A rendering of a courtyard planned for Hines' Bergamot Transit Village at the corner of Olympic Boulevard and 26th Street. (Courtesy Hines)

After lengthy public commentary last week, City Council will deliberate Tuesday evening on the fate of the Bergamot Transit Village (BTV) development proposed for along Olympic Boulevard in the eastern Mid-City neighborhood.

Our Assemblyman (and former Santa Monica mayor) Richard Bloom sent a letter to City Council last week enthusiastically supporting the BTV proposal by Texas mega-developer Hines for the former Paper Mate site.

After gushing about how wonderful the project was, he slammed those who want to go slow on development and who’ve been urging council to change the proposal or kill it altogether. He also wrote that if the traffic-generating Hines project wasn’t built, the result would “significantly negatively impact our ability to moderate traffic congestion.” Say, what?

Bloom’s stand may earn him beaucoup developer campaign bucks but it’ll cost him hundreds, maybe thousands, of Santa Monica votes in his re-election effort.

Bloom’s letter proved two things: He’s way out of touch with his home community and I — and many others — were right in endorsing his opponent Betsy Butler, last year.

Former Santa Monica mayor and councilman (1981-1992), Santa Monica for Renters’ Rights co-founder and current steering committee member Denny Zane sent a letter to the local news media about the BTV. Ditto for Michael Feinstein, also a former mayor and councilman (1996 – 2004). The letters, more like position statements, have fueled speculation about them running for council, this fall.

They wrote that the development should be mostly residential. They mean apartments, of course. It appears that housing is “OK” — especially low-income housing — as long as it’s SMRR voter-based rental housing. Forget condominiums. They’ll attract the middle and upper classes.

They ignore the fact that the hundreds of additional apartments they desire (473 units are currently proposed) will still generate lots more traffic. As little as a two or three percent increase in cars will be enough to add to significant community-wide congestion during rush hours.


Shriver enters race for supervisor


Another former Santa Monica mayor and city councilman (2004-12), Bobby Shriver, has tossed his hat into the ring in the race for the Los Angeles County Third Supervisorial District replacing the termed out Zev Yaroslavsky.

Shriver’s leading opponent is Sheila Kuehl, the former California Assemblywoman who represented the 41st District (1994-2000) and former State Senator for the 23rd District (2000-2008). Shriver’s entry into the supervisors race has apparently made the Kuehl campaign nervous.

Her strategist Parke Skelton, who has managed and guided numerous Santa Monica campaigns over the years, started slinging mud within hours of Shriver’s announcement. He described Shriver as a wealthy elitist who owns oil stocks. Really? Is that the best that Kuehl’s consultants can come up with? I also own a few shares of oil stock. So what?

In any case, I’ll be writing more about this race during the months to come. In the meantime, I’m supporting Shriver. He has my wholehearted endorsement.

The Third District is the most diverse of the county’s five supervisorial districts. It spans from Santa Monica and the coast eastward, across the Santa Monica Mountains into the San Fernando Valley and includes sections of Hollywood, Beverly Hills and West L.A.


Spend, spend, spend


Mayor Pam O’Connor and Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day asked staff to analyze raising the minimum wage from $14.08 to $15.37 an hour for the lowest paid city employees as well as employees of all contractors working for City Hall.

Although the wage increase will only impact a small number of employees, any additional expense at all will only add to City Hall’s expected budget deficits beginning in the 2015-16 fiscal year.

This is when the California Public Employee Pension System (CalPERS) plans to increase employee pension costs by as much as 50 percent over a five year period. With other costs such as employee health care also increasing, expenses are expected to outpace revenues — thus leading to as much as a $9 million deficit in the next fiscal year and growing to $29 million by 2018. Expect increased fees and new taxes to pay for it and a much needed new fire station.

It appears to me that O’Connor and O’Day are pandering to the municipal employee unions and want their support in the upcoming 2014 election when O’Connor will surely run again and in 2016 when O’Day’s term expires.

Speaking of spending, City Hall bureaucrats are now talking about City Hall paying to restore that ugly statue, “Chain Reaction,” in the Civic Center. Estimates on the cost to restore the dated mess range from $250,000 to $400,000. Bad move and a huge waste of taxpayer’s money.

City Hall should stick with their original plan and let the preservationists who think it’s an “important piece of art” pay for it. If funding isn’t in place within a reasonable period of time, auction it off to the highest bidder and hope it finds a home at the Nixon Presidential Library.


Council wants to hear from youth


A few weeks ago, City Council approved a “Community Civic Engagement Strategy” to outreach to the younger members of the community by accelerating City Hall’s social media activities and hosting multi-generational meetings and events.

Noting that most current civic participants “have gray hair,” council wants to engage the younger members of the community between 20 and 50 who it feels have not had a voice in the civic process.

Great idea. Then council members can listen to the younger members of the community and ignore them just like they ignore the rest of us.



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

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