Santa Monica Lookout
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Santa Monica Gets Happy

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and MarkHarding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Jason Islas
Lookout reporter

March 26, 2014 -- “Happy people in a happy city,” reads Santa Monica’s official motto, emblazoned on the city seal.

Thursday marked the second annual United Nation’s International Day of Happiness, commemorating a resolution recognizing happiness as a “fundamental human goal.”

But what is happiness?

“I had lunch in Tongva Park. That was happy,” former Mayor Mike Feinstein told The Lookout Thursday.

For former Rent Control Boardmember Bob Kronovet, happiness “is being aware that you’re doing something good and contributing.”

City Councilmember Gleam Davis said, “Happiness is being with my family and knowing that they are safe and healthy and happy.”

For the City’s longest-serving Council member, Bob Holbrook, it’s “being on this side of the grass everyday. I’m happy to be alive and healthy.”

Mayor Pam O’Connor said happiness is “whenever I see someone make a kind gesture to another person.”

Or, it’s “the natural state of Santa Monicans who enjoy health, relationships,
respect, secure affordable housing, and economic equity,” according to Councilmember Kevin McKeown.

While there may be as many definitions of happiness as there are people, increasingly governments are trying to find out what makes their constituents happy.

“Governments around the world are starting to recognize that the success of a community cannot be determined economic growth alone,” City officials said.

“True measures of progress take the health, happiness, and wellbeing of people into account.”

That’s the assumption behind Santa Monica’s Wellbeing Project, which began last March when the City won a $1 million grant to develop an index that will gauge residents' well-being by measuring socio-economic status, education, relationships and other factors. (“Santa Monica Wins $1 Million Bloomberg Prize,” March 13, 2013)

By combining quantitative data -- like school attendance, homelessness and crime rates -- with qualitative data from individual surveys, officials hope to get a more robust picture of just how people experience life in Santa Monica.

The City is working with the RAND Corporation and the United Kingdom’s New Economics Foundation to create a framework that would allow Santa Monica -- and eventually other local governments -- to see in which areas of their lives its residents were happiest and in which places, things could be better.

“We’re at the forefront of translating wellbeing research and science into practical application at the local level, and we’ve learned a lot along the way,” said Julie Rusk, Santa Monica's Assistant Director of Community and Cultural Services and Wellbeing Project Lead.

For more information about the City’s Wellbeing Project visit

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