Last week, I left town for a long weekend and missed a lot of action — some good, some bad and some wacky.

 

The good

Texas developer Hines has postponed an upcoming Planning Commission review of its proposed Bergamot Transit Village Center until year’s end or early 2013.

Their project is on the 7.16 acre Paper Mate site bounded by 26th Street, Olympic Boulevard and Stewart Street. It’s a massive 766,094 square feet of new creative office space, housing and retail.

While this is bad enough, there are five other large proposals with hundreds of thousands of square feet of new space in the immediate east Mid-City neighborhood also needing development agreements. Residents have taken issue with cumulative effects so much development will have on their small neighborhood. 

Enter the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City who also asked City Hall to put all proposed projects on hold until detailed studies could determine their effects on traffic and other issues. But, the projects still kept moving through City Hall’s pipeline like everyone was in a big rush to get things done and go fishing.

SMCLC hired a traffic engineer and an environmental attorney to review the Hines planning proposal. They concluded that the Hines proposal was "shoddy” and it was impossible to separate its impacts from three other developments totaling over 700,000 square feet (Lionsgate, Roberts Center, Village Trailer Park redevelopment) on nearby Colorado Avenue; the 280,000-square-foot, 545 unit Paseo Nebraska housing/retail project proposed for Nebraska Avenue and other smaller projects slated for the vicinity.

SMCLC issued a media release last week taking credit for forcing Hines back to the drawing board. Of course, City Hall denied that SMCLC had any influence on the delay which they attributed to needing extra time for environmental documents as well as negotiating Hines’ development agreement.

City planners "poo-pooing” SMCLC’s influence on Hines’ decision confirms my belief that public opinion on developments are generally ignored, despite lip service to the contrary. 

Despite City Hall’s Ivory Tower, politicians, planners and managers have to be painfully aware of an increasing ground swell of discontented residents tired of excuses for not controlling the massive amount of proposed development and its effects on the community. And, that it’s an election year.

A big “thumbs up” to SMCLC for keeping government on its toes. 

 

 

The cheap

Everyone is talking about Santa Monica’s new parking meters that detect when a car enters and leaves a parking space. If the space has a time limit, it’s impossible to “feed the meter” and exceed that designated time limit. That means risking a citation or exiting the parking space, driving around the block and hoping the same spot will still be empty and you can slip into it again. 

If there’s time left on the meter when you drive off, it automatically resets to zero. Do you get a refund for not using up all your time? Are you serious? This is Santa “half cent” Monica! It’s too bad, because one of life’s little pleasures is finding an empty parking spot with a few cents left on the meter.

Blame this on City Hall’s bean counters who are so money-hungry, they’ll do anything to nickel and dime us to death.

 

 

The goofy

For decades, local Christian churches had exclusively erected nativity dioramas along Ocean Avenue in Palisades Park during December. A couple of years ago when other groups and individuals wanted to display their “holiday” messages in the same location and requests for space exceeded the 21 display spots, City Hall had a problem.

Because Palisades Park is public property, City Hall cannot favor or give preference to any particular group or ideology. Last year, applications were taken for the spaces and awarded via random drawing. Last year, a number of non-Christian sponsors were selected — many from outside Santa Monica. Some set up non-religious and atheistic displays.

Offended local churches formed “Save Our Nativity Scenes” (SONS) to pressure City Hall into giving back “their” display spaces. Enter the Liberty Counsel who sent a letter to City Hall on behalf of SONS suggesting only allowing displays that depicted holidays in December, banning signs that take up more than 15 percent of any design and outlawing speech against other religions. Talk about trampling the constitution!

They also recommended preventing any one group from dominating the system. Somehow, I don’t think that applies to the aggregation of churches whose single focus is on the nativity.

Liberty Counsel is an Orlando, Fla.-based group, “affiliated with Liberty University Law School in Lynchburg, VA., a legacy of the late conservative icon Jerry Falwell. It provides legal assistance with regard to religious liberty, abortion and the family,” says the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The SPLC adds, “The organization may be best known for its campaigns to ensure that ‘public displays of religion’ are maintained during the Christmas holiday and it has adopted broad right-wing views … and has focused heavily on anti-gay activism.” It’s also on the SPLC’s list of “hate groups” along with the Family Research Council, American Family Association and Traditional Values Coalition.

Tomorrow night, the City Council will vote on a revised ordinance that will ban all unattended structures, displays or installations in city parks unless it’s a city structure or has a valid community event permit — such as a GLOW festival art installation.

I predict this will be approved, hands down. But, will it end the controversy? Stay tuned.

 

 

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