.

On Tuesday, City Council will vote to approve fare hikes and a lower monthly trip cap to ensure the program can continue to operate under heavy demand.

The regular MODE fare will rise to $1.50 starting in September. Next January, it will increase to $2 and then to $2.50 the year after.

Low-income individuals will pay $0.75 per ride until January, when their fare will increase to $1. In January 2022, it would increase to $1.25.

Personal care attendants, friends and companions would ride for free.

Riders would only be able to take 30 trips each month instead of the current 40 and only seniors 65 and older would be able to qualify for the program.


Replacing Samoshel

City staff is asking the council to accept a grant from the California Community Foundation on behalf of Cedars-Sinai for $100,000 and from the County of Los Angeles for $300,000 to purchase consulting services to conduct a feasibility study for a re-imagined Samoshel facility.

The council asked staff to begin the process to replace the downtown homeless shelter in March.

At a minimum, staff said, the proposed project will include a plan to replace the existing sprung tent structure with a permanent site for interim housing, create additional units of permanent supportive housing and assess the feasibility of an urgent-care behavioral health center to mitigate anti-social behaviors in open spaces.

Local examples of multi-use sites for homelessness services include L.A. Family’s “The Campus” in North Hollywood, and the City of Lancaster’s Kensington Campus.


Santa Monica Beach Trail construction

The council will approve a $12.3 million contract with Access Pacific, Inc. for the North Beach Trail Improvement Project, which would improve safety and circulation on the Santa Monica Beach Trail by creating separate walking and biking paths from Bay Street to northern city limits.

The project involves renovating Ocean Front Walk north of the Pier by installing new paving, architectural concrete seat walls, and lighting. It would widen approximately two miles of the bike trail from 14 feet to 30 feet to accommodate a 16-foot-wide bike path and a 12-foot-wide pedestrian path that would provide safer passage for the high volume of cyclists and pedestrians using the trail.

It would also include a two-foot separation between the bike and pedestrian paths that would be delineated by a low concrete curb.

Circulation improvements in and around the 1550 Pacific Coast Highway parking lot would include wayfinding path signage throughout the parking lot and a new plaza near the Santa Monica Pier entrance.


New audio-visual system for City Hall

The system used to broadcast City Council meetings will be replaced at a cost of about $450,000, pending council approval. Staff said the current system, which was installed in 2009, is out of date and unreliable.

The new system will include electronic voting, automated meeting minutes and new monitors with closed-captioning. Construction would occur late this year and take about two weeks.


Economic sustainability study

The city will ask the council to approve a $460,000 contract with consultant Guidehouse LLP to develop a long-term economic sustainability strategy for Santa Monica that takes technological changes that could impact the economy, such as automation, into account.

Staff said the city is researching how those trends will impact the future economy but needs a consultant to develop a roadmap to deal with them. Santa Monica is one of the first cities to look at these “looming changes holistically,” staff said.


Fourth Court Alley

Staff is asking the council to authorize $110,000 to revamp the Fourth Court Alley between Broadway and Colorado Avenue. The path serves as a bike lane to the Expo Line, but staff said the alley is in need of art and lighting installations that will encourage both cyclists and pedestrians to use it.

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