This past Saturday, the Santa Monica City Council held a special session to set council priorities for the next two years to guide the development of the 2023-2025 biennial budget. In a unanimous vote, the City Council adopted the following as the most important areas of focus:
- Addressing Homelessness: Prevent housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increase the supply of affordable housing, address the behavioral health needs of vulnerable individuals and advocate for regional capacity to address homelessness
- Clean & Safe Santa Monica: Create an atmosphere marked by clean and safe public spaces and neighborhoods, including parks for recreation and leisure activities
- Cultivate Economic Recovery & Expand Community and Cultural Offerings: Cultivate economic opportunity and recovery and invest in community and cultural amenities and programs for all community members, focused on expanding opportunities for youth, teens, and seniors
- Racial Justice, Equity & Social Diversity: The City of Santa Monica acknowledges the effects of generational and institutional racism and discrimination, and its consequences that continue to impact our residents and businesses. These lessons of our history cannot be ignored. The City is committed to advancing racial equity and social diversity to improve the well-being of people who live, work, learn, play, and do business in our City and create a community where differences in life outcomes cannot be predicted by race, class, gender, disability or other identities. Everyone in Santa Monica must have an opportunity to thrive
- Sustainable & Connected Community: Ensure that City policies and programs enhance our resources, prevent and remedy harm to the natural environment and human health, and benefit the social and economic well-being of the community for the sake of current and future generations.
“Today’s process provided the opportunity to reflect on the work of recent years and to look ahead to what is most important for our community,” said Mayor Gleam Davis. “We will continue to address homelessness, promote a clean and safe Santa Monica, and cultivate our economic recovery. Today, the Council chose to also include the expansion of community and cultural offerings as part of our economic recovery, and to further racial justice, equity, social diversity, and a sustainable and connected community.”
The City Council also provided unanimous direction on proposed FY 2023-25 budget items, including:
Allocation of Measure CS funds: Expanding the Homeless Liaison Program with the Police Department; expanding the homeless multidisciplinary outreach team beyond the Downtown and Beach; expanding to 24/7 intakes at SAMOSHEL interim housing; continuing Clean & Safe programs in Police, Public Works, Code Enforcement, and Parking; and providing for short term rental enforcement.
Homelessness Strategic Plan: Developing an interdepartmental plan to address homelessness that builds on the City’s Four Pillars framework that considers recommendations from the Moss Adams Audit on Homelessness, sets clear policy direction, promotes alignment across City stakeholders, supports regional efforts, improves focus on measurable objectives and reporting, increases internal alignment for effective and expedient implementation of new resources, and utilizes one-time CS funds.
Organizational Realignment to Support Priorities: The Housing and Human Services Department would become the organization point for homelessness services and programs, which would enable the city to rapidly achieve Measures CS, GS, and Audit objectives, and provide core focus and leadership on administering a comprehensive array of housing, educational, and social services programs in addition to investments to support vulnerable populations.
The Recreation and Culture Department would create capacity and leadership around recreational partnership opportunities addressing conflicts between demand and capacity for recreational amenities, enable the ability to focus on the future of the Miles Memorial Playhouse and Camera Obscura buildings, and elevate arts and cultural affairs work in economic revitalization and social equity.
Resource Reallocation for Restorations: Supporting public, free, art and cultural programming and events through the Art of Recovery program; further restoring library hours and services; increasing capacity of youth programs; continue funding Playground Club; establishing RRR low-income rate program; creating a Small Business Tenant Improvement Fund; restoring planning and economic development staffing to support economic development; and designate 2% of earnings from the out of home wayfinding agreement to a diversity, equity and inclusion fund.
Councilmember Caroline Torosis credited the city’s team for a productive session, saying, “The staff did an excellent job in informing this discussion – it has been a challenging three years for the city team and we are finally returning to a sense of normalcy.” She also explained a change that’s coming to city government, adding, “We directed staff to immediately work toward recruiting a new housing and human services director while we decouple the community services department into two separate departments.”
The next steps in the budget process include the following meeting times and events:
- March 14th – The Sustainability Report Card and Sustainable City Plan Updates
- April 11 – FY 2022-23 Midyear Budget Review
- April 25 – A Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Update
- May 9 – The Annual Report on Homelessness
- May 15 – The publication of the Proposed FY 2023-25 Biennial Operating Budget and FY 2023-24 Proposed Capital Improvement Program
- May 23 – A FY 2023-25 Budget Study Session
- June 27 – Adoption of the budget