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Santa Monica Wins Award for Its Wellbeing Index

Bob Kronovetrealty
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Santa Monica Convention and Visitors

By Jorge Casuso

May 23, 2019 -- Santa Monica was the only U.S. city to win the first NewCities award for wellbeing, a concept officials have been incorporating into local policies and trying to explain to residents.

Santa Monica -- one of more than 100 cities from 27 countries considered for the annual award -- won the Community Laureate for the 2019 Wellbeing City Award for its wellbing index.

The awards from the global non-profit are the first to recognize city governments that place wellbeing "at the centre of urban planning and policymaking," NewCities said.

"The Index is a measurement tool providing indicators that reflect on lived experiences and wellbeing of residents," award officials said.

"The Index has helped inform city council decisions and led to the delivery of new policies to address specific needs of the population."

The index looks at the city's aggregate well-being based on factors including, economics, education, health, social connectedness and physical environment.

Santa Monica launched its first wellbeing index after receiving a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies in 2013 ("Santa Monica Moves Forward with Well-Being Project," March 14, 2013).

That year, the City Council awarded the Santa Monica-based RAND Corporation a $650,0000 contract to design an index to measure the “wellbeing” of the city’s residents ("Santa Monica Looks to RAND Corporation to Measure City’s Well-Being," November 12, 2013).

Since then, Santa Monica has hired a $200,000-a-year "czar" and staff dedicated to improving wellbeing, which it has incorporated into City policies.

In a new mission statement, the Planning Commission made wellbeing a centerpiece of its policies ("Council Set to Endorse New Mission Statement for Planning Commission," April 8, 2019).

And in its recent findings to ban market-rate Single Room Occupancy (SRO) developments, planning staff cited their failure to "promotes social connectedness and community wellbeing" ("Santa Monica Set to Ban Market Rate 'Micro Units,'" March 22, 2019).

Santa Monica last year also gave eight Pico Neighborhood residents $500 each as part of the City's first Wellbeing Microgrants Program ("Santa Monica Gives Out First "Wellbeing Microgrants,"August 24, 2018).

Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis said the NewCities award recognizes the wellbeing index's role in shaping stronger communities.”

“Santa Monica is proud to stand with global cities in governing through the wellbeing lens to ensure our policies, programs, and initiatives put people first," Davis said in a statement.

"This is how we can be more impactful, more inclusive, and deliver on our values to improve citizens’ lives."

To explain to residents the concept of wellbeing, the Council this years approved spending $100,000 in discretionary funds to "create a local 'Wellbeing Summit."

The summit, according to staff, will describe and demonstrate the City's "important work around community wellbeing" ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Spend $100,000 on 'Wellbeing Summit,'" February 27, 2019).

"One of the issues we have is that people don't understand what we mean by wellbeing," Mayor Davis said in approving the funding. "The idea is to have a summit to explain the work we're doing."

A formal ceremony acknowledging the Wellbeing City Laureates will be held at The Wellbeing Cities Forum in Montréal on June 19 and 20.

For more information about the Award and Laureate Cities, including an opinion editorial by Mayor Davis, click here

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