There’s been talk around town for months that Phil Brock would run for City Council. He told me not long ago that if he saw three people running he felt good about, he’d support them instead. In an e-mail, he wrote, “I’m not a politician and I never want to be one.”
But I found him near the end of the recent special council session where they approved, 4 to 3, the Hines project as is, and he told me, “I’ve finally made up my mind. I’m running. I’m just so disgusted by this that I feel I have no other choice.” If it all works out, this column and the Daily Press will be the first place you read about this.
Brock later wrote, “It’s time that the council listen to its neighborhoods, that council members only vote for responsible developments that offer real, tangible benefits to the neighborhoods they will be built in, without being a burden to our entire city.
“It’s time to relieve the angst and dissipate the cynicism that is pervading our city. It’s about regaining our control of our city from outside interests, from developers who are willing to break our style of living to make a sweet buck and from our employees in City Hall who act as if they are working for the developers instead of the citizens of Santa Monica.
“I believe we must protect our beach community way of life, that we can’t burden our environment by adding outsized developments that will bring more traffic to our streets, that we can’t afford more council members who won’t listen to residents, that we must protect our current residents, both renters and owners.
“We must not spend our taxes to add to a developer’s profit margin. We must protect and use our natural resources wisely. We must recognize that our green spaces are the lungs of Santa Monica and not only protect them but enhance them. We must use common sense to solve our problems and balance our budgets, and we must set firm zoning laws in Santa Monica that cannot be bent or broken.”
Amen to all that. Straight talk. Brock has my unequivocal support. Not because we agree on everything; I wish he were less prone to compromise, especially on certain issues. But Brock listens, and uses common sense. That is painfully lacking among most of our current council members.
If you think he’s running because he’s upset and disgusted, you’re probably right. If you think he’s exaggerating the immediacy and significance of these issues, you’re wrong, or more likely not well enough informed. It is time, right now, not next week, to get informed (residocracy.org).
There’s a wreckin’ ball a-comin’, to a neighborhood near you, and our city will never be the same. Dozens of projects are already submitted and approved by city staff, and by the time most of you find out about them and are horrified and want desperately to do something, it will be too late.
I feel we need to put the brakes on now, first on that huge Hines Corporation development at 26th Street and Olympic Boulevard, just approved by the council. That will send a clear message.
And we have an opportunity in this fall’s elections to put people on our City Council who will listen to us, not outside developers. I believe Brock is someone we should elect.
He walks his talk. A native son (his grandparents moved here in the 1920s), he got his first job at 16 at the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica, where he spent so much time growing up, and was a member and on their board (including council president) for more than four decades. He’s currently chair of our Recreation and Parks Commission, president of the state Cal Parks Board association, and just voted their Commissioner of the Year. His main business is his Studio Talent Group, and he’s also been president of the national Talent Managers Association for three years. Yeah, he’s an overachiever. But you know what they say, if you need a big job done, give it to someone who’s already busy. And someone who cares, passionately.
I love Santa Monica. I’ve loved this town since I first laid eyes on it in 1980, preparing to move from Albuquerque to the L.A. area.
But it took five years before I got here, when the opportunity arose to buy a unit in a TORCA conversion project apartment building, I jumped, and I’ve been here in Ocean Park ever since, 28 years.
I love Santa Monica even more now because I know it so much better. The people, the history, the cultural opportunities — I wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. But things have changed, especially in the last few years. You know what I’m talking about.
I’ve seen and felt these changes, and like many of you my resentment, sadness and anger have been building. Why is this happening? What’s the story? Is this inevitable?
Despite a serious aversion to local politics, I decided to get informed and involved, because there was no other choice if I wanted to live in a town that in any way resembled the one I loved and sought out so many years ago.
It took no time at all to become shocked.
What was happening wasn’t inevitable, I soon discovered. It was a systematic selling out of our resources to the highest bidder, by a city council that did not listen to their citizens nor act in their best interests, supported by a city staff with their own agenda.
So I’m delighted when Brock or anyone like him says, “I’ll run.”
“We are Santa Monica,” he writes. “We don’t want high rises on Ocean Avenue, We don’t want towers of condos in our city or a canyon of buildings on each of our boulevards. We need to celebrate our small businesses and incubate more of them.
“We can do better than abandon our citizens in trailer parks. We can do better than let a hotel pop up in a residential neighborhood. We can provide better transportation for our citizens, including those who travel to high school each day.
“Santa Monica is a treasure. Let’s keep it that way.”
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 28 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.