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|O'Day's Take on Downtown|
By Jonathan Friedman
March 24, 2010 -- Santa Monica’s newest City Council member says Downtown is headed in the right direction, and it can become an even better place with more ground-level retail and improved movie theaters.
“There are a number of capital improvements, one of the most obviously being Santa Monica Place, that will have a major impact on Downtown and how it operates, and how it’s perceived,” Terry O’Day says. “And I think that's exciting."
Bringing a state-of-the-art movie theater, O'Day says, would tap into a natural local market -- the growing number of people who work in the film industry and other creative arts in Santa Monica.
“I went to go see Avatar at the IMAX the other day, and it was killer,” says Terry O’Day, who was appointed to the City Council last month to fill the seat left vacant by the death of Mayor Ken Genser. “But unfortunately I had to leave town to see it.”
O'Day, who was a member of the Planning Commission, notes that City officials are in discussion with AMC Theatres about transforming Parking Structure 3 at 4th Street and Arizona Avenue into a state-of-the-art cinema complex.
A Pico Neighborhood resident, O’Day frequents the Downtown area at least a few times a week. He especially enjoys going to the Third Street Promenade, the Farmers Market, the library and the YMCA.
The new council member would like to see more mixed-use projects with ground level retail that open up opportunities for independent stores to move in, addressing the existing demand by Santa Monica residents and shoppers for a wider variety of products.
“When the options are so constrained, you find that the chains are the most prevalent to come in,” O’Day says. “They crowd out the locally owned shops. So encouraging ground-level retail and upper-level housing, which accomplishes another one of our goals in providing affordable housing, is a good thing.”
A vocal champion of public transit, O'Day joined former Mayor Dennis Zane to help lead the campaign for Measure R, a half-cent sales tax increase approved by County voters in 2008 to fund transportation projects. He says anybody who thinks that advocacy makes him “anti-business” would be misguided.
“It enjoyed broad support in the electorate, not because people had a desire to pay more taxes, but because a diverse coalition came together to define how that sales tax would be spent and to promote it throughout the county,” says O’Day, who counted business interests among the supporters.
Other projects funded by Measure R, he says, will benefit Downtown businesses because they will allow customers easier access to and from the area.
A 12-year resident of Santa Monica, O'Day became only the second resident of the Pico Neighborhood to sit on the City Council when he was appointed February 23. He will have to run for re-election in November to remain on the council.
O’Day came onto the city’s political scene when he was appointed to the Planning Commission in 2003 as a controversial replacement for Kelly Olsen, who was considered by many to be radically anti-development. O’Day ran for City Council in 2006, finishing fourth in a race for three seats. He resigned from the Planning Commission last year, saying he wanted to dedicate more time to family and his job as the head of a local environmental nonprofit.
When the council seat opened up, O’Day was among the potential appointees noted by political insiders. He got that appointment on Feb. 23 after an eight-round battle among council members.
Four votes were needed for a selection, andO’Day fell one vote shy of this threshold in four of the seven deadlocked rounds. He finally claimed victory when Council member Bobby Shriver, who had supported slow-growth champion Ted Winterer for most of the night, switched his vote to O’Day.
The O’Day selection came with much controversy. For 40 minutes prior to the council debate, he had to hear from numerous public speakers who bashed him as pro- development and having close relationships with major real estate interests.
One speaker said appointing O’Day to the council would be “committing a political act which will have long-term ramifications.”
“It hurt more for my wife,” O’Day said. “She was sitting with me and doesn’t come to these meetings as much as I do. That was fairly new to her. But I coached her through.”
But O’Day said he is confident even his biggest detractors can come to his side through the power of dialogue.
“There are a number of capital improvements, one of the most obviously being Santa Monica Place, that will have a major impact on Downtown and how it operates, and how it’s perceived,” Terry O’Day .
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