By CHARLES ANDREWS
I’VE GOT A NOTION
A crazy one.
No matter how many things I thought about for this week’s column, each passing day made it more obvious I had to look the elephant in the room square in the eye.
The one that’s grown up so big, so mean, so quickly, before our terrorized eyes.
That petrifying pachyderm, of course, is safety in Santa Monica. Yes, crime is what has everyone reeling now, and questioning all sorts of things (including our respected police force, and the unthinkable — is Santa Monica still a great place to live?), but when you put it under the larger umbrella of safety, you include pedestrians getting bumped off car grills like bugs, trains picking off cars, and cyclists fearing cars and trains and being vilified by both pedestrians and motorists. And probably train engineers, for all I know.
Not to mention earthquakes, tsunamis and rising oceans.
And except for the latter (always part of life in coastal California), it all seems to have happened overnight.
I blame Trump. I figure he must have opened up some cosmic portal of insanity and destruction.
But that’s not my crazy notion.
There is a link, though. Because Trump is the master of distraction. The jaundiced juggler of shiny objects. He has shown us the way. It’s the new normal.
Considering the large segment of Santa Monica residents unhappy with certain developments here, their focus has been… development.
BUT WHAT ABOUT THE ALIENS?
No — real aliens! From outer space. As any dedicated reader of science fiction knows, the one sure way to make people put aside their differences and their usual concerns is to have them unite against a greater, more threatening, common foe.
The guys with the big brains and scary weapons who want to take over Earth and use everyone here for laser practice or slavery or even, as in the famous Twilight Zone episode about a mysterious tome that turned out to be a cookbook, “To Serve Man.”
And I still haven’t gotten to my crazy notion.
What if this sudden, steep rise in crime and bumper car traffic survival is partly a shiny object? To make people forget you rammed through a Downtown Community Plan that turns a large parcel of taxpayer-funded City land, large enough for a face-changing, legacy-building, community-serving historic city center square, into instead a 12-story behemoth hotel complex that pleases the developers and unions but few others.
That you’re in the process of ramming through an obscenely expensive City Services Building ($75M, maybe double that by the time you’re through) that could be built for half that and still be a mightily sustainable and useful edifice (but not a pinnacle, award-garnering
achievement perfect for enhancing politicians’ resumes).
That you are still pulling tricks
to get SMC’s ECEC child care center built where it should not be, on the grounds of our Civic Center, a taxpayer giveaway positioned for the convenience of Rand Corporation and City Hall employees (many of whom are not Santa Monica residents) to drop off their kids, even though it may squeeze out the playing field so desperately needed by Samohi students and promised for more than a decade. Look out! Up there! Space ships!!!
NOT SPACE SHIPS
But safety, and especially crime, is the suddenly pressing issue. It seems to be a problem in the region, not just Santa Monica. But what if certain loose coalitions of commerce and politics saw this coming our way and figured, gosh, if folks were suddenly very worried about their grandmas getting mugged every day, about home invasions and rampant vandalism, we don’t think they’d be looking so hard at the pace and form of development here. And they’d be right.
Would someone actually do that? Pay thugs and drunks and the mentally ill to focus on Santa Monica? If what we’re seeing was engineered or even just enhanced, it’s working beautifully.
Like I said, a crazy notion. I don’t believe it myself.
But then, I was not prepared to believe enough of the American electorate would think a monosyllabic man-child, ignorant of nearly everything, midnight-tweeting misogynist narcissist in the Oval Office would be a good idea under any circumstances.
I didn’t detail here the basis for saying crime has increased, but if you follow social media you’ve read plenty of first-hand accounts.
Also reported in local and LA newspapers. Two of the most shocking accounts in the last few days came from Residocracy founder and City Council candidate Armen Melkonians.
He reported one day that his 75-year-old mother-in-law had a cross ripped off her neck by a guy who jumped out of a car as she walked on Lincoln and was dragged along by the car as she tried to retrieve it (tough gal!), and the next day “a drunk guy” threatened sexual assault and mass murder in Kate Bransfield’s real estate office on Montana.
That’s pretty bad, but perhaps more unsettling is Melkonians’ allegation that after five 911 calls (and a nudge call from City Manager Rick Cole) it still took 45 minutes to an hour for the police to arrive. (Ashley Chiara was there and confirmed the account as accurate.) That just won’t do. (But Melkonians tying in the train with his mother-in-law’s assault does make one wonder about his political agenda against the train. A guy jumping from a car likely did not take the train here.)
THAT PLAYING FIELD
Survived a squeeze play. It was taken off the Coastal Commission’s consent calendar and bumped to a later date. The issue of spatial conflict with the adjacent ECEC remains, though City officials deny it.
In my last column detailing that surreptitious process, I wrote that “because of the short notice all around I have not had a chance to hear the City’s side of all this, but that I do plan to request time with City Manager Rick Cole and Director of Community and Cultural Services Karen Ginsberg to hear it, and will report that.” A week ago I also sent them each a request for that meeting.
They did not respond to either. And now it’s moot and not worth pursuing. Funny how
that works, that if you ignore something long enough, often it goes away. Often, because
you took measures to short-circuit a potentially embarrassing request.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “If we don’t believe in freedom of expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” — Noam Chomsky
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com