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Santa Monica Council Expected to Seek Experts to Help Plot City's Future


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By Jorge Casuso

September 10, 2018 -- The City Council on Tuesday is expected to begin seeking expert advice to help tackle "disruptive" global forces that pose both threats and opportunities for Santa Monica's economy.

These include everything from online shopping that is eroding business at brick and mortar stores to robots that could take over basic tasks and cars that don't require a driver.

"Exponential global changes in artificial intelligence, user options, and connectivity," staff wrote in its report to the Council, "will have major local impacts on work, transportation, and retail.

"By fostering a proactive strategy to address the opportunities and threats caused by these disruptive forces, the City will be well positioned to adapt to the changes while continuing to support what makes Santa Monica special."

Staff is recommending that the Council issue a request for proposals (RFP) for a team of experts who can "help develop a long-term economic sustainability strategy for the City."

"Previous generations of forward-thinking leaders built and implemented strategies to sustain Santa Monica’s infrastructure and services consistent with community values," staff said.

"With similar thoughtfulness and forethought, the City and community must now determine how to preserve Santa Monica’s unique assets while adapting to rapid changes affecting the economy on a local and global level."

The recommended move comes one year after the Council held a study session that identified key issues expected to impact Santa Monica’s economy over at least the next decade.

These include "globalization and changes in digital communication, a shifting retail landscape, vehicle advancements, and the automation of jobs," staff said.

After the study session, staff began studying which trends would have the greatest impact on Santa Monica's 92,478 residents, 9,471 businesses and 88,498 employees.

They identified "transformational trends" in AI, user options and connectivity that impact people and cities across the globe and determined that these trends will have "significant impacts" on work, transportation, and retail.

"As computers and robots increasingly take on simple and repetitive tasks, there will be a heightened emphasis on human-driven creative and complex tasks," making education and training "critical," staff said.

With transportation options growing, the City will likely forge more partnerships with private companies like the recent "Dial a Ride" service offered by the Big Blue Bus and Lyft ("Santa Monica Updates Dial-A-Ride Program with Lyft," June 26, 2018).

In the field of retail, "E-commerce will have the capacity to fulfill most commodity purchases, which means that customers will be in search of unique experiences and local products from brick-and-mortar stores," staff wrote.

In Santa Monica, Downtown officials and retailers have been focusing on offering those things you can't get online ("Downtown Santa Monica Offers Holiday Shoppers More than Deep Discounts, Officials Say," December 18, 2017).

The team of experts the City hires could begin working before the end of the year, staff said.

The team will begin by evaluating the City’s goals and priorities, assessing its policy approaches and practices and initiating conversations with "community members, local thought leaders, researchers and local partners," staff said.


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