Council meets on Tuesday, Sept. 13 with an agenda heavy on second readings of past decisions. However, new business includes a pair of items addressing homelessness and a discussion of new ways to solicit input into federal housing aid. 

Needle Exchange Program

Santa Monica officials want the County of Los Angeles to stop distributing free needles to drug users in Santa Monica parks and instead move their needle exchange program to an indoor facility with additional services. 

Councilmembers Lana Negrete and Phil Brock have requested the full council discuss a letter that would be sent to the Board of Supervisors and both candidates for Supervisor outlining the steps Santa Monica takes to address homelessness and ask for the needle exchange program to move out of public spaces. 

“It has come to our attention that the Venice Family Clinic under the purview of the Los Angeles Department of Public Health, Substance Abuse and Prevention and Control Division is providing clean needles to individuals in our parks and open spaces through the Harm Reduction Syringe Services Program,” says the letter. “We understand our limited regulatory authority, however, rather than implement this program in our parks and open spaces, we seek your assistance in immediately moving this program to a service rich environment (preferably indoors) where individuals in need of substance abuse, mental health, and other services can coordinate and work directly with service providers.”

The letter outlines efforts the City has made to address homelessness and specific programs catering to homeless individuals. It states local parks are frequently used by families who lack private outdoor space due to living in apartments and says the City has strong partnerships with the County that should be built on to address the current problem. 

“As a next step, our staff will be asking the County for a formal proposal and it is our aspiration that, at a minimum, what materializes is a pilot project in which the County places restrictions on the time, place, and manner in which the Harm Reduction Syringe Services Program is administered that aligns with the City’s strategy to address homelessness,” says the letter. 

The request comes after an overdose was listed as the suspected cause of death for a homeless person found in Palisades Park in July. 

Sleeping in doorways

The Santa Monica Police Department is asking Council to expand an existing prohibition on blocking entryways to local businesses from its current Downtown/Main Street borders to the entire city. 

City Hall adopted a ban on sitting, lying, or sleeping in doorways and blocking access to the entrances of their businesses in the Downtown and Main Street areas of Santa Monica in 2002 and according to a report prepared by Police Chief Ramon Batista, businesses in other parts of the city have lodged numerous complaints about the problem in recent years. 

“The proposed amendments presented to Council in this report would serve to protect access to property when owners and tenants are not present to protect it themselves,” said the report. “It would also protect public health by reducing sanitation risks and preserving aesthetics. Additionally, it would eliminate the hazards attendant upon people sitting, sleeping, or lying in those unsafe locations. Importantly, the ordinance would not prohibit anyone from sitting or lying in a doorway during a medical emergency, nor would it not prohibit anyone from entering or standing in a doorway. Moreover, it would not generally prohibit activity on the public right-of-way and only prohibits sitting, lying, or sleeping where access to the entrance of building is blocked, in consideration of recent cases on this topic.”

Resident Advisory Board (RAB) 

Council will hear options for new ways to solicit input into the Santa Monica Housing Authority. SMHA oversees federal housing aid in the form of vouchers and part of the rules for receiving that aid is a Resident Advisory Board composed of voucher holders that can provide input into decisions. 

The City’s current system allows everyone receiving a voucher to provide input into specific meetings but the Housing Commission recently proposed a new system that would create a more defined board based on the needs of voucher holders. Council will hear an oral report on the Housing Commission’s recommendations plus debate three written alternatives.

Option 1: Create a virtual communication channel to facilitate group communication that could be created as an informational forum for RAB members, who voluntarily opt-in, to converse in general about voucher program issues. 

Option 2: Organize and conduct an annual RAB workshop, in-lieu of the traditional annual Housing Commission forum for feedback on the SMHA Plans. This option could be paired with the virtual communication channel.

Option 3: Council could appoint a subset of participants to a RAB to represent all 1,300+ HCV participants and staff would then organize and support quarterly RAB meetings.

Staff said any options could be tabled for the time being if Council wanted to wait for the outcome of a ballot measure in November that would alter the necessary requirements. 

Council will meet at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 13. Meetings are streamed on the City’s Youtube channel and agendas can be found online at https://santamonicacityca.iqm2.com/Citizens/Detail_Meeting.aspx?ID=1322.

editor@smdp.com