First of all, it’s my privilege to be able to sincerely wish everyone today a very happy new year. It’s a day to count your blessings, and for me, I think that may take all day.
This past year redeemed itself in my book at the very last moment, and I always say, it’s the song with a big finish that you stand up and cheer for.
Now, let’s go, 2014! It’s about time we had a year filled with more joy than sorrow, more agreement and working together than fighting, more love and acceptance than hate and separation. (I hereby invoke the credo of that noted philosopher Rodney King.)
In particular, let’s be thankful for the privilege of living where we do. I mean, step outside and look at this day! There are millions who would trade places with us in a flash.
First, see if the troops are there behind you
Am I writing too much about development in Santa Monica? Maybe too much about “Chain Reaction?” Maybe even too often about police misconduct?
If so it’s because I care passionately about these things. And in the case of the first two, the clock is ticking.
It’s always a challenge to approach a subject in a fresh way, that informs people and makes them think, that adds to the dialogue instead of just rehashing it.
I have observed in just the last few weeks that a lot more people who are longtime residents are getting involved in the issues of development. They are becoming informed, and they are alarmed, that the very soul of this unique city by the sea will be lost forever to the many projects of immense size and height that are rushing headlong to final approval and construction.
There seems to be agreement that there has been too much discussion, too much wailing and gnashing of teeth, but not enough action. Some creative approaches are motivating people to act.
Citizens of Encinitas, a coastal city halfway between Legoland and Del Mar and very similar to us in many ways, drafted, got on the ballot, and passed Prop. A (Right to Vote Initiative), which requires any variation of the zoning laws that would allow a building over 30 feet tall be approved by the voters, taking that power away from their City Council. Encinitans involved in the creation of Prop. A have offered to come here to speak to interested groups.
A local law firm, helmed by 45-year Santa Monican Thomas A. Nitti, has offered its services pro bono for any endeavor to put the brakes on these large projects. They already came up with a one-page document which could serve as a template to challenge any project in its early stage.
The Los Angeles Times on Monday ran a front-page story on the recently identified Santa Monica and Hollywood earthquake faults and the new buildings that sit on or near them, and those in the process of being built there. That might be something to consider.
Even Forbes magazine (forbes.com) gave our issue national attention last week with a piece by David Hochman titled, “Why ‘Starchitects’ Should Leave Santa Monica’s Skyline Alone.”
All good ideas, in my book, but perhaps ignoring a central issue: do most residents of Santa Monica, who would have to support any of these approaches, give a fat rat’s posterior about any of this?
I’m guessing no. I think people would care if they understood the issues, if they had any idea what trying to drive in this town is going to be like in three years (just give up and get a skateboard). But I doubt that many do. I was pretty clueless myself until fairly recently.
So that should be the first priority for any reasonable-growth crusaders. Education. Information. We have a population here not quite (yet) in six figures so it shouldn’t be impossible for an organized effort to reach nearly everyone, by e-mail, snail mail or knocking on doors. Every part of town has its own neighborhood organization already.
Cartoons. Cartoons are the key. I’m being slightly facetious. But in Encinitas they had a flyer showing a towering five-story (we should be so lucky, only five) red building looming over its one-story residential neighborhood. Simple, dramatic illustrations like that can give people the story in an instant, in a way that will stick with them.
An e-mail/coffee bombshell
Funny things are happening to our iconic “Chain Reaction” sculpture marching quickly toward its demise date in February.
Here’s one: I received an e-mail from City Councilman Kevin McKeown, referring to a line I wrote about “Chain Reaction.”
He wrote: “I think the original staff recommendation is turning around on this one.” Then he copied an e-mail he had sent to the Progressive Democrats of the Santa Monica Mountains.
“I earlier sent you an explanation, as originally written to Peter Scheer, of the city of Santa Monica’s dilemma with ‘Chain Reaction.’
“Since that time, I’ve continued to work with city staff on options, and it now seems possible the city will accept whatever money is raised by activists by February, match it as promised — AND CONTRIBUTE FURTHER FUNDING to fully restore ‘Chain Reaction’ to both structural and landmark standards.”
He reminded that spending money requires a City Council vote. But the councilman formerly lukewarm about this issue wrote, “At this point, though, I will be supporting the plan to restore ‘Chain Reaction,’ and urging my colleagues (when I can, in public, in keeping with the Brown Act) to do the same.”
It reminds me that all seven council members, and the city staff, no matter how I may feel on their stands about certain issues, are people just like you and me, with (hopefully) open minds and a desire to do the right thing.
Sent Dec. 25, I consider that e-mail a terrific Christmas gift, and another fine note to end 2013.
Late-breaking news: Jerry Rubin, an indefatigable activist to save “Chain Reaction,” just e-mailed me that he had coffee with City Manager Rod Gould Tuesday morning, and that Gould expressed the same sentiments as McKeown, and said the item would be on the City Council agenda for Feb. 25.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 28 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org