Photo by Sammy Neustadt

After months of council meetings dominated by discussions of huge events, City Hall will be playing small ball on July 14 with an agenda that focuses on budget approval for several programs and second readings of previously discussed rule changes.

Council will hold a digital meeting on July 14 with several budget items clustered on the consent calendar. While consent items can be passed as a group with little or no discussion, any councilmember can ask for a consent item to be given a full public hearing.

On Tuesday Council will be asked to approve money for college student bus passes, Downtown Santa Monica’s annual budget, Santa Monica Pier’s budget and Santa Monica Travel and Tourism’s budget.

The Big Blue Bus and Santa Monica College have had a partnership to provide discounted bus rides to anyone with an SMC identification card since 2008. The Any Line, Any Time program provides card holders with unlimited rides for a fixed annual cost and SMC reimburses BBB for the cost of the program.

Staff are recommending approval of a two year extension with an optional third year pickup. SMC has agreed to pay BBB $3,016,000 over the three years with vastly reduced service this year to account for the move to digital classes. The contract is structured with a $500,000 payment for 20/21 as most students will not be on campus. Payments increase to $1,258,000 for the next two years assuming Los Angeles County has continued to reopen and additional people are accessing the SMC campus.

While Downtown Santa Monica is funded through a pair of taxes levied on local businesses, the City contracts with DTSM for various programs and the Council is being asked to approve DTSM’s work plan and budget for the year.

The organization plans for the next year are heavily focused on handling the fallout of the coronavirus pandemic. DTSM said it plans to focus on economic development through marketing, infrastructure and policy efforts.

DTSM has put some projects on hold, such as capital improvements to the street, but is working with businesses to help them implement health orders to facilitate reopening and is monitoring the larger business environment for problems that could impact retail, office and housing downtown.

DTSM projects to bring in $8,668,995 and spend $8,941,393. The $272,398 gap will be funded with a one-time allocation from operating reserves.

The Santa Monica Pier is proposing a $1,066,250 budget for the year with total expenditures in the amount of $1,130,500 resulting in a projected deficit of $64,250. The Pier Corporation will draw on reserves to pay the difference following reductions in revenue due to the pandemic and less money from the city.

City Hall reduced the Pier’s funding from $546,402 to $250,000 this year and $200,000 for the concerts has been eliminated entirely.

In the past, much of the Pier expenses went to programs.

“However, in the post-COVID world, event production and marketing of the Pier will need to be significantly minimized until government regulations and associated public health department guidelines allow for the easing of physical distancing requirements and authorization of larger gatherings,” said the staff report. “The focus for the upcoming Fiscal Year will be on public awareness messaging and expectation management for both the Pier and beaches.”

Santa Monica Travel and Tourism is funded through hotel fees and state law requires the council to approve their annual report and budget.

SMTT has a balanced budget of $3,320,002 with no excess revenues or expenses. That figure is a 40% reduction from last year due to massive losses at local hotels associated with the recent shutdowns.

“The FY20/21 workplan also includes efforts to help Santa Monica’s hospitality sector safely re-open and operate in accordance with LA County Public Health’s “Roadmap to Recovery” guidelines and to promote Santa Monica as a safe and welcoming destination for visitors,” said the staff report. “With that lens, strengthening and enhancing Santa Monica as a brand, marketing and promoting Santa Monica as a tourism destination, increasing occupancy, establishing partnerships within the tourism community, private sector and government entities to position Santa Monica as a filming destination, and expanding a presence in emerging markets would continue to be core goals of the SMTMD.”

In addition, SMTT has applied for and received a Small Business Administration Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) of $150,000.