SANTA MONICA—Despite numerous protests and pleas over the past few weeks, Santa Monica City Council Members voted unanimously to cut funding to the non-profit Pico Youth and Family Center (PYFC) at Tuesday night’s council meeting.
PYFC had requested $190,000 from the city which comprises roughly 40 percent of the organization’s annual budget.
Councilmember Gleam Davis said PYFC has failed to become financially independent and that the funding process had become a “political football.”
The non-profit was approved a one-time bailout of $190,000 last year by the City Council.
“I think we can all agree that we want to serve the youth. I feel the city has bent over backwards trying to accommodate the PYFC in ways it would not for almost any other organization,” Davis said. “I think what’s happened is that we’re no longer talking about grants for a program but instead whether or not politically people are feeling like they’re being threatened and that to me is totally inappropriate.”
Davis clarified that the PYFC had actually been defunded two budget cycles ago and has been living off discretionary funds provided by the council ever since.
According to a report by human services manager Setareh Yavaris, the city has already spent nearly $4 million over the years to support the struggling center.
Dozens of PYCF staff members and supporters spoke to the council before the vote was taken.
Julian Ayala, a PYFC staff member, said he was a testament to the good services the center provides.
“I’m a living product of the PYFC. I don’t understand why we’re having this conversation. I thought youth were important in the city right?” Ayala said. “There are other youth centers but none like the PYFC. You can’t replicate the PYFC no matter what you do.”
Oscar De La Torre, executive director of PYFC, said the decision to cut funding jeopardizes 13 years of service to under served youth in the community.
“It is unfortunate that a pattern of hostility and bias on the part of city staff and certain councilmembers has continued against the PYFC,” De La Torre said. “We will have to work extra hard to make up the difference. We invite the community to join our fundraising efforts.”
The City Council said it would allow up to $50,000 in discretionary funding to provide transitional programs for students who may be currently served by the center.