My dog loves to walk on the boardwalk along the Santa Monica Pier and back to the Loews Santa Monica Beach Hotel where I have a membership. We’ve been doing this for 14 years now.
Back in his puppy days, we’d start out around the hotel where there’s a green space behind the hotel, which used to be an unofficial dog park. Most days around 4:30 or 5:00 p.m. a small collection of regulars would let their dogs run free in the safety of the grassy green. It’s a lovely environment, surrounded by high hedges of bougainvillea, bamboo and some other hedge-y plantings. There’s a beautiful mezzanine area with an arch that was used for sunset weddings and receptions. Truly, it is a gem of a location for the community.
Then along came the building inspectors. When the hotel was undergoing some renovations the onslaught of our city’s finest regulatory men and women came along to make sure that nothing untoward was happening and that there was strict compliance with every aspect, nuance, and dot and title of the law – all of which came with additional fees and costs of course – never ones to miss a fining opportunity.
It turns out that the ramp, which runs from the street to boardwalk, is too steep in places for strict compliance with the codes. This causes a problem. Never mind that for the past few decades it’s been fine, used by hundreds if not thousands of people. Never mind that anyone in a wheeled mechanism could easily circumnavigate the greens and get to the boardwalk and approach the green from the western edge. Never mind that dozens of people enjoyed this de facto community green space daily.
It must be closed to the public as a hazard.
Safety first – no one should ever be at risk of anything, ever. We have to think of the community.
The wonderful green space was locked and no one gets to use it now. You cannot rent it out. You cannot enjoy it. The hotel merely gets to maintain it, pay property taxes on it, and one day it will likely be developed into something hideous for a select few people to live on the beach. Well done, City Government. You’ve removed a green space and kept the money flowing.
The City seems to specialize these days in removing green spaces that can be enjoyed as they’ve continued their assault on the lawns at the beach. There were three not insignificant green spaces that were enjoyed by many of us. As you moved from the public parking lot behind the Loews Hotel to the beach there is a state approved ramp that bordered a triangular lawn of approximately 15’ by 30’ that was a lovely spot to sit and watch the acrobatic exploits of the gymnasts and calisthenics enthusiasts. It was a spot that my dog and I would retire to before the final push back to the hotel after his daily walk. He’d sit on the cool grass and cool down a bit. I’d sit on the cool grass and admire the beauties working out.
But no more. That wonderful grassy plane has been replaced with thorny and annoying Bougainvillea. Precisely to make it unusable for relaxing, picnicking and tanning. I imagine that the Parks and Rec department will give some reasoning about drought-tolerant plants and the high costs of maintenance – blah blah blah. Fire someone and keep the lawn is my attitude. We have more than enough staff on the city payroll and not enough green space.
The lawn in front of the lifeguard station was also replaced with the dreaded bougainvillea and assorted thorny obnoxious flora. As was the little lawn across from it where dogs would cool their paws on hot summer days.
I’m not certain, but I bet part of the reasoning was to remove the spots where homeless people were congregating, as they definitely made use of the green spaces. But so did many others who are not homeless. Many of us enjoyed having a lawn to sit on at the beach.
Curiously, the green space where the gymnasts and calisthenics people congregate is being repaired with new grass… hmmmmm could all of this just be a ploy to relocate the unwanted and unsightly great unwashed homeless? Damn shame no matter what the reasoning and I hope that someone on the Parks and Recreation Commission rethinks this and brings back the usable grassy spots we need.
David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He welcomes your questions and comments. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra