When is parking a gotcha?
When it’s more valuable as an excuse to take away a long, long-promised playing field from our kids.
I don’t want to point any fingers — yet — but something stinky almost slipped through the cracks only a few know about. And if it turns out to be what it appears to be, then I THINK it’s high time you re-evaluated who your City government is working for. Here’s a clue: it may not be you, dear resident of Santa Monica.
I’m going to go basic with the facts, for those who don’t follow and obsess about the machinations of City Hall. Which is most of us. But thank goodness for those obsessive guardians who do.
Okay, there may be some opinion mixed in here. But you’ll know, because I’ll precede or follow it with an “I feel,” “some say,” “it seems.” Got it?
When a proposed construction is close enough to the coast, the state Coastal Commission has to rule yea or nay. I know that from personal experience because before our two apartment buildings where I live could, through the TORCA program in the mid-’80s, be converted to individual owner-occupied condos, we had to go before the mighty Coastal Commission. It was a gamble. Had they said nay, that was it, no recourse, we would have been stuck with two apartment buildings that, because of rent control
laws, would have cost us all (11 partners) a pretty penny each year to own.
COASTAL COMMISSION APPROVAL
We’ve got a few projects in the pipeline here that require it, and four are from the 2005 Santa Monica Civic Center Specific Plan:
— the renovation and re-opening of the historic Civic Auditorium;
— the Civic Center Sports Field (for use by adjacent Santa Monica High School);
— the City Hall addition (City Services Building);
— the Santa Monica College Early Childhood Lab School (ECLS, aka ECEC). which will be located in the Civic Center instead of somewhere many think more appropriate for dropping off rugrats, say in some residential area not in our extended downtown, say on the SMC Main Campus or on one of its many satellites. But that would be not nearly so convenient, many have opined, to City Hall staff with young’uns, and likewise Rand Corp. employees. Many years ago Rand contributed some half a million dollars to help finance that babysitting-babystudying building, just across the street from their headquarters, with of course the proviso that it be built there. It was so long ago that most people forgot or didn’t even know about that contribution, but now that we do it explains a lot. We’ve heard a lot of “it’s a done deal,” usually uttered with a slight growl, end of discussion.
But instead of submitting all four of those projects to the Coastal Commission at once, only the last two are before the Commission (both were scheduled for Sept. 14 but the entire Consent Calendar for our district was postponed). Why?
Could it be that if both those projects are approved, with their required parking, that when it comes time to submit the playing field proposal to the Coastal Commission they will have to rule that there is no room left for parking for that field? The other two projects will have used it all up, and a bunch of it is in the current Civic Center parking lot where the playing field (desperately-needed, in the opinion of many residents, particularly parents and those involved in youth athletics) would be built.
That playing field has been kicked down the road, ignored and even opposed by various factions (including school board officers) for some 12-15 years now. Why? Could it have anything to do with its proximity to the sacrosanct ECEC, which has “grow’d” like Topsy from its original dimensions?
There are many things about those two submissions to the Coastal Commission that seem suspicious. As set forth in a “request for removal and postponement of items on the consent calendar” submitted by seven local residents: “(1) Applicants’ failure to give notice of submission to the Coastal Commission and lack
of public access to the Application files;
(2) Inappropriateness of the applications for consent calendar due to their controversial
nature. The public overwhelmingly supports the Civic Center Field (“Sports Field”),
which has been approved by City Council yet not submitted to the Coastal
Commission. The public does not support the ECEC or CSB in general, and would
oppose Applications for those projects that prevent the Sports Field from moving
forward because its location is being used as mitigation for the parking demands of
the ECEC and CSB;
(3) Failure to accurately determine parking usage of the ECEC and CSB and Civic
Center parking capacity due to inaccurate and incomplete information provided by
(4) Failure to consider the approved Civic Center Field project as a concurrently
application along with other uses impacting access because the mitigation measures
in the Applications eliminate the location of the Sports Field from the Civic Center
Specific Plan (“CCSP”).”
All this came down around the Labor Day weekend — coincidence, I’m sure — so reaction time by any opposition was severely limited. I was out of town and only learned of all this about 12 hours before my column deadline.
There’s much that makes this whiff suspiciously. I think from a tactical standpoint it’s pretty clever — make the Coastal Commission kill the playing field, not our own City leaders. Except once you see how it all went down, it seems pretty obvious to me that there is a plan being played out. You can only ascribe so many missteps in a row to incompetence or oversight rather than intent.
Because of the short notice all around I have not had a chance to hear the City’s side of all this, but I do plan to request time with City Manager Rick Cole and Director of Community and Cultural Services Karen Ginsberg to hear their side of it, and will report that.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Spectrum/Time Warner couldn’t, in six weeks, notify their customers who are paying for voice mail service every month, that they eliminated the 888 number you could call to get your messages? I guess that would have been pretty difficult.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Happy Birthday, Chris — you are a great son and an amazingly loving and valuable human being who has blessed this earth gently. Long may you run.” — Charles Andrews, proud father
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 31 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else
in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org