Editor:

Though I applaud the dismissal of Jeffrey Tumlin (“Community asks for consultant’s head — again,” March 14), I question keeping the firm he represented. Yes, Jeffrey Tumlin was “a lightning rod” inviting criticism of Nelson\Nygaard Consulting Associates policies, but those policies were as offensive as Tumlin’s remarks.

Calling the residents of Santa Monica NIMBYs was only emblematic of the disrespect his firm has shown by offering solutions to problems they have not fairly assessed. A company that intended to come up with a reasonable zoning plan for parking to effectively reduce traffic would have assessed the traffic, where it was coming from, where it was going, and why. It would have assessed the needs of residents.

But, instead of collecting the data that might have helped City Hall make proper decisions, this company, with Tumlin as their representative, gathered only what was needed to jump to their own preordained conclusions: Strong disincentives are required to get people to break the habit of using cars to get to their destinations.

This one-size-fits-all solution disregards the needs of the elderly, the infirm, those with children, and those with more to carry than their shoulders might bear. A plan that disregards the needs of residents is useless. Yet, it seems City Hall wants the plan enough to sacrifice Tumlin.

Changing a car culture is as tricky as changing gun culture. It may be better to let people keep their guns, but limit the number of bullets they can buy and raise the cost. The Nelson\Nygaard plan would reduce the number of parking spaces and charge more for using them. Such social engineering does not well serve a democracy. We like to have a voice in determining how to solve our problems.

While many of us might find the goal of reducing greenhouse gases to be laudable, Nelson\Nygaard’s approach is too radical to be acceptable. I am reminded of early zealots fighting cancer. As noble as it is to eradicate a growth that threatens the circulation and livelihood of the body, some early treatments threatened the life of the patient more than they threatened the cancer. Radical removal of available parking, especially during a time when people will be drawn to our city to use the Expo, could threaten the well-being of our city.

Tumlin’s NIMBY comment was less of a problem than his company’s NIMBY tactics used to persuade city planners not to create enough parking for taxpayers from our region to have access to the Expo they have financed for our town. This irresponsible behavior is compounded by their approach to development, releasing companies from their obligation to provide sufficient on-site parking for their projects.

City Hall would do well to cut itself off from consulting firms that offer arrogant approaches to solving problems. It is arrogant to force residents to do what others decide is good for them. It is arrogant to pass ourselves off as better than other communities, like Rancho Mirage, which offers free valet parking to all residents to increase commerce and promote the city’s economic vitality. And it is arrogant to refuse to provide parking for those who must, otherwise, continue to expel greenhouse gases into our atmosphere as they line up behind each other on the freeway, wondering why they can’t park at the Expo their tax dollars paid for. If arrogance were self-serving, it might be more understandable. Instead it blinds us, keeping us from seeing options that humble residents, workers, and merchants would be pleased to discuss if they were offered the opportunity to talk about what they think would increase their own well-being.

It is time for City Hall to sever ties not only with Tumlin but with the company he represents.

 

Gregg Heacock

Santa Monica

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