On November 8th, Santa Monica residents will have the opportunity to fill 4 seats on its 7-seat City Council, thereby determining the majority of the City’s elected representation. Santa Monica has made great strides over the past few years in becoming a more bike- and transit-friendly city. Much work remains to be done, however, in providing safe first mile/last mile connections to transit lines, in building protected bike lanes to improve the quality of its bike network, and expanding its burgeoning bike share system.
Simultaneously, Santa Monica is at a crossroads, with a controversial ballot measure and some candidates that aim to address its traffic congestion by limiting the occupancy of the city, rather than by providing better, more sustainable, and more equitable mobility options.
Bike The Vote L.A. members have reviewed the Santa Monica City Council candidates and proposed Santa Monica ballot measures for the 2016 General Election, including public statements, and responses to a questionnaire we sent out to all candidates. See below for our grades of candidates for and ballot measures in the Santa Monica’s 2016 General Election.
2016 California General Election: Tuesday, November 8th, 7am-8pm
Santa Monica Ballot Information: http://www.smvote.org/
Register to Vote (deadline 10/21): http://bit.ly/btvregister
Find your polling place: http://lavote.net/locator
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Gleam Davis
Councilmember Gleam Davis offers Santa Monica voters solid ideas and a proven track record of driving progress on mobility policy. Her responses to our questionnaire demonstrated deep knowledge of a broad range of topics, from bike share to parking to intersection design. Davis favors more ambitious work to complete the MANGo, including the notable addition of a traffic diverter to discourage cut-through car traffic. More broadly, she’d like the city to implement Dutch-style intersections to better protect cyclists from conflicts with cars. She supports expansion of the Breeze bike share system beyond the city limits and points to the need for more innovative features, such as adult tricycles, to serve the city’s senior population.
Davis championed removing Downtown parking minimums that force people who bike, walk, and take transit to subsidize the costs of vehicle parking. She also offered ideas for an impressively broad range of potential solutions to the first-mile/last-mile issue that go beyond bicycling to encompass walking and both fixed-route and on-demand transit. We could go on, but you really need to read Davis’ responses yourself to appreciate the obvious knowledge and consideration that’s gone into them. Gleam Davis is an experienced leader with a clear, compelling vision for the future of mobility in Santa Monica and the practical know-how to help make it a reality.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: A
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Terry O’Day
Councilmember Terry O’Day has been a stalwart supporter of Santa Monica’s transformation into a more bicycle- and transit-oriented community. According to comments he made to Santa Monica Next, he’s also a regular walker and transit user and frequently bikes around Santa Monica. O’Day also has an excellent track record of supporting Santa Monica’s Bike Action Plan, low cost Big Blue Bus service, Metro’s Measure R-funded expansion of light rail, and Santa Monica’s Vision Zero policy. He’s also opposed to the harmful anti-growth Measure LV.
O’Day’s response to our questionnaire is as cohesive as it is thoughtful, calling for a complete rethinking of the city’s street infrastructure to prioritize the safety of people on foot and on bikes over convenience for other modes. From recognition of the need to close gaps in a bicycle network to stressing the need to prioritize implementation in order to achieve Vision Zero, it’s clear that O’Day is the kind of leader on mobility that Santa Monica residents and workers deserve.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: A
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Ted Winterer
Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer has been a strong proponent of Santa Monica’s shift towards a more bike-friendly city with a keen understanding of what components are necessary to make commuting by bike safe and enjoyable. In his response to us, he outlines many of those components: a network of bicycle infrastructure, implementation of protected bike lanes, safety in numbers, and convenient bike parking.
But beyond that, it’s abundantly clear that Winterer has a cohesive understanding of what it takes to make a more livable, sustainable, and connected community. In his experience as a Councilmember, he has a long track record of votes, stances, and advocacy to improve options for transit, biking, and quality pedestrian infrastructure. Santa Monica residents will do well to return Mayor Pro Tem Ted Winterer to office, where we are confident he will continue the push towards a city with quality mobility options across the board.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: A
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Mende Smith
Mende Smith is a car-free Santa Monican who understands the role active transportation can play in solving the city’s mobility challenges. To improve safety, she expressed support for finishing the Michigan Avenue Neighborhood Greenway, reallocating road space away from cars, and lowering speed limits within city limits to 25 miles per hour. To reduce reliance on cars, Smith is in favor of revisiting and perhaps lowering the city’s off-street parking requirements. She also articulated a number of ideas to encourage more bicycling, most notably working to offer free rides on the city’s Breeze bike share system to residents. We’d like to see her flesh out some of her proposals a little more, particularly with respect to safe and convenient first mile/last mile options to and from transit. We also have some concerns in Smith’s previous vocalization of support for Measure LV. Nonetheless, Mende Smith has expressed a solid mindset and vision to ensure Santa Monica remains a regional leader on clean and innovative mobility.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: B+
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Tony Vazquez
While we did not receive a response to our questionnaire from Tony Vazquez – outlining his stance on safe streets – Mayor Vazquez does have a solid track record on improving mobility options in Santa Monica. As a member of City Council, Vazquez joined his colleagues in unanimously supporting many important safe and sustainable streets initiatives.
Since 2012, when Vazquez was elected to the City Council, he has joined his colleagues in supporting the region’s first public bike-share program, Breeze Bike Share, which officially launched late last year. He has also voted to adopt the city’s Pedestrian Action Plan, which lays out a comprehensive vision for making Santa Monica a safer and more desirable place to walk and includes a Vision Zero goal.
We would hope that Mr. Vazquez continues to join his colleagues in supporting these initiatives and more as Santa Monica continues to lead as a sustainable streets champion.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: B
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Terrence Later
Terence Later clearly gets that making biking safer and more comfortable is a great solution to reducing the amount of driving within Santa Monica. His interest in expanding Santa Monica’s bicycle network, improving access to transit through bike lanes, bike share, and strong support for Vision Zero all show that Later understands much of what it will take to improve mobility options for the City. However, Later’s support of Measure LV, which would require a public approval of individual residential projects, is problematic for encouraging an equitable and sustainable Santa Monica, as it would exacerbate Santa Monica’s imbalance between jobs and housing while doing nothing to speed up commutes. Considering his desire to address Santa Monica’s traffic woes, we’d like to see Later embrace concepts such as unbundled parking, transit-oriented development, or even congestion pricing. While we have our concerns about Later, we nonetheless appreciate that he comes from the right place in wanting to improve livability, mobility, and safety for all Santa Monicans.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: B-
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Jon Mann
Jon Mann was kind enough to respond to our survey and voiced support for protected bike lanes, both on the MANGo complete street project and around the city – including removing parking where necessary to create them. However, the sour note he hit on bike share, as well as his opposition to Vision Zero and to most new development, is enough to give us pause in thinking that he holds the priorities necessary to improve safety on Santa Monica streets.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: C+
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Armen Melkonians
We unfortunately have little information on Armen Melkonians, particularly after receiving no response to our candidate questionnaire. In his short time active in Santa Monica, Mr. Melkonians has not advocated for – nor has he done any work on – sustainable transportation.
As a candidate, he co-authored Measure LV, which Bike The Vote L.A. opposes, and has made it a central component of his campaign. We believe Measure LV will undermine Santa Monica’s commitment to a more sustainable city. Mr. Melkonians has made questionable claims about the measure’s ability to fight traffic, but in the future, we would hope to see Mr. Melkonians incorporate support for safe streets as a component of his platform to address Santa Monica’s traffic woes instead of simply blaming development for its current state.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: C-
Santa Monica City Council Candidate: Oscar de la Torre
We did not receive a questionnaire from Oscar de la Torre. Mr. de la Torre has been on the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education since 2002 and has been a champion of underprivileged youth in the city for even longer.
However, the social equity of sustainable and safe streets has not been a focus of Mr. de la Torre’s and though he has been in a unique position to work at a grassroots level for positive outcomes for bike and pedestrian safety, especially at the school district, he has not demonstrated that it is a priority for him.
In his own neighborhood, Mr. de la Torre fought against improvements along the Michigan Avenue Greenway, a major access point for students commuting to Santa Monica High School, that would have made travel by foot or by bike safer and more convenient, including the realigning of on-street parking for a potential protected bike lane. He is also a supporter of Measure LV, which Bike the Vote L.A. has opposed because we believe it will undermine Santa Monica’s commitment to a more sustainable city.
We hope that whether he remains on the School Board or earns a seat on the City Council, Mr. de la Torre will reconsider the importance of championing safe streets not only to address traffic issues in the city but also to improve the lives of the city’s most underprivileged residents, many of whom cannot afford cars and must commute by bike or foot.
Bike The Vote L.A. 2016 Grade: C-
Measure LV: NO
As a group focused on improving the safety and quality of mobility options as well as the overall livability of cities and neighborhoods, we recognize the need for smart and sustainable development to address issues of housing affordability, equity, and mobility. Measure LV would only make automobile traffic worse and drive up housing prices, while leading to longer and less bikeable commutes for many people in Santa Monica and around the region. Bike The Vote L.A. urges a “NO” vote on Measure LV.