I appreciate being approached by people — whether it be by e-mail or in person such as at last week’s Memorial Day services at Woodlawn Cemetery — with suggestions about things to write about.

Last Monday, Jean Ann Holbrook, City Councilman Bob Holbrook’s wife, suggested I write about mailboxes at the main Post Office. She told me when Fifth Street was converted from one way to two way traffic a few years ago, the Postal Service removed most of the drive-up mail boxes. 

I drove down Fifth Street last week. On the southbound side between Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona (Avenue not the state; we’re boycotting the state, you know) was one mailbox with a rather badly bent snout. Maybe for odd-shaped packages? On the northbound side, the mailboxes are only accessible from the sidewalk.

Mr. Postmaster, let’s put in some more drive-up mailboxes on both sides of the street so we can pull up, drop our mail and go on our way without stopping, getting out of our vehicles, walking around the mailbox, opening the mail slot, depositing mail, walking back to our car, getting in, fastening our seat belt and driving off.

Speaking of inconvenience, at last Monday’s Memorial Day service, the only access in and out of Woodlawn Cemetery was the partially blocked 14th Street gate nearest Pico Boulevard. The other 14th Street gate and rear gate on Michigan Avenue were chained and locked shut. 

Coming from Michigan (the avenue not the state, which is not being boycotted) meant walking around the cemetery — something the 90-year-old veteran who was huffing and puffing up the 14th Street hill that I met was also not too happy about. All gates should have been open for easy and convenient pedestrian access instead of being chained as if it were Woodlawn Penitentiary. Management needs to make access to the cemetery open and inviting, not closed and inconvenient, especially during community services.

Traffic on Montana Avenue between Seventh and 17th streets has always been a bear with the mix of single bi-directional traffic lanes, bicycle lanes and pedestrian crossings at every block, alley and anywhere in between. It’s Santa Monica’s version of a “Smart Street” and it’s a mess

The corner of 15th Street and Montana is one of the street’s busiest with people continuously crossing back and forth between Whole Foods and street parking on the north side to Starbucks on the southwest corner.

When Councilman Kevin McKeown first ran for office in 1998, one of his campaign promises was a crosswalk at 15th and Montana even if he had to paint it himself. Back then, I urged him to also ask for a pedestrian-activated crossing signal. Twelve years later, there’s still no signal and no in-pavement flashers, either.

Folks saunter into the street with cappuccinos in hand, ignoring traffic, often with kids in tow or pushing a stroller. Vehicles constantly screech to a stop while a yoga mom crosses, then a gaggle of teenage girls, then traffic inches forward and an old man steps off the curb, etc. A pedestrian-activated crossing traffic signal — a flashing red light such as at the marked crosswalks Downtown on Fourth Street — is desperately needed here.

It would be safer for all concerned and also result in less congestion on Montana if our City Council were to make signalized pedestrian crossing a priority. Meanwhile, it’s just a matter of time before someone is killed or seriously injured at that corner.

One of the farmers at the Pico Farmers’ Market told me about a “community” vegetable garden they is being planted in the market area of Virginia Park. It was in a roughly 40-by-20 foot planter that had been empty except for wood chips and sprinkler heads for some time. 

I watched the farmers at work a few months ago and thought it was a very cool idea. Some of the market’s farmers and staff were planting corn, peppers, tomatoes, zucchini and other vegetables in the empty plot. Neighbors could “help themselves” when the veggies were ready to harvest.

However, a City Hall grinch spotted the garden and said, “Oh no, that can’t happen.” Park groundskeepers were quickly dispatched to uproot the offending veggies. The week-old vegetable patch was quickly a memory.

Small, nondescript bushes were planted in the space, probably to discourage any future attempts at even token sustainable agriculture. The moral of the lesson: the only corn allowed in Santa Monica is in the Community Maintenance Department.   

City Hall is doing all it can to help us to stop patronizing Downtown merchants. First they raise the bus fares, which was probably long overdue. Then they said they’d raise parking fees. Now, there’s talk about increasing “fines” for parking violations. I view all this as good reasons to “do business” in Culver City, Century City or the Westside Pavilion. How about you?

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

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