Tonight’s council meeting is headlined by a trio of heavy hitting items, each with its contingent of interested residents, but a host of smaller items also have significant implications for the City.
Council will debate approval of Downtown Santa Monica’s (DTSM) budget and workplan for the year. DTSM is funded through taxes paid by businesses within its geographic zone and the terms of its contract with the city require council approval of the annual budget. This year’s plan includes additional pop-up and partnership programming that expands ideas like the Night Market and ICE rink with a new drive-up movie program in Parking Structure 6. The two sides will also finalize responsibilities for maintenance of the City-owned parking structures. The biggest item of discussion will be hiring a new company to provide security guards within the DTSM zone. DTSM has approved $1.7 million for a one year pilot program but to extend that permanently would require a renegotiation of their agreement with the City. DTSM has prepared a budget for FY 2023-24 with anticipated revenues of $10,208,033 and anticipated expenditures of $10,629,733.
The Housing Commission’s report on creating more for sale housing in the city has been pulled from the agenda at the request of the commission.
CIVIC CENTER DISCUSSION
An update on a potential sale or lease of the Civic Auditorium is part of the closed session this week. In 2022, Council declared the property “surplus” in a public meeting after receiving what was described at the time as “renewed interest in the Civic Auditorium from prospective commercial operators.” State law, known as the Surplus Land Act (SLA), requires municipalities to declare property as “surplus” or “exempt” if they plan to sell or lease it to a private party. There are specific rules for exempting a property and at the time, staff said the property had to be declared as surplus to facilitate a long term lease with a private tenant. However, the SLA requires a handful of uses (affordable housing, parks and education) be given priority access to surplus land before its owner can move on to another use. Following the Civic’s designation, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District and Community Corporation of Santa Monica expressed interest in the site and negotiations with both are ongoing. The update to council on negotiations will be in closed session but public opposition to either plan has grown in recent weeks and members of the public can address closed session items with comments at the start of the meeting.
While unrelated to the specifics of the Civic discussion, Mayor Gleam Davis and Councilman Jesse Zwick have asked for a future discussion to revitalize Santa Monica’s reputation as a premier location for events, like those that used to be held at the Civic Auditorium.
Staff are proposing a variety of changes to zoning rules in Downtown to aid in economic recovery.
The changes would allow greater flexibility for restaurants that provide entertainment within the Third Street Promenade Area District, expand Alcohol Exemption (AE) permits to additional uses to further streamline the review of alcohol permits while also correcting and refining existing AE permit conditions, allow the Director of Community Development or designee to consider commercial uses that are not clearly defined in the Zoning Code, allow a longer term for Temporary Use Permits, and allow outdoor rooftop commercial uses on public parking structures owned by the City.
Council has an unofficial policy of delaying appointments to the city’s various boards and commissions until all councilmembers are physically in attendance at a meeting. At least one councilmember was absent from the past two meetings prompting delays in completing 24 appointments this year.
Generally, appointments require a simple majority of councilmembers however, to appoint a commissioner to three consecutive terms, a supermajority of five votes is required. This year, there are three multi-term incumbents asking for reappointment to the Planning Commission. Mario Fonda-Bonardi and Nina Fresco are both asking for a third consecutive term and will need five votes. Jim Ries is actually vying for a fourth term but as his first two were separated from his third by several years, he can be reappointed with a simple majority. Four new applicants have filed for the role including Thomas Ciszek, Deborah Cohen, Josh D. Hamilton and Alexander J. Sinunu
Councilmembers Phil Brock and Oscar de la Torre are asking for additional travel expenses for the year. The two are asking for unused money from last year’s travel budgets to be applied to any Councilmember who has already exceeded this year’s travel budgets. The idea will be part of the “discussion” items at the end of the agenda.
Council will meet tonight, July 25 in City Hall, 1685 Main Street. Closed session begins at 5:30 p.m. and open session items will not begin before 7 p.m.