Council Considers First Steps for Transportation Funding Measure That Could be on November 2024 Ballot

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At tomorrow’s City Council meeting, a motion by Councilmembers Gleam Davis, Caroline Torosis and Jesse Zwick directs city staff to “evaluate the potential” to place a ballot measure on the November 2024 ballot that would tax paid parking structures (ie garages and paid lots) to fund a host of transportation projects. The motion specifically mentions safe options for students and seniors and deferred maintenance on the city’s parking facilities downtown.

“The data is quite clear,” writes Caro Vilain, a local mobility advocate. “We’re currently dealing with a traffic violence crisis, as well as a climate crisis.”

Villain is referring to data reported by the city. Santa Monica’s Local Roadway Safety Plan states that there were 2,334 collisions on local streets that were reported to the city with ~5% of these collisions (125) resulting in severe injury or death. At the same time, the city’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory Report shows that, by a wide margin, Vehicle Transportation is the largest source of GHG pollution in the city.

Graph from City of Santa Monica

“Motor vehicles represent 68.5% of our greenhouse gas emissions as a city,” she continues. “If we want to reduce our emissions, we have to change how people get around our city.”

Even if the council approves the initial motion tomorrow, a separate future motion would need to approve the exact language of a measure, to be written by city staff. 

The council recently unanimously passed a motion restating its commitment to Vision Zero transportation planning and directed city staff to examine ways to better place safety at the center of planning and funding projects. Given the recent unanimous stance; it is likely that tomorrow’s motion will pass.

Getting council approval and voter approval are different stories.

At this early stage, organized advocates are enthusiastic for the proposed ballot measure. Santa Monica Spoke, the Santa Monica Safe Streets Alliance, and the local chapter of Streets for All are encouraging stakeholders to write to the council to express their support. Readers can express support using SFA’s alert.

In their support letter, SM Spoke and SMSSA note, “The city is still recovering from 2020 budget cuts. Those cuts reduced mobility planning staff and cut resources for SRTS (Safe Routes to School) programming… This measure can help restore some of these critically necessary assets and resources to improve safety.”

Right now, there is no organized opposition to the measure. If the city gets it onto the ballot, it is likely that the owners of the impacted parking lots would make a case for low cost parking as the cost of the tax would likely be passed on to those parking.

The motion also directs city staff to begin discussion with the California Coastal Commission to ensure that any measure crafted by the city would be in compliance with state law.

Tomorrow’s meeting begins at 5:30, although the “public portion” doesn’t begin until 7:00 p.m. at the earliest. Details on how to attend or send public comment beyond what’s in SFA’s alert can be found at the City Clerk’s website.

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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