A new economic plan introduced by three Santa Monica City Council members calls for the city to build workforce housing, create a career development plan for youth and help local businesses succeed.

Councilmembers Greg Morena, Ana Jara and Terry O’Day aim to develop a comprehensive economic program to support small businesses and provide residents with job opportunities and training. The plan would also promote development that households making around the Los Angeles area median income of $73,000 can afford, commonly known as workforce housing.

Morena said the councilmembers developed the plan, which the City Council will discuss at its Tuesday meeting, because the city lacks an economic development policy.

“We haven’t organized our efforts in this type of way in a very long time,” he said. “We haven’t proactively and programmatically thought about what the best thing is for our community.”

In a letter sent to community members, Morena, Jara and O’Day said the policy would include at least five components: a streamlined online permitting system for businesses, a private nonprofit focused on incubating small businesses and entrepreneurs, a simplified process for businesses to work with the city, a career development plan for youth and young adults, and a workforce housing development plan.

“These five points are inclusive of a lot of the thoughts and ideas that people in the community have shared with us over the years,” Morena said.

Mayor Pro Tempore Terry O’Day said although the plan would focus on the Pico neighborhood, Santa Monica’s most diverse and least affluent community, it would also promote economic development and workforce housing throughout the city.

“It’s been a priority of our new councilmembers to develop an economic program for Pico residents and small business owners and to tie the residential community to the business community,” O’Day said.

Jara said the plan will help address displacement in the rapidly gentrifying neighborhood by giving longtime residents the tools to bolster their incomes.

“The feedback we received during the Pico Wellbeing Project was that the community said they wanted to be self-sufficient and be able to afford the high rents here,” she said.

The plan recommends that the city hire a private nonprofit to incubate, educate and promote small businesses and entrepreneurs.

“The intention is to raise dollars in some way, shape or form, put those dollars into a pot and award the money to an organization that we believe can help grow consumer-facing businesses that benefit residents and give people opportunities to own their business,” Morena said.

The plan also seeks to simplify the process by which the city procures vendors and business partners, as well as the permitting process for businesses.

The plans suggests that the city become more involved in the youth and young adult career development programs administered by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. Morena said connecting local youth to Santa Monica’s fast-growing tech sector is critically important given the price of housing in the city.

“Less than 1% of my graduating class at Samohi live and work in the city. That’s heartbreaking for me,” he said. “We have 23 kids on our block, and by those statistics, not one will live and work here when they grow up. We don’t want to force businesses to hire kids who graduate from our schools, but we certainly want our kids to have opportunities to work in town.”

Morena said the city also needs housing that its current workforce can afford — an issue that several members of the Planning Commission raised in October during a discussion about where to put the thousands of new housing units the state will require the city to build by 2029.

“Many of the most important workers in our city make above the income threshold for affordable housing but can’t afford market-rate housing, and so they are forced to live outside of our city,” he said. “That’s a shame for our hospitality workers, teachers, administrators and first responders. These are the people we depend on to make our city work and we should make our city work for them.”


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