A few important things happened in Santa Monica while I was chasing street art in London.

The first was the City Council’s adoption of design recommendations from the architects of the new City Hall Town Square, while rejecting suggestions from the Landmarks Commission that would have retained many features they deemed “historic.”

I wrote about the difference in opinions in my Oct. 17 column and took issue with some of the Landmarks Commission’s recommendations, such as their opposition to proposed landscape modifications, including the rose garden in front of City Hall (to be replaced by a reflecting pool) and the removal of “historic” brick planters near the front doors of City Hall itself, among others.

The City Council unanimously supported designer James Corner Field Operations’ proposals, including replacing the inappropriate 1950s “back yard style” planters in front of the classic 1930s Moderne-style City Hall.

The Landmarks Commission has done admirable work saving many of our historical structures and even trees that also have historical value. I’ve been supportive of their efforts to save and preserve the turn-of-the-century Victorian- and Queen Anne-styled homes in the Ocean Park Historical District.

But every once in a while, they come up with a head-scratcher. This was one of those times.

Another of my favorite “how did that happen” times concerned declaring the old Zucky’s Delicatessen sign at 431 Wilshire Blvd. a city landmark in 2005. According to the city’s Landmark Assessment Report, “The pylon and lettering of the Zucky’s sign together represent the design concepts associated with Googie style architecture popular from the late 1940s through the mid-1960s.”

Zucky’s restaurant building, which was actually closed in 1993, had since been extensively remodeled for use as a bank. Thus, a Googie delicatessen sign without its associated Googie eatery is surrealistic at best. Although some call it “nonsensical.”

School district gets a pass

In more serious news, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s investigators cleared the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District and Santa Monica High School administrators/employees of any wrongdoing in an alleged racial incident that occurred on campus early in May.

The incident involved two teens who had supposedly set up a wrestling dummy with a hangman’s noose and then taunted an African-American member of the wrestling team by chaining him to a locker while allegedly chanting “slave for sale.” Extensive news coverage of the incident hinted that racism was rampant in our schools and the district may have tried to cover up the incident.

Santa Monica Police Chief Tim Jackman asked the Sheriffs Department’s highly-respected Internal Criminal Investigations Bureau to determine if district employees violated any laws in their handling of the incident.

In a separate but related investigation, the SMPD has concluded its own inquiry into the alleged incident and submitted its report to the District Attorney’s Office for review and to determine whether charges should be filed, police spokesman Sgt. Richard Lewis recently told the Daily Press.

Victoria Gray, the student’s mother, learned about the event from another parent weeks after it allegedly occurred. The failure of district administrators to promptly notify the alleged victim’s parent at the time may not have been against the law technically, but it’s an inexcusable breach of responsibility and decency by those who were in charge then at Samohi and the SMMUSD.

In the meantime, district administrators and the school board are moving ahead with reforms and community-wide discussions on racism. District policies, practices and even curriculum are being reviewed and revised to encourage racial understanding and harmony. Excellent move!

New Walgreens not happening

I have written in a number of columns about how bad a deal the planned 30,000-square-foot Walgreens at the southeast corner of Lincoln and Pico boulevards was for residents living near the projected development.

It seems that the Planning Commission came to the same conclusion last Wednesday night and wisely voted to deny the application.

The neighbors are victorious for the moment. However, developer Hunt Real Estate Services can appeal the commission’s decision to City Council for reconsideration.

Parking citation appeal lawsuit resolution?

I’ve been tipped off that a meeting has been scheduled for Monday, Nov. 14 to discuss a possible resolution of a lawsuit filed in Los Angeles County Superior Court in June by Stanley H. and Harriet P. Epstein against City Hall and two other defendants.

The Epsteins’ complaint alleges since Jan 1, 2009, the defendants have continually violated provisions of the California Vehicle Code that requires a specific reason for denial be given to each motorist who contests a parking citation which is not dismissed. Plaintiffs estimate there are 16,000 such motorists whose statutory rights have been violated.

The Epsteins are asking that City Hall send proper notices to all motorists who appealed parking citations and who have not received specific reasons why their appeal was denied. After learning specifically why their appeal was not upheld, motorists will be able to challenge the denial.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com

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