File photo

Following months of marathon much-past-midnight meetings, Council is returning from a two week public meeting hiatus on Tuesday with a relatively light civic agenda.

Nevertheless, there are still several items of note for residents to keep an eye on. 

Council will debate a practical change affecting transit utilizing residents with a new fare system for Big Blue Bus, which reduces the cost of bus passes and reinstates the acceptance of cash fare. 

From March 20, 2020 to February 2021, the City eliminated fare collection to support essential workers and reduce the risk of contact between motor coach operators and bus riders.

Since then BBB has been experimenting with different fare systems, including a cashless fare pilot program that began in July 2021. The program achieved moderate success in transitioning people to cashless fares. At the outset of the program more than 12 percent of riders were unable to pay their fare and by the third month this dropped to just 6 percent. Cashless fare also had the added benefit of generating more efficient boarding times and improving cost efficiency for BBB in managing fares.

Despite this, there was still a population of bus riders who struggled to transition to cashless fare and in recognizing the needs of this minority group of riders, BBB is proposing bringing back cash payments on buses.

“For a contactless fare system to be effective and convenient, it must cater to the most vulnerable customers, including those who depend solely on cash, are unbanked, and/or don’t have a smart phone. While BBB has made great strides in increasing access to contactless fares and while smart phone usage has risen precipitously, there is more work to be done before most unbanked customers can conveniently access BBB pass sales or TAP stored value loading venues,” states the staff report. 

Other key changes include a new free bus transfer policy, free rides for children under five, price decreases for the 10 ride pass and acceptance of the Metro one day pass. 

Another agenda item of note is the extension of an interim zoning ordinance that streamlines the production of affordable housing and certain housing projects compliant with the Housing Accountability Act by eliminating the requirement for a public hearing. This was first passed by Council in March 2020 and is a strategy to help Santa Monica meet its state mandated requirement to build 8,895 units, of which 6,168 must be affordable, by 2029.

Council will vote on whether to extend this interim zoning ordinance until March 31, 2023. The intent of the extension is to increase the rate of housing production and meet the goals set forth in the City’s Housing Element.

The final topic of significance regards changes to the City’s commissions. 

Council will be passing a resolution to consolidate the Commission on the Senior Community, Commission on the Status of Women, and the Social Services Commissions into one commission. This is a cost saving measure that will lower the staffing costs of these commissions while providing the added benefit of having commission members work collaboratively on these related issue areas. 

Also during the meeting, Councilmembers will accept the resignation of Luis Ramirez from the Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission and appoint a replacement. In his resignation letter, Ramirez cites scheduling concerns and confusion over the expectations/powers of the commission as his reason for leaving the commission.

The PSROC was created in the aftermath of the 2020 Black Lives Matter movement and has had a rocky start with internal and external conflicts over its role, powers and duties. Commission Chair George Brown resigned in February due to obstacles that he felt inhibited the Commission’s ability to act on its goal.

City Council will also appoint a resident to fill a vacancy on the Planning Commission. 

The meeting begins in closed session at 5:30 p.m. on April 12 and can be streamed live at https://www.youtube.com/user/Citytv16santamonica.

Clara@smdp.com