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Child Care Needs

July 14, 1991

The Southern California Women's Law Center was one of the participants in the working group that helped develop the Santa Monica Child Care Master Plan (Times, June 20). We are, therefore, very pleased to see the Santa Monica City Council adopt the plan and provide some of the resources to implement it. The plan will lead to innovative and much needed solutions to the city's child-care crisis. However, as The Times article noted, it will take years to fully implement the plan and develop the broad base of resources.

In our view, the city can act immediately to address at least one of the plan's aspects, and open additional child care resources for the Santa Monica community. Under the plan, the city is charged with removing barriers to the implementation of the plan's solutions. Like many other California communities, Santa Monica is, however, remiss in overturning zoning provisions that stand in the way of vitally needed child-care space.

California law demands comprehensive health and safety regulations governing child care. To insure regulatory consistency, the law permits only very limited regulations by local governments. In many respects, the city of Santa Monica has complied with state law, but it also has imposed conditions on family day care that are inconsistent with the law. This has created a time-consuming permit process for family day care facilities in Santa Monica. By addressing this zoning barrier immediately, more facilities could be available soon.

The city has indeed distinguished itself by developing and embracing a model policy and approach to meeting child care needs. The words of that policy and the enthusiasm of the City Council will seem hollow, however, when existing ordinances and procedures continue to erect barriers to the very child care the city so desperately needs and wants to support.

ABBY J. LEIBMAN

Los Angeles

Editor's note: Leibman is managing director of the Southern California Women's Law Center.

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