It’s time for the Sammies — my annual awards for the good, bad and ugly in Santa Monica.
The 2011 Sammy for “Architectural Thuggery” goes to Texas developer Hines, whose original development proposal for the former Paper Mate property on Olympic Boulevard was best described as “packing boxes the Water Garden came in.”
Everyone hated the 960,000-square-foot Bergamot Transit Village Center proposal, so Hines retrenched with a 20 percent smaller project and building facades with lots of step-backs and articulation. Packing boxes with bumps?
With a half-dozen or more large office developments planned for the Olympic corridor, nobody in City Hall seems to be concerned about the cumulative effects they’ll have on vehicular traffic and congestion. Despite claims that workers will bicycle, walk or ride the Exposition Light Rail line, there’s no proof that this will occur in sufficient numbers to reach “No net new car trip” goals.
Therefore, the “Living in Fantasyland” Sammy goes to the Planning Department and hired consultant Jeffrey Tumlin.
A few weeks ago, the City Council approved a five-floor, mixed-use building at 401 Broadway with 56 apartments, a retail store, 71 bike racks and no car parking. “Green” advocates are praising it because it’ll attract tenants who don’t own or drive cars. Pssst. I’ve got a secret. Tenants in that building will have cars and either pay extra to park them in city garages nearby or use their bicycles to reach their vehicles stored in residential neighborhoods blocks away. So, the “Head in the Sand” Sammy goes to Santa Monica’s City Council and Planning Commission.
Earlier this year, campaign contribution disclosure was debated by the council. Two measures — requiring disclosure of donations from contributors with business before the dais and just copying and making existing campaign disclosure statements available to the public — at council meetings were shot down. The “Hide the Bacon” Sammy goes to council members Pam O’Connor, Terry O’Day, Gleam Davis and Mayor Richard Bloom (all recipients of generous campaign donations from developers with projects pending council approval) who voted “No.” For the record, Kevin McKeown and Bobby Shriver voted “yes.” Bob Holbrook was absent.
The saga of 15 units of low/mid-income housing at the Dorchester House, 1044 Fourth St., drags on. The deed-restricted units have been sold and resold at market rates and occupied by well-heeled owners, family members or rented out at market rates for 20-plus years in violation of the Dorchester’s development agreement. Despite a two-year effort to obtain compliance, it appears that the occupancy status of the units hasn’t changed although three units are now under litigation.
Repeated requests for updates have been blocked by Gary Rhodes, the city attorney assigned to the case, who says he can’t release details because it’s still under investigation. The City Attorney’s Office wins the “Foot-Dragging” Sammy for ignoring or not enforcing contracts to maintain existing affordable housing in the Dorchester and who knows how many other buildings.
In July, the City Council voted to excuse Saint John’s Health Center from building a 450-car, on-site parking garage as per a 1998 development agreement with City Hall that allowed major expansion of medical facilities. Lack of parking has created massive problems for Saint John’s neighbors.
Even worse, everyone had been saying for weeks before council’s decision that it was, “a done deal.” In other words, “the fix was in.” Council voted 5-0 with O’Connor, O’Day, Davis, Holbrook and Bloom voting to amend the development agreement earning them the 2011 “What Parking Problems?” Sammy. Last May, I wrote that parking ticket appeals were being mishandled by City Hall. California Vehicle Code (CVC) statute, 40215(a), enacted Jan. 1, 2009, states that, if an appeal is denied, the initial review notification must “include a reason for that denial.” However, City Hall had been sending losing appellants a form notification stating, “The citation is valid.”
If appealed further to a hearing examiner and the citation is still not dismissed, CVC 40215(c)(6) states, “…if the notice (citation) is not canceled, include a written reason for that denial.” Despite having the examiner’s written reasons, City Hall still sent form notices to appellants stating, “The citation is valid.” In other words, “You’re guilty because we said so.”
A lawsuit over City Hall’s handling of the appeals was filed in Superior Court by Stanley and Harriet Epstein and is in mediation. City Hall wins the 2011 “Abysmal Public Service” Sammy, because I said so.
A bullying incident involving an athlete on Santa Monica High School’s wrestling team became a major news story this year. No criminal charges were filed, however, the incident that was said to have racial overtones left a bad taste in everyone’s mouth.
Fortunately, community leaders, district administrators and the school board are moving ahead with reforms and community-wide discussions on racism. District policies, practices and curriculum are being revised to encourage racial understanding. The “Can’t We All Get Along?” Sammy goes to everyone working towards racial harmony.
The Sammy for “Stupid Policy Decisions” goes to the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education. They approved a policy designed to insure that low-income/lower-achieving schools obtained a more equal share of the fundraising pie by taking funds raised by PTAs and other groups away from higher-income/higher-achieving schools.
The mechanics of exactly how this will all work still need to be worked out, but I have a big problem with taking anything away from any student — even students from well-to-do families in high achievement schools.
That’s all folks. Happy New Year.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org