Santa Monica Backing Spanish Language Translation Plan for City Info and Meetings

‘It’s key that we increase diversity of voices in our community’ Says Councilmember Davis

By Jack Simon

Maintaining that “10% of Santa Monica residents speak Spanish at home,” the City Council has backed a motion calling for all city information be disseminated in Spanish as well as English “to ensure that language justice has a prominent place in our efforts.”

At its last meeting, the Council directed staff to draft an ordinance “creating a biennial language access plan” in accordance with its “recent priorities regarding equity and inclusion.”

The motion, requested by Mayor Pro Tem McCowan and Councilmember Gleam Davis, states that “information disseminated by the City of Santa Monica in English, including websites, blogs, social media posts, press releases, forms, instructions, or other materials shall also be provided in Spanish.” It also calls for Spanish translation services be required at all city meetings and events and the hiring of language access coordinator to oversee the bilingual efforts.

The motion was approved by a 7-0 vote.

McCowan explained that their proposal is “an effort to reach our inclusion goals and ensure that equity and inclusion are woven in everything we do…We ensure that language justice has a prominence place in our city.”

“It is key that we increase diversity of voices in our community,” added Davis.

According to the 2019 Census Bureau figures, 15.4% of the Santa Monica residents are Hispanics or Latinos and 23.5% of the residents are foreign-born. Census figures also reveal that a foreign language was spoken in 28.4% of the Santa Monica households. The city had a population of 90,401 in 2019.

Councilmember Oscar de la Torre told his colleagues he grew up in a Spanish-speaking households and stated that the proposal is a “good start.”

He also called for “more diversity in hiring, more diversity in contracting and more bilingual city employees.”

City Manager Lane Dilg said it would cost roughly $175,000 a year to implement the translation services but it is just a “preliminary number.”

Bilingual communique is not a novel idea to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. All the statements and messages on its website are in English and Spanish and the menu has a translate tab which can translate all school info into more than 120 languages.


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