May 5, 2020

Include Longstanding Community Groups on Economic Recovery Task Force and Limit its Role to Recovery Efforts

TO: City Council


RE: Include Longstanding Community Groups on Economic Recovery Task Force and Limit its Role to Recovery Efforts

While we appreciate the urgency with which the City had to assemble an economic task force to guide Santa Monica’s recovery and balance its budget, we are concerned with the recently announced composition of the Economic Recovery Task Force. It is tilted towards pro-development advocacy groups such as DTSM Inc., the Chamber of Commerce and Santa Monica Forward.

As part of the focus on ¨Community and Economic Development,¨ these groups are once again offering major changes to our land-use policies that would encourage new development, not just address business retention, permitting, marketing, or other member outreach. Most of their pro-growth development ideas have been submitted before - as part of the revisions to neighborhood community plans, downtown and Bergamot plans, and the LUCE. In the past, their ideas were met with community input, large-scale disagreement, and eventual mutual compromise. Here however, you have not included ANY reasonable-growth community groups or neighborhood associations.

We do not want to see this crisis used as an opportunity for developers' advocates to have an outsized role in our city’s revised land-use policies and decisions to the exclusion of other groups who have expertise and, in fairness, should also be included, such as SMRR, SMCLC, the SMTP, SMa.r.t., and neighborhood groups. We urge you to remember that those advocating for more and easier development have a financial interest in doing so. It would be naive to think that their desire to maximize profits does not influence, and indeed, generate the specific proposals they are advancing.

Residents, through their community groups, should not be invisible. They, as well as local businesses, will directly bear the impacts of decisions made by this task force. Residents are entitled to be heard WHEN possible changes in established land-use policy are being discussed - not just when the Council is prepared to vote on them. To exclude residents from these discussions would be profoundly undemocratic, and cause tension in our city at a time when we should all be working together.

Please let us know what criteria you intend to use to rectify this omission to include vital community groups as we debate the best ways to move forward.

Thank you.

CC: Lane Dilg

Anuj Gupta

Andy Agle

David Martin

Community Leaders

City Clerk