I finally attended my first City Council meeting, being really concerned with what they were going to do with the Bergamot Area Plan, an ambitious, commendable but seriously flawed vision, in my opinion, and in the opinion of a lot of Santa Monica citizens who showed up to speak about those flaws. Hours worth of them, at two minutes a pop. Poor deluded idealists.
Truthfully, I was there for only half the meeting. Couldn’t get there until 9:30 p.m., but it didn’t wrap up until close to 2 a.m.
While it may have been my first full stick-it-out-to-the-end meeting, I’ve become somewhat knowledgeable about the issues, and mostly understood the foreign language being spoken. I know what the BAP is, LUCE, an EIR, even FAR. You have to learn the lingo or you’re lost; you don’t want to be acronymistified [sic].
I know this plan has been years in the making. I know citizen input has been solicited all along the way. I also know that many who spoke that night were not showing up for the first time like me, but have spoken up over and over. Many were very well prepared, with facts and figures and sometimes even visual projections.
I showed up with my own healthy prejudices. As an Ocean Park resident for 27 years, I’ve clearly seen the big changes in god-awful traffic, dramatically diminishing sky and ocean visibility, and in the feeling of being walled in. I’m no Amish resister of inevitable change and progress, but I also know full speed ahead is not the only speed there is.
Propaganda to the contrary, Santa Monica, like Social Security, is neither broke nor broken. We’re still one of the best games in town. All that development money, that people disingenuously talk about losing to surrounding communities, will come back the instant we allow it. On our terms. But once you permit those skyscrapers on Ocean Avenue, once you turn Colorado or Lincoln into impassable concrete canyons, you can’t go back. And maybe then, because of that, we’re no longer the best game in town. Just another concrete jungle, as Bob Marley lamented.
Here are a few things I observed.
I have heard the accusation that the council members made up their minds a long time ago, and nothing even large numbers of people have to say at this point carries any weight. At the end of the meeting, when most of the room had gone home and the members had their “discussion” and registered their votes, that sure looked to be the case.
Discussion? There were very few even passing references to anything that was said from the public mic. Over and over so many begged, please at least do an Environmental Impact Report for this game-changing Bergamot plan. Not a single council member even mentioned it as they prepared to vote.
So many citizens complained about high floor-area ratios, which determine how dense, how high. The very first amendment proposed, by Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day, was to increase, not decrease, the already LUCE-busting limits.
Many begged for green space. There is basically none in the Bergamot Area Plan. None. Not a mention of this during the pre-vote “discussion.” When the members earlier affirmed that streets do indeed count as “open space,” the whole audience laughed.
The council seems to accept blithely a report that says this huge development will result in no net new car trips added to our already-clogged thoroughfares. People will work in these new businesses and live right there and never drive. Right. And perhaps worst of all in the long run, they casually affirmed the little explosive clause that says anything that conflicts with the BAP — zoning laws, the LUCE, the 10 Commandments — is superseded. BAP now rules all.
I walked into the refreshing cool night air with an overriding thought: we need more frequent elections for City Council. You can do way too much irreparable damage in four years. Dare I say it: recall, anyone, before it’s too late?
Harder than it should have been
As a good reporter, my antennae went up Thursday night at the Jimmy Cliff concert on the pier, so I gave up the tiny view of the stage I had to slowly work my way over to the edge so I could see.
Ah wha di…? Me tot so! Renk! (That’s Jamaican patois.) There was plenty of room in there, the closed-off area of the pier where normally everyone goes to see a show. People were strolling around in empty areas like it was one of the least popular, least attended show in years, not one of the most.
Hundreds of people could have comfortably, safely seen this much anticipated concert from the usual area in front of the stage. But it was closed off at some point, by the fire marshal, I was told by several police officers I asked.
I’ve gone literally to thousands of concerts and shows, in clubs, parks, arenas, on beaches, and maybe half of the ones on our own pier. I know when a show is too crowded, to the point of danger. The front-stage area was not even close to that.
I’ll tell you what was horribly overcrowded and dangerous: the parking area of the pier, just north of the stage, where I was. So some fire marshal decided to close off the pier, depriving hundreds of music fans who may have been waiting years to see the legend, the reigning king of reggae. I made a call over to the fire department and am waiting to hear back. Stay tuned.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 27 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org