I’m anxious, anxious about the state of the city and where we are going. Living in Santa Monica is a great life. We have the beauty of the sea, the comfort of the beach and a community that is involved and engaged.
We have a community that is developing a great deal of land, with densely packed housing, and then large open spaces to offset the crowding. For example, The Village on Ocean Avenue. These very large, tightly built structures are going up very quickly, and with each foot they rise, they darken the sky.
When I workout at the Loews Hotel I look directly into the gaping maw of one of these new buildings. A building that is half built is an ugly thing, and thankfully that phase of it will be over with soon, only to be followed by the permanent sun-blocker of housing. I am hopeful that the actual impact of the building wont be as much an eyesore as the half-built skeleton makes it appear.
Just down the block is the evolving set of parks and City Hall gardens that are starting to take shape. The parks are mostly invisible from Ocean Avenue at this point, but what is visible has me deeply concerned about the balance that was struck between avant-garde design and utility.
Perched like pointing dogs are “observation decks” that look vaguely like some weird fishing net that has been made to look artsy. I haven’t been invited to use them yet, and since the park is still under construction there’s no way of my knowing how good an idea they are, but so far, I’m nervous.
They sort of fall under the category of utilitarian art. Like that bench at the California Incline that doubles as a sailing ship backdrop. It’s creative and useful, it makes you think and is there to be used.
I love a city that commissions art pieces that serve dual purposes. It’s indicative of a forethought that demonstrates what good planning can do.
One day I was walking to divorce court for a client when the rose garden in front of City Hall was being removed and I was aghast. As a lover of gardens and gardening, I was appalled at the thought that those mature roses were simply dug up and dumped. Thankfully, then Councilmember Richard Bloom assured me that the roses were given away to residents and that they all found happy homes throughout the city.
The newly denuded space had me worried that we were going to have a giant open space to be filled with cacti and succulents that, while environmentally friendly, were not the most enjoyable. So when I looked at the landscaping plans and saw a forest of trees I was happy, but still worried that the city was going to install the spindly twigs that they have used on Euclid Street to replace oaks and other mature trees.
Imagine my joy when I drove past and saw well developed trees going in, that will further mature and fill in the façade. Once again I was delightfully surprised by the efforts that our city planners had gone to and the inspiring results. I look forward to the day when the parks are all open and City Hall is restored to its deserved magnificence.
Now if we can just keep the momentum going and get back on track fiscally to maintain that which we have we’ll be fine. I’ve heard rumors about the Civic Auditorium and none of them are good. I’d like our city leaders to find a way to ensure its continued presence as I have attended many a great event there. From helping feed needy families at Thanksgiving to “green” events like the AltCar Expo and the Green Construction Conference, I have been educated, entertained and enthused by people coming to the Civic. I have heard symphonies there and seen cat shows. It’s a local landmark in my mind that is deserving of being preserved for future generations and I hope that our city finds a way to keep it going.
So, because I’m in love with the city, I am nervous about simultaneously keeping it vibrant and quaint.
David Pisarra is a divorce and child custody lawyer specializing in father’s and men’s rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra