CITYWIDE — It’s the season of big requests and even bigger dreams, a time where we reflect on the year behind us, make plans for the one ahead and hope that somewhere along the way, we can get a little help with some of our pie in the sky hopes.
Not to leave anyone out, the Daily Press staff reached out to leaders of neighborhood groups with a simple question: If you could get anything, absolutely anything, to benefit your neighborhood in the coming year, what would it be?
Some of their responses consist of the traditional fare — parking problems, airport traffic and a shake up in local politicians — but others used their brand-new pogo sticks to jump out of the box.
Ocean Park Association
Individual members of the Ocean Park Association board requested a reduction in airplane flights buzzing overhead, a halt to traffic and improvements in alternative transportation infrastructure.
Dave Auch, the vice president, wanted schedules and maps at every bus stop for his stocking, and hoped to overcome objections to Santa Monica’s proposed dog beach.
“How about on-leash areas?” he queried.
Neighborhood-serving uses were high on President Jan Ludwinski’s list, including bakeries, butchers and shoe stores and more Wi-Fi hotspots for Santa Monicans on the go.
Bicycles also got some love, with a request for courtesy golf cart rides to Downtown from the new bike center and increased space between cars and bicycles to encourage new bicyclists.
“While I’m dreaming, how about representative City Council members elected by district and a Planning Commission more responsive to residents than developers?” wrote co-Vice President Mary Marlow.
The Northeast Neighbors group shared that dream, focusing four of their six requests on reform of the City Council.
The neighbors called for a new slate of council candidates who vow to accept no contributions from developers working in the city, as well as a political action committee formed exclusively to help those candidates who choose to campaign without developer funds.
They also want a strict conflict of interest policy that would exclude council members from voting on any issue that involves a person or group that has contributed to them.
The requests come as a group called the Santa Monica Transparency Project has begun releasing analysis of campaign contribution forms showing that many council members took money from companies and individuals from outside the city.
Northeast Neighbors also requested a more enlightened parking policy to keep local employees from using neighborhoods as “free parking lots” and that City Hall strive to reduce congestion “with a plan that consists of more than adding bicycle racks.”
Friends of Sunset Park
When the Friends of Sunset Park drafted its list to Santa, it took aim at broad social issues alongside the day-to-day improvements it hopes for.
The FOSP board sought “homes for the homeless and jobs for the jobless,” adequate state funding for the public schools and the elimination of gang-related shootings of young people.
FOSP also hoped for a City Council that took a more discerning eye to its contracts with developers, a plan to reduce traffic, a cap on enrollment at Santa Monica College (33,000 in Spring 2011) and the removal of jets, flight schools and leaded gas in prop planes from Santa Monica Airport.
The cherry on the cake was a plea to save the embattled Village Trailer Park “and all of our residential neighborhoods.”
Parking, parking, parking!
Wait, what did you want, Wilmont?
The northern neighborhood group hopes for spots for residents, employees and business customers to leave their cars, and improved bus transportation with stops at Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue so “our cars can spend much more time enjoying their spaces!”
Thinking of transport, Wilmont wished for greater cooperation from the FAA to downsize Santa Monica Airport, particularly by removing the jets, reducing pattern flights and protecting the residents of Santa Monica and Los Angeles.
In the holiday spirit, Wilmont also hopes for the reinstatement of the nativity scenes in Palisades Park, which were displaced by a number of atheist displays this year.
“We should figure out how to include the many faiths that are part of our wonderful city,” Wilmont wrote.
The most unlikely wish to be granted: That the pastries sold on Montana Avenue turn out to be health food.
If you’re looking for Newt Gingrich-sized big ideas, look no further than Mid-City Neighbors.
The group was recently reconstituted, and member Gregg Heacock has been a constant presence at public meetings suggesting out-of-the-box solutions to Santa Monica’s problems.
Heacock hoped that neighborhood associations like Mid-City would create a comprehensive vision of what they would like to see out of future development, and that planners would include those thoughts as they move forward with building plans.
He also weighed in on the Village Trailer Park with a plea to save the park and turn a portion of it into a museum.
Like other groups, transportation popped up, this time a request for an east-west connector public transportation route.
And for the less fortunate, Heacock requested a community service option for those who cannot afford tickets and to see those efforts headed up by the homeless population. Those would include tidying the shrubbery in the public right of way, providing dog owners with extra bags for their canine messes and supplying “dedicated recyclers” with special carts.
“Empowering the homeless by letting them head up campaigns to help people clean up their own neighborhoods could deliver an uplifting message to us all,” Heacock wrote.
Pico Neighborhood Association
The PNA wants an eraser for Christmas that would remove unwanted development.
Its first task — to save the Village Trailer Park from redevelopment as a condominium and affordable housing project.
A portion of the proposed Bergamot Village project would disappear, making it more village-like, and the Exposition Maintenance Yard, currently planned for the Pico Neighborhood, would also vanish, or at least be relocated far from a residential neighborhood.
“And while we are at it,” wrote Wes Thompson, president of the PNA, “a single-payer health program and a Democratic landslide in 2012.”
Hey Santa, are you listening?