I read your piece Sunday, about our fair city, in the LA Times Calendar section, headlined “‘A grand bargain’ and a model?” — and I too ended with a question mark.
Perhaps you were well-meaning, and you just got bamboozled. It happens. People, even journalists, come in with a less than erudite notion of Santa Monica. We have a long history, a complex one. Our politics are legendary, but not in a good way. People will tell you stuff, and it sounds reasonable, and when you check it superficially it seems accurate. But I fear you got only part of the picture, and drew your conclusions from that.
Or, it may not have been well-meaning. Maybe you were seeking out opinions to support your preconceived picture. You did admit your bias toward rapid growth and housing in particular, and that you were wary of an earlier version of our Downtown Community Plan (DCP) because it was too restrictive for you on heights. So you spoke with only one person, our City Manager Rick Cole. His resume is indeed impressive: politics/city management in Pasadena, Ventura, LA, and now in the trenches in volatile Santa Monica. But many residents feel he has turned around in the trench and is firing at us.
I get it that as the Times architecture columnist, with standing, you write opinion, and columnists try to convince people that their opinions are valid. Fair enough. But as a resident who loves his city, has been here a long time and plans to stay until my last breath, I feel an obligation to fill in some of the important things you left out.
Let’s start with your quote of Rick Cole’s characterization of “the slow-growth or even no-growth faction — a group of people who think until we have more water, until the air is clean, until traffic is solved, we don’t need even one more brick.”
PROBABLY MENTALLY ILL
Wow. Those folks are extreme! Unreasonable. The heck with water and air, who needs ‘em, and just ignore the traffic and walk or bike or use our fantastic public transit system here… all you elderly and disabled and those with kids. Our 2015 Urban Water Management Plan requires Santa Monica to reduce its water consumption by 20 percent by 2020. How’re we doing? No matter how many low-flush toilets you install, every new resident, new worker, new tourist, new SMC student, uses water. More water total, not less. Add a lot more people, and businesses and office space (hello, 4th/5th and Arizona, and big new hotels sprouting like weeds), and you’re swimming upstream to try to hit that 20 percent.
Until the air quality map came out recently, I rarely heard anyone complain about our
“dirty air.” Losing the blue skies, and ocean breezes (which help keep the air clean) to tall
new buildings, yes.
Traffic? It’s kind of like the water thing. More people, including those coming here to work in those offices or hotels, equals more traffic. Let’s be real: they’re not all going to take the train. Probably not even most of them. Driverless cars and Uber — still more cars on the streets. And excuse me but I never heard anyone, not even the true near-crazies among us, ask to have “traffic solved.” We just ask that our City Council doesn’t make it worse, much worse.
Cole characterized “the other side” as “vocal and increasingly organized [true: they have $$$ to organize and vocalize, and I’ll let you figure out where that $$$ comes from] — pro-growth and pro-housing advocates who say that “if Santa Monica is going to be a leader, we should be building much more’” blah blah “housing crisis” blah blah “pedal to the metal.”
In what? Gridlock? I think we might already be. WE HAVE NO HOUSING CRISIS IN SANTA MONICA, we have an affordability crisis. Tell me again how many units we have to add before prices come down. In fact, new market rate housing only raises prices, speeds gentrification, in a very desirable market like ours. Ask any honest real estate agent here.
You know who needs to build more housing? Beverly Hills. You want housing along transit? Take a look at relatively wide open transit-adjacent spaces in Culver City, Inglewood, Compton — Beverly Hills! It’s coming, a metro, why wait? How do I join the Now/Forward branch for Beverly Hills? Certainly the pro-overdevelopment crowd’s concerns, and solutions, are “region-wide.” And pedal-metal it in Santa Monica NOW, because we have seen how adding the Expo line has solved our traffic woes.
For miles and miles and millions of people, the region is Los Angeles. We’re not Los
Angeles, Christopher. We have borders, we have limitations. We have consistently exceeded our “obligation” to the region, whatever that is. I’ll tell you what it is — it’s an excuse for moving developers into bigger mansions, bigger boats, and leaving us holding the detritus. For. Ever.
There’s so much more misinformation in your “Building Type” column but I’ve run out of space. I must say you did us a service by quoting Cole about what we all knew was next: the City Council “revisit[ing]” their decision to leave the boulevards alone, for height and density.
The neighborhood associations are already gearing up for that fight and they are angry. Our City Council and staff do not listen to nor represent the people who live here. Cole’s tale of a “grand bargain,” of “cooperation and compromise,” was a cruel joke. Moneyed special interests always win out (LV lost by 10 points because it was citizens’ $65,000 “yes” campaign fund fighting $1.5M “no”), represented by paid activists who pretend they’re just concerned citizens. We’re awfully tired of that, and unanimous Council votes to approve every bloated, unnecessary, city-destroying project, with negligible “community benefits.”
The day of reckoning may be just around the corner.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: How was Eric Burdon, on the Pier last Thursday? People keep asking me. I would love to shout, fantastic! He was great, it was an honor and pleasure to see him perform, but I’m still trying to figure out why it wasn’t magical. It was, when he sang at Amoeba Records in Hollywood a few years back. He’s still got it, but I think it was the band. Stay tuned as I cogitate.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “What is the city but the people?” — William Shakespeare
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 firstname.lastname@example.org