I honestly look forward to the SMa.r.t. column every week to see their latest justification for opposing change and development in Santa Monica; while claiming they really aren’t opposed to everything. It’s an amazing job of weekly backhanded deception. If you are anti-change and want to see a low rise city with tons of parking and few people on the sidewalks, just say so. But there are consequences for having a low rise beach community in the second largest metropolitan area in the country.
The main consequence is drastically escalating costs not only in residential rents, but of commercial rents, goods and services. People paying $3,400 plus per month for a two bedroom unit expect a certain level of stores and restaurants. They do not want and will not support a lot of the smaller locally established companies. We see this daily with older stores that have been in the area for years getting pushed out. Why, because commercial rents are up as well as residential ones. The commercial sector will reflect the changing nature of the residential sector.
People will always move here and they need places to live. This is the United States, people are free to move where they choose so long as they can afford it. If local residents get displaced, either through Ellis evictions or just being priced out by all the new stores and services, so be it. That’s a consequence of a choice to go low on the beach. Because we are part of LA, we will have a large number of tourists visiting us. Hotels are expensive in this area, mainly because groups like SMa.r.t. oppose everything and drag out adding new supply. So guests at the hotels tend to have higher incomes, and demand more expensive restaurants and stores. A family visiting from China or Dubai, paying what it costs to stay here will not be interested in some cheap local taffy shack. They will expect Coach or Armani. The Coaches and Armanis then drive up the cost even more. It’s an escalating problem.
Why? Too many people in this city want to pretend its still some small sleepy beach town and not an integral part of the second largest metro in the country. SMa.r.t.’s ideas and concepts could work in small coastal communities like Ft. Bragg, Encinitas, or Carlsbad. Those communities are miles from the nearest major metropolitan area. Santa Monica and Venice are immediately adjacent and an integral part of Los Angeles. We cannot ignore that reality. If we choose to ignore reality, we should be prepared to watch our friends and neighbors be pushed out. That is what happens when you limit supply in a market that is greatly in demand. It’s a self-inflicted problem, so honestly I really don’t care anymore when I hear about an apartment building going through a mass eviction. That is the consequence of having your head in the sand and pretending things aren’t the way they are.
People negatively compare places like Miami, Atlanta, Tampa, etc. to Santa Monica. They are too tall, or too dense. But you can also buy a home/condo there pretty easy. If you are a reasonably good bartender or hairstylist in any of those cities getting a one bedroom condo is very doable. My old firm in St. Petersburg sold 3 bedroom/3 bath townhomes starting at $280,000. An old friend bought his one bedroom condo for under $70,000 in one of the best neighborhoods in Tampa. Ownership is normal, not the Santa Monica lifestyle of renting forever like some college kid, relying on rent control and hoping your building doesn’t sell and get Ellis’ed. Here you have to be an exception attorney, doctor, or engineer to dream of owning. Why, because we are afraid of change and don’t like tall buildings? Those are sad excuses to me. The area is changing, that’s reality, so let’s actually prepare for what is, not what we are nostalgic for.