The folks from Macerich Co. went before the Planning Commission recently to ask for permission to sell alcohol into the early morning hours to people eating or drinking in the outdoor dining areas of restaurants on the third floor of Santa Monica Place.

Nine eateries currently operate outdoor dining patios with alcohol service until midnight seven days a week.  Last call is 11:30 p.m. and patrons must vacate the outdoor patios no later than midnight. Macerich proposed a “last call” for drinks at 1:30 a.m. with patrons vacating the premises by 2:00 a.m. — the same as its interior eateries.  

Macerich argued that patrons are inconvenienced when they have to move inside at midnight or are refused service outside after 11:30 p.m. The outdoor dining areas are primarily located on the third level dining deck along Second Street, Third Street/Broadway and Fourth Street. 

The commission staff report gushed that extended service “will attract visitors and catalyze the district’s shopping and dining opportunities… .” It noted that eight eateries on the Third Street Promenade already have the later hours for alcohol sales — without any problems. Staff seems to think that extended alcohol hours are the best thing to come along since the Mojito.

But, there are problems. Neighbors told the commission that extended alcohol sales mean live music, loud sound systems, car alarms, blaring car stereos and liquored-up party people screaming in the streets at two and three in the morning — plus cleaning and maintenance noise.

City Hall encourages alcohol service because it brings money into city coffers, therefore neighbor’s concerns about alcohol related problems are usually ignored. It’s good that commissioners listened and put Macerich’s request for extended hours on hold. 

Commissioner Ted Winterer told Macerich “to make a big effort with the community to keep the noise down and address their concerns.” Macerich will return in the coming months with ways to mitigate potential problems. I’ll drink to that.

Fogarty moving on

Eileen Fogarty has resigned as planning director for the city of Santa Monica. After nearly five years in the post, she’ll exit in May.

Fogarty came to Santa Monica in July, 2006 from Alexandria, Va. She faced a community at odds over future development. The Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), a long overdue update to the city’s General Plan, which dictates development and influences traffic patterns, was moribund because of disagreements over slow growth versus overdevelopment.

Although she shepherded LUCE to completion, there is now much to be done in writing zoning codes to make it a reality. So, what were her real reasons for stepping down, now?

While she says “bi-coastal consulting opportunities,” Fogarty and her staff had spent extraordinarily long hours in developing LUCE with a lot of pressure from residents, developers, Downtown and civic center interests and other stakeholders who all wanted their vision realized.

At a recent neighborhood council meeting where Fogarty was trying to muster residents’ support for an interim zoning ordinance for Downtown that would limit taller and more massive buildings already pending and bring them in line with LUCE’s stated goals, she seemed weary.

My sources say she wasn’t happy with size, massing and aesthetics of the Bergamot Transit Village proposed by Texas-based Hines for the Paper Mate site at Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street. I’ve been told Hines was trying to pressure Fogarty by taking its case directly to the politicians they contributed to during previous elections.

Even accommodating Expo Light Rail had been particularly challenging — leading her to joke to neighborhood leaders, “Now I know where the term ‘being railroaded’ comes from.” 

City Hall is searching for her replacement who must be as strong as Thor, as wise as Solomon and have the skin of a rhinoceros. 

Thanks for your hard work, Eileen. It’s a tough job. I wish her a lot of luck.

 

Less talk, more action

In letters to the Samohi-PALS chat line and this newspaper (“Missing the point,” March 8, Letters to the Editor), school board Vice Chair Ben Allen seems confused. He wrote that a reporter called him about a leaked confidential memo from school Superintendent Tim Cuneo. While he apparently gave quotes to that reporter, he said that I “missed the point” by not including them in my column last Monday.

I stand by my statement that Allen seemed more concerned about the leak itself than the memo’s offensive attack on special education parents. I’ve heard that at a recent Church in Ocean Park gathering, Allen was “going on and on about how terrible it (the leak) was” and asking “what kind of person would do such a thing?”

In any case, aspiring politician Allen should know the difference between news reporter and opinion columnist. Opinion writers have more flexibility on using quotes to substantiate their opinions.

While it’s great that Allen’s for “transparency,” “solving problems,” “working together” and, I’m sure motherhood and the American flag, it’s time he gets past the platitudes and steps up his game.

With all the problems facing our schools, Allen needs to do more than spew clichés.

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

 

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