It’s Sammy time — my annual awards for the good, bad and downright insegrevious in Santa Monica.

Both the Planning Commission and the City Council share the 2013 “No Taste” Sammy for approving the oversized “Orange County business park” for the Paper Mate site on Olympic Boulevard in Mid-City, the two cheap looking Bakersfield-modern hotels at the corner of Fifth Street and Colorado Avenue and a proposed, massive office/hotel/apartment/public plaza complex on Arizona Avenue and Fourth and Fifth Streets, Downtown.

The clunky, oversized and completely out-of-scale Village at Santa Monica in the Civic Center developed by the Related Companies and co-partnered by City Hall and Community Corporation of Santa Monica wins the 2013 “Ugliest Development of the Year” Sammy, barely nudging out the East Village on the site of the Village Trailer Park and the Bergamot Transit Village Center mess.

City officials just opened a new “eco-friendly” parking garage on Second Street, Downtown. The eight-floor, 748-vehicle structure replaced a smaller, obsolete city garage. The layout of the new Structure 6 is spacious and bright.

Exterior staircases make it easy to get to and from cars and a rooftop viewing deck provides a great view of Downtown. Studio Jantzen and Behnisch Architekten earn the “Well Done, Mate” Sammy for their stunning design and for proving that exciting projects can happen here.

The “Money Grows on Trees” Sammy once again goes to our Planning Department and City Council for the overdone, $43 million, Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square in the Civic Center. A whole $46 million for a park? In the meantime, city officials are now talking about floating a $32 million bond to build a new fire station that could ultimately cost City Hall a total of $81 million.

A new fire station is a legitimate need but instead, City officials squandered tens of millions of dollars for costly, unnecessary vanity projects like Tongva Park, the Colorado Esplanade and Michigan Avenue bicycle enhancements. The city manager and City Council must share the 2103 Sammy for “Chutzpah of the Year.”

Have you noticed the road crews sandblasting traffic lanes and left turn pocket street markings to oblivion all over town to make room for dedicated bicycle lanes on heavily traveled, major streets?

Motor vehicles outnumber bicycles by more than 100 to one on our streets. The removal of the lanes and pockets will cause more congestion and make streets less safe and harder to drive. Through traffic will back up behind persons trying to make left-turns and those waiting to turn left will be vulnerable to rear-end collisions.

The 2013 “Need More Congestion” Sammy goes to the Planning Department’s transportation mis-managers — with a special nod to City Council for approving this crap. It’s one more reason to not do business in Santa Monica.

The 2013 Sammy for “What Customer Service?” goes to Big Blue Bus management. Buses on many of BBB’s busiest routes operate at capacity at peak hours and often don’t pick up riders at stops. I’ve experienced this with the No. 3 line on south Lincoln Boulevard numerous times.

When I wrote about my experiences last month, Edward F. King, Big Blue’s Director of Transit Services e-mailed that they are constantly working to improve service. “For the upcoming February 2014 service change, we will be shifting more trips to peak direction travel and adding more running time to both the Route 3 and Rapid 3.”

We’ll see.

It’s been well over a year since the new “blue ribbon” Santa Monica Pier governing board made up of politically connected cronies and ex-city department heads was appointed. We’ve all been waiting for announcements concerning how this elite panel of community leaders is going to rejuvenate the aging Santa Monica Pier. Unfortunately, all they’ve come up with is a bunch of lame entertainment events. So, the 2013 “Dragging Our Heels” Sammy goes to the Santa Monica Pier Corporation.

The “You Overstayed Your Welcome” Sammy goes to former, overpaid City Hall consultant Jeffrey Tumlin from Nelson-Nygaard Consulting Associates (N/N). Tumlin’s take on traffic and planning was from another world which is why he was a big hit with city planners.

Tumlin claimed that all the hundreds of thousands of square feet of new development in the Bergamot area would generate “no net new car trips.” He also recommended reducing on-site parking requirements for new commercial and residential developments.

Tumlin’s ego was his own undoing when he described Santa Monicans as NIMBYs on his firm’s website last Spring. He posted that NIMBYs dominated local politics and were using fears of increased traffic and congestion to stop development. Despite the brouhaha, Tumlin dug in his heels and Planning Director David Martin stood by his man. Eventually Tumlin was forced to withdraw as N/N’s lead consultant even though his firm soldiers on.

The “Just Do It” Sammy for 2013 goes to the Beautify Lincoln (Boulevard) group and Evan Meyer, a board member for the Ocean Park Neighborhood Association. They’re spearheading a grassroots streetscape beautification project primarily through murals and street art.

Evan and his team work with commercial businesses and property owners by offering to beautify local businesses for free. They coordinate wall space with artists, obtain the paint and supplies, assist in the painting and get the work done — all on a shoestring budget. I wrote last June that City Hall has been conspicuously absent from this project which is why it’s working so darned well and hasn’t cost $43 million.

Happy New Year, everyone.


Bill Bauer can be reached at

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