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Councilmember Items Crowd Tuesday's Agenda

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By Jorge Casuso

August 18, 2023 -- The City Council will take up nine items placed by Councilmembers on Tuesday's agenda, with most tackling hot-button issues.

The items include revisiting ways to force LA County's needle exchange program indoors and test the loyalty of Councilmembers to striking hotel union workers ("Council to Take Position on Hotel Union Strike," August 18, 2023).

Other items include adding at least one homeless individual to the Housing Authority Board, clarifying the Affordable Housing Production Program (AHPP) and developing programs to protect renters "amidst record evictions."

An item placed on the agenda by Mayor Gleam Davis, Negrete and Councilmember Phil Brock would revisit the City's efforts to move LA County's needle exchange program indoors in light of a recent Appeals Court ruling.

The August 14 ruling by the Third Appellate District held that the California Department of Public Health "is required to engage in a fully interactive process with affected local jurisdictions prior to implementing a syringe exchange program," the item states.

Health officials must then "return with information and take all necessary action consistent with ensuring the legally required process is followed."

The City has been trying since last September to have the County "immediately" move the program indoors, where "individuals in need of substance abuse, mental health, and other services can coordinate and work directly with service providers."

The County -- which now delivers the syringes from mobile vans that operate for three hours a week -- have argued that "brick and mortar locations often present barriers to services given the need for proactive engagement approaches for this population."

The Councilmember item calls for directing the City Manager and City Attorney to "investigate and analyze the process employed by the LA County Department of Public Health leading to its syringe exchange program" to determine if it conforms to the recent court ruling.

Councilmeembers also placed three housing related items on Tuesday's agenda.

One item placed by Davis, Torosis and Zwick would direct the City Manager and City Attorney to "implement and develop recommendations for programs and ordinances to protect the 70 percent of Santa Monicans who are renters amidst record evictions."

Another -- placed on the agenda by Councilmembers Brock, Christine Parra and Oscar de la Torre -- asks the Council to "provide for the participation of not less than one homeless individual or formerly homeless individual on the Santa Monica Housing Authority Board (SMHAB)."

The item asks the Council to appoint the candidate recommended by the Housing Commission, Courtney Lauretano, to serve until the new rule is established.

The third housing-related item -- placed on the agenda by Brock, de la Torre and Parra -- asks the City Manager and City Attorney to explain several aspects of the Affordable Housing Production Program (AHPP).

The Councilmembers want to know "the relationship between AHPP and the ability to be eligible for State Density Bonus" and "whether AHPP requirements are consistent with income requirements under State Density Bonus law."

They also want staff to "discuss the compounding effects of the AHPP and State Density Bonus on building height and density.

Other Counilmember items on Tuesday's agenda ask the Council to allocate discretionary funds for special events that do not involve advocating positions or proposing policy changes or ordinances.

They include allowing the California State Board of Equalization (BOE) to use the Council Chambers for free, allocating $2,000 to host delegates from Sister City Mazatlán, Mexico and $9,000 to the Westside Coalition to support the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Celebration.

Another item would waive fees and reimburse $7,000 to the Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) to support the non-profit's 3rd Annual Santa Monica Classic Car show on the Pier that kicks off Hispanic Heritage month activities.

The flood of items comes two years after the Council took steps to curb the growing number of items the members themselves were placing on the agenda.

In in September 2021, the Council unanimously approved a policy change to consult with the City Manager before placing staff administrative items on the agenda.

Eight months later, the Council stemmed last-minute items by moving up the submission deadline.

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