Readers of my column know that at the end of every year I like to hand out awards, which I call Sammies, to those who‚Äôve done well and those who‚Äôve dropped the ball. This year was full of both.
The “Money Grows on Trees” Sammy goes to our planning department and City Council for a new $50 million, 6-acre park in the Civic Center. Fifty-million dollars for a park? The benches must be plated with gold.
The “Hanging Tough” Sammy goes to deposed Wilshire Montana Neighborhood Coalition (Wilmont) chair Valerie Griffin. When new members ran for¬†the Board of Directors and threatened to take control of Wilmont at its annual meeting, Griffin postponed it. A vote was still taken, which Griffin declared “illegal.” Members were excommunicated and the brouhaha lasted for months. Finally Griffin was ousted and Wilmont is under new management.
Santa Monica made national headlines when a cougar visited Downtown one May morning. This wasn‚Äôt the “older lady after a younger man” kind of cougar. It was a whole different breed of cat. Unfortunately, attempts to remove a mountain lion from an office building courtyard and return it to the wild failed when it was fatally shot by police.
This generated a firestorm of criticism from animal lovers who thought more should have been done to save it. The “What‚Äôs New, Pussycat?” Sammy goes to cat lovers everywhere who are feline fine after getting police and wildlife officials to adopt new policies for handling wild cats in urban settings.
Stanley and Harriet Epstein filed a lawsuit against City Hall and others in June, 2011 that claimed parking citation appellants were deprived of their rights because they weren‚Äôt provided clear and specific written reasons why their citations weren‚Äôt dismissed, as required by the California Vehicle Code.
In August, the City Council finally approved a settlement that requires cases of individuals who unsuccessfully contested parking citations from January, 2009 through May, 2012 to be re-opened. Individuals can request a new hearing or appeal their case to the Superior Court. If their citation is canceled, fines paid will be refunded. The Sammy for “You Can Beat City Hall” goes to the Epsteins.
Most everyone predicted former Mayor Richard Bloom would get picked off in the primary election, thus ending his quest for the 50th Assembly District. Bloom beat back local favorite Torie Osborn and faced-off against Betsy Butler in the general election.
Holy hanging chads! Bloom earns the Sammy for “Comeback Kid of the Year” after he narrowly edged out front-runner Butler and won a job in Sacramento.
This year‚Äôs election was more of the same old stuff. Two council incumbents and a former (1990-94) councilman won. The only new face was Ted Winterer, who replaced Bobby Shriver, who didn‚Äôt run for re-election.
For school board, the incumbents beat back three challengers from Malibu. And nobody even bothered to run against Santa Monica College trustees, whose terms were up, automatically giving them four more years. So the “Same Old, Same Old” Sammy goes to Santa Monica voters who love the status quo and familiar names.
While Santa Monica‚Äôs political activists were in a lather about the sneaky activities of business and developer-backed political action committees such as Santa Monicans United for a Responsible Future (SMURF), an old political presence was hard at work under the radar.
The hotel and restaurant employees union UNITE HERE brought in its top organizers from all over the country. They put together a veritable army of hotel workers who hit the pavement and knocked on doors on behalf of union-friendly Santa Monicans for Renters‚Äô Rights (SMRR) candidates.
They were primarily responsible for electing SMRR‚Äôs entire slate to the City Council, school board and Rent Control Board, in return for support of the union‚Äôs membership and wage contract efforts. UNITE HERE, Local 11 earns the “Just Do It” Sammy.
Two major developments were rejected in the waning months of 2012. Marc Luzzatto‚Äôs East Village development, which would replace the Village Trailer Park at 2930 Colorado Ave., is one. The council withdrew their prior approval of the development¬†because they had second thoughts about its projected amount of affordable housing.
Council also sent Trammel Crow‚Äôs (TC Development, LLC) mixed-use development at 3402 Pico Blvd. back to the drawing board. Traffic impacts and housing within feet of Interstate 10 were at issue. So, Luzzatto and Trammel Crow share the “Bigger is Not Better” Sammy.
Through bungling, inattention, manipulation, incompetence, fraud and lack of interest, 15 units of deed-restricted affordable housing at the Dorchester House condominiums on Fourth Street have been squandered. It appears that¬†all or substantially all of the development‚Äôs deed-restricted units are still in violation of a 1982 development agreement that requires they be rented to low- or middle-income tenants.
Currently, they‚Äôre occupied by well-heeled owners or market-rate tenants. City staff and politicians alike don‚Äôt want¬†anyone tossed out of their homes, so they do nothing and share the “Disgraceful” Sammy for denying 15 deserving, low/mid-income families housing.
In March, the City Council made appointments to a new, seven member, interim Santa Monica Pier Board of Directors to replace the old Pier Restoration Corp. Who would have guessed the council would‚Äôve named the usual City Hall insiders and political cronies to the new interim board?
Only one “new” face was appointed. A former SMRR co-chair and former councilwoman/mayor was top pick for chair. The rest included three former City Hall department heads, a former city manager, a previous Big Blue Bus director, the president/CEO of the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau and one 15-year veteran of the former pier body. Therefore, the “Old Cronies” Sammy goes to the interim pier board.
Happy new year!
Bill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org