Santa Monica Lookout
|Santa Monica Celebrates its Evolution Under the Big Top|
By Jason Islas
January 28, 2014 -- Once an industrial city, Santa Monica has evolved into a thriving destination, attracting families, entrepreneurs and tourists from all over the world.
That was the message Mayor Pam O’Connor delivered to local business, civic and political leaders Monday morning as they gathered beneath Cirque du Soleil’s Grand Chapiteu north of the Pier for the annual State of the City event.
And the venue was fitting since it is where the Canadian acrobatics troupe is performing its latest show, TOTEM, which traces the history of humankind from its primordial beginnings to its space-age accomplishments.
“Change is inevitable,” Mayor Pam O’Connor told the crowd of civic and business leaders at Monday’s event, hosted by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. “We need to work together to shape that change.”
With experts estimating that worldwide, roughly 5 billion people will live in cities by 2030, O’Connor said, “the stakes, frankly, have never been higher.”
Over the decades, Santa Monica has evolved from an industrial town into “one of the most dynamic subregions in the county,” O’Connor said of the bayside city, which is home to about 90,000 people.
The city’s 9,154 businesses employee about 81,000 people and Santa Monica’s shores drew more than 7 million visitors, swelling the City’s coffers with $90 million in sales taxes alone, O’Connor said.
But it is more than commerce that has been instrumental in making Santa Monica what it is today, O’Connor said.
She pointed to infrastructure investments like the City’s Bike Action Plan, which is the blueprint for the Santa Monica’s bicycle network for the next 20 years.
O’Connor celebrated the City’s low crime rates, strong school system and overall high “quality of life.”
While she celebrated the City’s accomplishments, she also looked to the future, calling for affordable housing near jobs and transit.
Instrumental to that vision is Expo Light Rail, which will connect Downtown Santa Monica to Downtown Los Angeles when it opens in 2016.
Third District County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, who serves with O’Connor on the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro) Board, was present Monday to accept the Chamber of Commerce’s Community Excellence Award.
“This (city) is the one against all others have to measure themselves,” said Yaroslavsky, referring to the County’s “seamless” relationship with Santa Monica.
“We can take our resources, invest them with your nonprofits and know the job is going to get done,” he said.
While he celebrated Santa Monica’s work in housing the homeless, he called for more housing.
Yaroslavksy, who will leave his office this year due to term limits, has served in public office since 1975 when he was elected to the L.A. City Council.
Also honored Monday was Richard Chaker, the long-time owner of Perry’s on the Beach and a partner in the Santa Monica Bike Center, for his “commitment to sustainability,” Chamber officials said.
The senior vice president of Cirque du Soliel accepted the Economic Excellence Award for the Quebec-based company.
Adam Miller, the founder of Corner Stone On Demand, was awarded the Chamber’s Innovation Award.
“We are thriving and we are succeeding,” O’Connor said.
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