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Council Wraps Up Busy Agenda

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

November 20 -- From getting homeless individuals off local streets and adding another preferential parking zone to leasing out vacant Civic Center land for events, the City Council wrapped up a slew of agenda items last week.

In addition to approving $350,000 in federal funds for local homeless service providers, the council voted last Tuesday to transfer $1.34 million used for low and moderate-income affordable housing loans to help move homeless seniors into supportive permanent housing.

Earmarked for the “Senior Homeless Prevention and Rental Assistance Program,” the money will not only help keep the elderly off the streets, but a significant amount will help house those seniors living outside of society the longest, dubbed the “chronically homeless.”

“Rental assistance would be provided to very-low income homeless seniors, 55-years old and older, who have participated, for a minimum of one year, in a case management program,” according to the staff report.

“This population is being proposed because it is generally the most vulnerable of the homeless population in the areas of personal safety and disease,” the report said.

The “chronic homeless” are the largest, and most expensive, drain on City and area emergency systems, including police, paramedics and hospitals, City officials have said.

The move also bolsters a $1 million Federal grant for a new approach in helping the homeless in Santa Monica, a service model known in policy circles as “Housing First.”

Local service providers, City and housing officials envision a five to six year programs with the long-term goal of carving out additional public funding, the staff report said.

With senior housing in short supply, such a program is urgently needed, many service providers said.

“Legal Aid, OPCC and St. Joseph Center reported an increasing number of Santa Monica seniors who are either being evicted from or moving from their apartments because of a financial crisis in their lives, predominantly related to medical expenses,” staff wrote.

“In addition, the 2000 Census documents that there are 1,932 Santa Monica residents, age 55 years old and older, who have incomes at, or below, the poverty line. They constitute the largest pool of Santa Monica residents who may require prevention assistance.”

As of June 30, 55 percent or 246 homeless individuals 55 years or older tracked by the City received homeless services for between one and five years, the report stated. Of those, 53 were veterans and 137 were chronically homeless.

All the individuals showed signs of “disabling conditions,” including 105 who were suffering from mental illness, 50 struggling with alcoholism, 45 suffering from drug abuse and 46 who had a “dual diagnosis.”

When it came to parking, City Council members last Tuesday went against a staff recommendation and approved preferential parking in the 1100 block of Alta Avenue, next to the busy Montana Avenue shopping district.

Businesses in the area had argued that restricting parking to residents made it difficult for customers and employees to find parking, an argument the council didn’t buy.

Preferential parking will now be available on the south side of Alta Avenue between 11th and 12th Streets, restricting parking to two hours, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., Monday through Saturday, except by permit.

The original petition to consider residential permits came with a plan that would designate permits for employees of businesses in the Montana area, but the council decided to halt the program in February.

Staff recommended denying the petition because parking spaces are spread evenly across the area north of Montana Avenue and are not “unduly high” on Alta Avenue. Staff also noted that a “majority of the residents in the neighborhood have stated… they do not want additional” preferred parking in the neighborhood.

The council last week also gave the go-ahead to lease empty land in the Civic Center for short-term cultural events. Leasing the site won’t come cheap, though.

A minimum payment of a half million dollars is required. They money would be used to develop park space at the four acre site the City bought from RAND.

Bids will be received from July to November 2007.




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