Bill Bauer’s recent columns bring to mind the late Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s observation that we are all entitled to our own opinions but not our own facts. Unfortunately, Bill regularly gets his facts wrong.
In his latest column, Bill is at it again — this time about the LUCE. In a transparent effort to exaggerate the differences in our community about the LUCE, Bill misstates the positions taken by the Chamber of Commerce (which he refers to as “business interests”) and others. His errors include:
• Bill states that “some business interests have suggested that parts of Lincoln Boulevard between Wilshire and Interstate-10 be re-zoned for car dealerships,” which he characterizes as a proposal for another auto row. Had Bill checked his facts, he would have found that all of Lincoln Boulevard from the southern city limits to Wilshire has been zoned for auto dealerships for many years. And had he been paying closer attention, he would have known that the City Council unanimously voted to allow auto dealerships on Lincoln from the southern city limits to Wilshire three times in the past five years.
In response to the draft LUCE’s proposal to ban auto dealers on Lincoln, the Chamber of Commerce and the Santa Monica Auto Dealers Association have proposed a compromise: allowing auto dealers on the east side of Lincoln from the I-10 freeway to Wilshire, and then only by a conditional use permit. Thus, the only “rezoning” being proposed is to reduce the areas on Lincoln where dealerships may be allowed; no one is suggesting an expansion of such areas.
• Bill also states that “another bad idea being floated is extending the hospital district along Wilshire” and that City Hall should be responsible for building workforce housing. These claims, too, are blatantly false. No one has proposed changing the LUCE’s hospital/healthcare district boundaries. Rather, the chamber has suggested and city staff has agreed that healthcare uses should continue to be allowed outside the immediate areas occupied by our two hospitals. This has been the city’s practice for many years; it does not require any change in zoning or the LUCE hospital/healthcare district’s boundaries.
As for workforce housing, neither the chamber nor the hospitals have suggested that City Hall should be responsible for developing such housing. Rather, the chamber has consistently advocated that, with proper zoning incentives, experienced housing providers (not City Hall) will be attracted to build workforce housing in Santa Monica.
• Bill further states that “business interests and developers are also asking for increased floor areas in new buildings.” This, too, is demonstrably false. The Chamber of Commerce has supported the draft LUCE’s proposed floor area restrictions. And we are not aware of any developers asking for more density than the LUCE would allow. The chamber has, along with Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights, supported consideration of floor area discounts for housing in certain areas as an important tool for addressing the city’s imbalance between housing and jobs. But neither the chamber nor SMRR has suggested that such a tool should be used to increase overall densities.
As for height, virtually every significant practicing architect in Santa Monica — including Frank Gehry — supports the Planning Commission’s recommended 2-6 additional feet in height to accommodate neighborhood-friendly ground floor uses, upper floor housing and quality architectural design, with no additional stories and no additional floor area. With these additional 2-6 feet, the new LUCE’s height limits will still be more restrictive than the existing LUCE — a fact Bill omits. And Bill gets it wrong again when he labels this recommendation “last minute” — the architects and the chamber have been raising this issue for more than two years.
Others have weighed in to correct Bill’s misstatements in previous columns about our public schools. Suffice it to say that Bill persists in his baseless attacks on our school district even though, in the worst economy since the 1930s, our school district received an enormous vote of confidence in May when it garnered a two-thirds positive vote on Measure A by Santa Monica voters. As hundreds of district volunteers move forward with the Save Our Schools fundraising effort, and the district’s Feasibility Task Force considers the possibility of another parcel tax in November, the district deserves a fair shake from Bill — or at least an honest presentation of the facts.
In closing, I was encouraged when the Daily Press commenced publishing because Santa Monica needs a daily community newspaper focused on local news, opinion and events. I am especially pleased with your coverage of local high school sports. But Santa Monica is ill-served when those who write for you persistently misstate the facts, grossly exaggerate differences of opinion, and attack the character or motives of those with different points of view. As a long-time resident of Santa Monica as well as a practicing attorney, I believe that Santa Monica deserves better than this.
Chris Harding is an attorney in Santa Monica specializing in land use issues. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.