Courtesy photo

City Council will meet on Tuesday, July 18 to hear updates, but not necessarily make decisions on, some big ticket items including potential sale of the Civic Auditorium site. 

While updates and study sessions are part of the agenda, new business includes establishing legislative priorities for the upcoming year and a revised ban on private wells in the city. 


Santa Monica pays lobbyists to advocate for causes at various levels of government and those contracts are up for renewal this week. 

Shaw Yoder Antwih Schmelzer & Lange (SYASL) and The Ferguson Group, represent the city as State and Federal lobbyists to advocate for its interests and objectives before the governments in Sacramento and Washington, D.C. These lobbyist representatives work to advance the City’s legislative goals, monitor and influence pending legislation, identify funding opportunities, and engage with elected officials and their staff to advocate for the City’s positions.

The contracts for both groups will expire in December 2023 and while both contracts will go out to bid, staff are asking for limited budgetary authority ($25,000 with Shaw Yoder Antwih Schmelzer & Lange resulting in a five-year agreement with a new total amount not to exceed $273,021) to continue state legislative advocacy services through December 2023, aligning with previous Council authorization.

Staff are also asking the council to align its lobbying efforts with already adopted priorities that include addressing homelessness, ensuring a clean and safe environment, fostering economic recovery, promoting racial justice and equity, and building a sustainable and connected community.


Council will consider a revision to existing prohibitions on new well construction prompted by the adoption of regional water restrictions. 

The City of Santa Monica is a member of the Santa Monica Basin Groundwater Sustainability Agency (SMBGSA), which was established in accordance with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA) of 2014. The SGMA aims to ensure sustainable management of groundwater throughout California and the local agency is required to prepare a plan for the area that complies with state requirements. 

With that plan complete, the City needs to amend the Municipal Code to align with the plan. The existing rule was enacted in 2018 to prohibit the installation or expansion of groundwater wells until a plan was adopted or explicitly authorized by the plan. The revised ordinance will continue to prohibit the installation or expansion of wells within the City of Santa Monica, unless approved unanimously by the SMBGSA. This ensures that groundwater management aligns with the goals and requirements outlined in the GSP and the SGMA.


The City has been working to address historic disparities faced by Black and Latino communities through community engagement efforts. To tackle these challenges, the city has developed a comprehensive plan that treats equity as a core function.

Council will provide feedback and input on that plan this week. 

The plan involves evaluating policies for unconscious bias, conducting equity impact assessments for City projects, empowering residents through grants, and providing staff growth opportunities. The City will engage in a robust community engagement effort, beginning with a panel discussion on strategic allyship, followed by a seven-month phase dedicated to identifying collective issues and gathering equity priorities and challenges from residents.

Engagement opportunities include large community listening sessions and smaller community-led meetings, with stipends offered to community groups hosting these sessions to ensure diverse voices are heard. The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) team will review community input, identify key issues, collaborate with relevant departments, and co-generate solutions with the community, building upon existing programs.

After the community engagement process, the DEI team will present priorities and proposed solutions to the City Council.


Negotiations continue for a pair of city owned properties that could become affordable housing if sold. 

Two bidders are vying for the Civic Center at 1855 Main Street. The historic property is unsafe and had been vacant for years before being listed as “surplus.” The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District has made a bid for the land to convert it into an athletic center for Samohi and Community Corporation has also expressed interest in using the land for housing. 

A second property is also in the surplus process at 1636 5th Street with AMCAL Multi-Housing and Cypress Equity interested in the site. The City has said they want the building to become affordable housing and/or a behavioral health center. 

In order for underutilized, or “surplus” city-owned property to be renovated, leased or sold for any purpose, the city must first offer it up to be turned into affordable housing, parks and recreation, or schools.

The rule came about due to California’s Surplus Land Act (SLA), signed into law in 2019. According to SLA guidelines, “the purpose of the amendments is to promote affordable housing development on unused or underutilized public land throughout the state to respond to the existing affordable housing crisis.”

Council will hear updates on the negotiations during its closed season on Tuesday. 

Council will meet on Tuesday, July 18 in City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...