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Monthly Poll Reflects Little Confidence in New City Department
By Jorge Casuso
April 3, 2023 -- A monthly poll of civically engaged Santa Monica residents taken last week found that nearly two-thirds don't believe a new City department created to reduce homelessness will succeed.
The approximately 160 respondents who took the Santa Monica Pulse poll between March 27 and April 1 also don't think the City should fund vans to hand out clean needles to drug users.
And they were torn when given several options for the future of Santa Monica Airport.
Asked if creating a new department and allocating new tax dollars "will help the City reduce homelessness," 64 percent said it wouldn't, 12 percent said it would, while 24 percent weren't sure.
The Housing and Human Services Department created by the Council on March 11 will become "the organization point" for homelessness services and programs ("Council Creates Department to Focus on Housing and Homelessness," March 13, 2023).
The department will work to prevent housed Santa Monicans from becoming homeless and increase affordable housing, efforts that will be expedited after the City declared a Homelessness Emergency in February ("Council Votes to Declare Homelessness Emergency," February 15, 2023).
It also will "address the behavioral health needs of vulnerable individuals and advocate for regional capacity to address homelessness," City officials said.
The poll also asked about a controversial needle exchange program run by the LA County Public Health Department that the Council requested be moved from public spaces indoors.
County officials have balked at the request, saying that meeting homeless individuals "where they are, both figuratively and literally, is the best way to engage" them ("Little Progress Moving Needle Exchange Program Indoors," March 23, 2023).
Instead, Health officials suggested operating the program from vans that would cost the City $150,000 to $180,000 each, a suggestion opposed by 76 percent of the poll's respondents.
Asked which of four options they supported after the Council began planning for the future of the Airport (SMO) in January, 39 percent picked "a park," an option approved by Santa Monica voters in 2014 ("Airport Plan Takes Off," January 25, 2023).
Another 21 percent picked "other" and wrote in comments, with many suggesting pickleball courts and others housing or some other way to address homelessness.
Aviation interests, neighboring residents and those who advocate for reining in development see maintaining the airport as an option that could provide common ground.
The planning process the Council embarked on with a 7 to 0 vote promises to turn into a political and highly volatile tug-of-war over the large swath of land that on December 31, 2028 will cease functioning as an airport.
As with previous polls, the latest Santa Monica Pulse poll was sent to nearly 1,000 residents who "previously opted in to receive more information on education efforts surrounding crime and safety in their city." It had a 16 percent response rate.
The poll is conducted by Eyes on 11, a hotel union watchdog. Those who wish to be included in the next poll should email their name and cell phone number to SaMoPulse@gmail.com.
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