The Huntley Hotel, through its public relations firm Sugerman Communications Group, recently released results of a phone poll it conducted of 404 Santa Monica voters in September.
It asked opinions about high rises, development and the Huntley’s own nemesis: the competing Fairmont Miramar Hotel expansion across Second Street. Poll takers say that phone calls were placed to homeowners and renters in all parts of the city covering all age ranges.
Anything that the Huntley or its PR people do should be looked on with great suspicion — including this survey. Huntley owners and managers along with its various PR entities have been waging a misleading and histrionic propaganda campaign ever since the Miramar Hotel owners announced plans to renovate the entire property a couple of years ago.
I’m not saying the survey is totally bogus but after 40 years in advertising and marketing research, I can recognize tricks used to conduct and release to the public the results the survey’s sponsor wants. And, believe me folks, there are so many tricks in this survey that it looks like a magician’s convention.
Poll takers made random phone calls to residents and threw technical terms at them such as “density requirements” and “higher density.” Most people don’t know what this means so they probably just said, “No.”
A big trick is the “leading question.” “As you may know, the Fairmont Miramar Hotel on Ocean Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard has proposed a redevelopment of the current property that would turn the current hotel into a mixed-use hotel and condominium residence, 320 feet high with 21 stories, with up to 120 market-rate condominiums and between 12 and 40 affordable housing units, 280 hotel guest rooms, underground parking, food and beverage facilities, retail space, spa, meeting and event facilities, and open space areas on site. From what you’ve heard, would you favor or oppose this redevelopment?”
The sheer complexity would get a “no” answer from any respondent who could sit through the whole question. The Fairmont could be offering me a free hotel suite for life and I’d still say “no” to this epic.
Even the first question is leading. “Do you favor more development, less development in Santa Monica or is the amount of development in Santa Monica happening about right?” Leading with “more” development begs for a “no” answer. Leading with “less” may have elicited far different responses.
What were the results, you ask? According to Sugerman PR, a slight majority of the voters said they opposed development while only 15 percent said they favored it. Some 69 percent of questioned voters opposed taller buildings and higher density development. Another 26 percent favored tall buildings and increased density.
Of those surveyed 69 percent said they oppose changing density requirements and 26 said they were in favor. A total of 57 percent of the electorate opposed the Fairmont plan expansion said the press handout. This must have been quite a shock to the Huntley organization who’ve worked tirelessly and spent big bucks to give the impression that everyone hates the Miramar expansion.
Full survey results, scripts described by those polled as “designed to elicit a specific bias” and error factors were not disclosed, obviously. Best to keep us folks in the dark so there won’t be too many questions about methodology or results.
Even the timing of the release of the poll results is suspicious. They came out just days after City Council approved a contract with another polling firm to survey resident opinions on development, traffic and related issues for City Hall. That poll is being written at this time and will be conducted in the weeks ahead.
Environmentally friendly? Says who?
Council recently approved continuing to exempt electric and low-emission vehicles from feeding the parking meters. As I have written on prior occasions, the free parking is designed to encourage the use on non-polluting, non-gasoline powered vehicles. It’s all part of the “sustainable, environmental agenda” that’s a top priority, here.
Problem is that these measures often do more harm to the environment than good. But, they let our political leaders think they’re helping Mother Earth. It’s delusional. Wouldn’t discouraging the use of any powered, multi-passenger vehicles really be in the best interests of the environment?
Do they forget, or ignore that the congestion caused by too many vehicles — whether no-emission or gas guzzling polluters — leads to more vehicles sitting in traffic spewing more pollution into the air?
How about development? City Hall goes gaga when a developer promises to put in electrical vehicle charging stations, solar roof panels, drought-tolerant landscaping and bicycle racks. Does this make a 100 unit, five floor apartment building inherently more environmentally friendly than a lot with a small apartment building or a single retail store on it?
City Hall doesn’t get it. Staff aggressively supports and then our politicians approve new developments — especially those that contain housing and hotel rooms — under the guise of sustainability and being “environmentally friendly.”
But, how can thousands of housing units be ”environmentally friendly” when their occupants consume water, electricity and natural gas and add to sewage, solid waste and air pollution much more than if they weren’t there? It’s like saying that excrement doesn’t smell bad.
We’re all on to city leaders who outright exaggerate and obfuscate when they claim that the decisions they make are good for the environment.
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org