What are we, Santa Monica?
Aren’t we the refuge at the end of the freeway? Gateway to the vast blue Pacific Ocean, seen just over the serene shoulders of St. Monica? The rejuvenating Central Park for the ginormous, sprawling Los Angeles, a much-needed breath of fresh air, blue skies, tall palm trees? A sunny, open, casual walking place that draws people from all over LA and all over the world and has for 150 years, for its charms, its history, its ambiance, its distinct sense of place?
Or are we just another indistinguishable slice of LA? Make it all look the same. Build tall buildings, bring in lots more people to live in this already jam-packed 8.4 square miles, snarl the traffic, block out the sun, hide the palm trees, up the crime rate, build a row of really tall buildings overlooking the ocean, a 12-story hotel where we need a town center park, rip out trees, squander our water funds, make housing unaffordable to all but the very well off, commercialize residential neighborhoods, kill diversity, evict longtime citizens and leave no place for their children. Because that’s the path we’re on, with what’s been built and what’s been approved and what’s in the pipeline. The city you knew even five years ago, is being built over. Why? It’s insane. Are we asking for that? I don’t hear it. From the people who live here.
ARE WE DIFFERENT, SANTA MONICA?
I say we are, and it’s time we start reclaiming that and proclaiming it loudly and proudly. We must do all we can to sustain and maintain that uniqueness for future generations, instead of selling it off. We must stop those who are selling off our inheritance.
Does the future bring change and growth? Of course. But we, the people of Santa Monica, must determine and manage it. Not those who have only a financial interest, don’t live here, and couldn’t care less what ruin they leave behind for the locals after they take the money and run.
Who controls our future, in our city? We do, of course, who else? Let’s get that straight. The people who live here. We have the votes. But it’s not that simple. It hasn’t worked that way for quite a while (if ever). If we don’t get mad and get active and get out the vote (along with some other necessary changes, primarily getting big money out of local politics), we will be pushed into the sea but it won’t be a fun swim. We have to stand up for ourselves, for the historic city for which we are now the caretaker generation. Before it’s too late.
WE’VE DONE IT BEFORE
We’re not the port of Los Angeles. (That would have been far different.) Not a gambling center. There’s no causeway string of islands in our bay with a wide freeway and four bridges. The Pier is still there. No big island with a fishing lagoon, sports pavilion, and a 29-story hotel. No string of high-rise apartment buildings all along the sand (only two). The people here have a history of rising up against great odds and railroad cars full of money to fight for their town. And winning. Now is absolutely the time we have to fight again.
We aren’t a sleepy little beach town anymore, it’s true. But we are a beach town. Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t. We’ve always been a low rise beach town, and we can grow and still be one. See the beach? It’s still a great beach. A world-famous beach. Millions of people come here every year because of our beach, and leave lots of money behind. It’s a beach you can feel from many blocks inland, with open skies and sea breezes, not (yet) a beach like in other cities that you have to get to through concrete canyons, to “bask” in the shadows of tall tall buildings. Hello, Honolulu. Mmwah! Miami. Fine for them. But we’re Santa Monica.
RESISTANCE IS FERTILE
Did you know Santa Monica is its own city? It’s true. We’re not part of LA. Because we resisted it. We had enough water and cojones to say, no thanks. We didn’t want that, and most of us who live here don’t want that now. That’s why we live here and not downtown LA, West LA, Century City or New York City. We need to start saying, firmly, no thanks to all the overdevelopment that’s being forced on us by a bought-and-paid-for City Council.
Is that too harsh? I truly believe they are seven good people, trying to do their best, at great personal sacrifice, for this town they also love. But they have lost perspective, I believe. Drunk the Kool-Aid, as they say. The voices, and needed campaign donations, of special interests, are so incessant and convincing to them that they drown out the voices of the citizens they are not representing. Our “selected” officials may be our neighbors, even our friends, but they have become the enemies of the Santa Monica we love, now and in the future. They and the money that put them there are our biggest problem. They have to go. This next election. (At least six of them.) Throw the rascals out. And yes, term limits.
CAN’T AFFORD EVEN ONE MORE YEAR
For all their grandiose, responsible-sounding plans for the future of Santa Monica, look what it’s got us. We must look at results, not intentions or rhetoric. How do you like the Santa Monica you see and live in now? Do you think going higher, wider and denser will make things better? Really?
Our history shows we’ve always been assaulted by big money interests who find Santa Monica to be a golden goose, theirs to pluck. They’ve managed, by hook or by crook, to get our politicians to go along and give them their heart’s every desire. Does it seem like that’s happening now? But we’re helpless! Big money! Unbeatable incumbents!
No — remember our history.
QUESTIONS OF THE WEEK: Go ahead, I dare you, say it: Do we already have too many people in Santa Monica? And how do we manage that, going forward? By adding thousands more? Let’s ask that elephant in the room…
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Politics, noun. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.” —Ambrose Bierce (“The Devil’s Dictionary”)
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org