Fast Forward: Santa Monica Residents Organize for “Diverse, Sustainable and Equitable” Future


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Do you feel that too often discussions of Santa Monica’s future are too dominated by a discussion of what was? Now, there’s a new residence group that pushes for a future Santa Monica that lives up to the progressive values that made the Bayside City famous.

Santa Monica, meet Santa Monica Forward.

“Many people of different ages and neighborhoods were meeting in little groups and having conversations about the future of Santa Monica,” said former Mayor Judy Abdo, one of the founders of Forward.

“They wanted to discuss and work on progressive issues like housing, childcare, education, sustainability, arts, social services, diversity,” she said. “We decided to work together to talk about how to prepare for the future of the city we love.”

Forward describes itself as a growing partnership of people who support the values that have made Santa Monica what it is today and want to make sure that those values continue to shape the future of this city.

So what’s the first step? The City Council will vote next month on a Zoning Code update that will guide the city’s growth for decades.

On its website, Forward outlines exactly what its members will push for to create the Santa Monica of the future. A platform for transportation planning, zoning, urban design and open space are all given a paragraph, each spelling out how a city of 92,000 people can be a welcoming and growing city and how Santa Monica can reclaim its leadership role as an example of how a small American city can have a big impact.

But while its message may seem Pollyanna, Forward is jumping right into one of the hottest topics in the city in its debut political foray.

“Our first project is to support a zoning ordinance that reflects Santa Monica’s values as a community, as were expressed through the seven-year process to update the City’s long-range plan, the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE),” Juan Matute, a transportation and climate change researcher at UCLA,* wrote in an email.

On its website, Santa Monica Forward lists more than 60 residents and community members as supporters, including several sitting City Council members, State Assemblymember (and former Santa Monica Mayor) Richard Bloom, young tech entrepreneurs, local safe streets advocates and several activists in the education community, among others.

Much of the discussion of Santa Monica politics is couched in what is wrong with a project or how the changes the city will go through are scary. That discussion has led to divided communities, mean-spirited and expensive campaigns where everything from safe street planning to zoning for more daycare is treated by some as a declaration of partisan war.

Does that make this the best time for a group such as Forward to enter the fray? According to Abdo, time is already wasting.

“I wish we had had the foresight to start a group two years ago, but we didn’t,” Abdo wrote in an email. “Now is a time of transition in land use, transportation, housing, and diversity. Decisions made this year will shape the Santa Monica of tomorrow. No one wanted to wait two years to come together on these issues.”

Those who want to be part of the movement can sign up for their email list at or join the Facebook Group.
*Juan Matute is also director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next
Damien Newton
Damien Newton
Damien is the executive director of the Southern California Streets Initiative which publishes Santa Monica Next, Streetsblog Los Angeles, Streetsblog San Francisco, Streetsblog California and Longbeachize.


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