Workshop Focuses on Jobs, Housing
By Jorge Casuso
April 3 -- After more than three years of envisioning
the future of Santa Monica, the public attended a final workshop
Wednesday night to weigh in on a plan that will dictate development
over the next two decades.
Nearly 200 participants turned out on a rainy night to help hammer out the
update to the City’s Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) during a
three-hour session that focused on jobs and housing for workers.
“What we talked about tonight is really a holistic picture of creating
a long-range sustainable plan,” Planning Director Eileen Fogarty said
after the meeting.
“What parts of our economy do we want to have grow and stay,” Fogarty
said. “We are in an incredible position where we can pick and choose.”
City officials are targeting jobs in the creative arts -- particularly in film,
video and post production -- which account for between 13 and 15 percent of
Santa Monica’s workforce, compared to about 2 percent for the nation at
large, said Bill Whitney, a consultant for the City.
In fact, Santa Monica, which has a population of fewer than 90,000 residents
claims 17 percent of the post production jobs in LA County, whose population
is 8 million, Whitney said.
“It’s a good employment,” he said. “You have creative
people, why not have creative employment.”
Two other industries the City should focus on retaining and perhaps expanding
are tourism and healthcare, according to City officials. The average overnight
visitor spends some $250 a day in Santa Monica and has little or no impact on
“The hotel visitor spends as much in Santa Monica as the hotel visitor
that goes to Maui,” Whitney said.
In fact, the City should consider adding 1,000 rooms to the approximately 3,500
rooms currently on-line. A recent report showed that Santa Monica has the highest
hotel occupancy rate in the region outside of the LAX area, where many guests
stay between flights.
But retaining jobs in these industries is only part f the challenges Santa
Monica faces, City officials said. Housing those who work in Santa Monica is
A workforce housing task force has identified the kinds of workers that would
be targeted, said Iao Katagiri, who heads the task force.
“There are low-income workers who don’t live in Santa Monica but
are very important to us,” Katagiri said. “There are also public
safety and emergency workers. We want them to be close when we need them.”
Workers targeted for such housing would include teachers, nurses and social
service and public employees, she said.
The City is exploring ways to keep the costs of workforce housing affordable
in one of the priciest areas in the country. Unlike cities with large private
corporations that often help subsidize such projects, Santa Monica’s biggest
employers – the City, the college, the School District and the two hospitals
– are non-profit, Katagiri said.
As a result, the City will need to come up with “public regulations and
statutes that would allow for financial arrangements,” Katagiri said.
The City needs to create incentives for private developers to build workforce
housing by “rewarding them with additional development rights,”
said Paul Silvern, a consultant to the City.
Given the demand and price of local real estate, the City should look for “publicly
owned, underutilized land,” Silvern said. It also can build on existing
surface parking lots and above existing structures.
The City also should explore ways to reduce development costs and find ways
to insure that the workforce housing is deed restricted so that it remains affordable,
Wednesday’s was the last workshop in a public process that will result
in a preliminary draft scheduled to be released by early next month, planning
officials said. The draft will be reviewed by the City Council, and if approved,
will undergo a lengthy environmental review.
“We expect there will be a lot of work,” said Liz Bar-El, a senior
planner with the City. “This will be a pretty complete draft,
but there will be pieces we’ll have to fill in later.”