The holiday lull in City Council activity is officially over with a return to the traditionally packed agendas that have come to define Santa Monica’s political reality.
Tuesday’s City Council meeting includes a pair of significant lawsuits, debate over the future of the Santa Monica airport, expansions of outdoor dining, updates on sustainability efforts and a pair of requests to help encourage economic recovery.
Council will hear updates on seven existing lawsuits during its closed season. Two are related to the ongoing settlement payments for the Uller case. The statue of limitations to file claims related to child abuse at the Police Activities League ended last year but the city is still calculating the final payments and attempting to recover some costs associated with the case from insurance companies.
The California Business Roundtable has filed a suit against the city to block the voter approved Measure GS that would establish a third tier of real estate transfer tax. The measure was one of two that sought to raise money from the sale of large properties (over $8 million) last year and GS (sponsored by then mayor Sue Himmelrich) beat out Measure DT (sponsored by Councilman Phil Brock). The lawsuit contends GS is invalid as it stipulates money would be split between two causes: funding schools and affordable housing and California law prohibits ballot measures on more than one subject.
City Hall is also being sued over development and construction rules. The Santa Monica Housing Council alongside two residents (William T. Dawson and Irma Vargas) have accused city officials of failing to adhere to state mandated housing laws. The lawsuit alleges the city’s housing element fails to provide enough sites for future development and doesn’t do enough to account for high density projects. The plaintiffs are asking the court to mandate increases in height and density limits for projects.
Of the three other lawsuits on the agenda, one is suing for damages alleging a City worker caused a traffic collision and a second alleges the City, through its housing authority, underpaid a landlord for Section 8 tenants. No information was available in the court system for the third.
Council will receive an update on environmental programs through the Office of Sustainability and the Environment. While there’s no action required during a study session, staff will discuss a broad range of environmental programs with a focus on Council’s previously identified targets of water self-sufficiency by 2023, zero waste by 2030 and carbon neutrality by 2050.
Santa Monica has the ability to close its airport on Dec. 31, 2028. If it does, the land would be available for alternate uses and Council will begin discussions with the community on Tuesday regarding possible uses. In 2014, voters approved a measure establishing land use regulations for the site focused on park space. However, the report states there’s no economic feasibility study for a park and additional uses may be necessary such as housing and municipal services. Should those uses be pursued, they may require an additional public vote.
Should Council make it to the end of its agenda in one night, which is not always the case, it will discuss several proposals for future action. Mayor Pro Tem Lana Negrete, Councilmember Christine Parra and Councilmember Oscar de la Torre are asking for a meeting with Downtown Santa Monica Inc. to develop an arts and entertainment district on the 1200 block of the Promenade that would expand outdoor dining, allowable uses and street performances.
Negrete has also joined with Councilmember Caroline Torosis over a proposal to help fund small businesses. The two are proposing a Small Business Assistance and Tenant Improvement Fund to provide loans to businesses who are otherwise unable to afford to locate in Santa Monica.
Additional discussion items include a request to help fund music programs at Samohi and support a bill in Sacramento that would allow churches and colleges to build affordable housing projects on their property.
Council will meet in City Hall at 1685 Main Street on Jan. 24. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. Meetings can be viewed online on the City’s Youtube channel.