Santa Monica, California USA is leading the world in sustainable urban solutions, many of which are being borrowed by other enterprising mayors. Below are just a few of the sustainable initiatives of this beautiful beach city, which just became 100% powered by renewable energy and has a goal of reducing single-occupancy vehicle usage and making public transportation and micro-mobility the norm.
Santa Monica Green
And here are the details on each of these sustainable initiatives.
Santa Monica Green
Greening a city, or changes of any kind really, is not an easy task. As former Mayor Ted Winterer acknowledges, “Some people in any community don’t like change.” He encourages leaders to be visionary, saying, “Don’t be afraid to be bold. You’ll always meet some resistance on change.”
The landing of the e-scooter in 2017 was one of those challenges that Mayor Winterer faced. Bird e-scooters were launched in Santa Monica, California by Bird Chief Executive Travis VanderZanden, a former Lyft and Uber executive, who relocated to Santa Monica, California from the Bay Area. There was much pushback from car drivers and residents who were alarmed at seeing tourists, teens and Millennials riding Birds on sidewalks, without helmets and then just leaving them wherever they wish. (Convenience is one of the great appeals of the scooter app.) Mayor Winterer admits that city officials were freaked out and caught without warning.
Under the leadership of Mayor Winterer, however, a pilot program was established which allowed the city to paint and enlarge bicycle paths and install scooter parking areas. Santa Monica’s city manager Rick Cole confided that Mayor Winterer was the champion of the program, which under different leadership might never have gotten off the ground.
Since the launch of Santa Monica’s e-Scooter Pilot Program, other cities, including San Francisco, have adopted similar tests. Ford Motor Company purchased Spin on Nov. 8, 2018 for a reported $100 million (Tech Crunch). Bird has been valued at north of $2 billion. There is a lot of competition in the e-scooter space these days, with Lyft, Uber and many others jumping on the unicorn startup concept. Bird is available in cities all over the world, including Paris and London, and at 29 universities in the U.S. – all of this in just two years!
One of the things that I found most refreshing during my interview with Mayor Winterer (on November 29, 2018) is that he bikes the talk. There are five bikes and only one car in his family of four. He hasn’t tried a scooter yet, but is keen to try the Jump (Uber-owned) electric bikes. Mayor Winterer told me that not owning a car (which costs on average $7,500/year, including insurance, gasoline and car payment) can really help the budget. According to Mayor Winterer, “In 2017, between my wife and I, we spent a little over $2000 on Uber and Lyft. That is so much less than the cost of owning a car. Sometimes the situation comes up when you can’t walk or ride a bike.”
There are still many challenges in this 8.3 square mile seaside city by the Pacific Ocean, including homelessness, unaffordable housing and traffic jams during rush hour. The pathway to green, to access, to fairness, to kindness, to clean air and protecting the ocean that so many residents and visitors enjoy is not easy. However, with leaders like Mayor Winterer, the city is moving forward to ensure that this beautiful community will be here to enjoy, with fresh water, air and healthy food, for generations to come.