I disagree with Ron Goldman’s statement in his essay concerning development in Santa Monica: that the system regulating the conduct of the city is “broken” (“Our system is broken,” Your Column Here, April 18). The system has in fact worked very well; the L.A. County grand jury recently graded the management of Santa Monica as “poor.” But, instead of resulting in the dismissal of the city manager, planning staff and the recall of some City Council members it was largely viewed with indifference. Although Goldman’s critique was well thought out, and clearly presented, it was largely irrelevant because the investor class is waging an entirely different kind of class war with different weapons than are cited in his essay. Wall Street is not concerned about livable neighborhoods and life style. It has a single goal; make a profit and move on, in the manner of the legendary western gun slinger. The six gun is “citizens united.”

Where Wall Street has engaged with the political process the strategies are sophisticated and effective. And the city administration does not appear to be concerned about the poor ratings given by the grand jury. Generally it requires legal action to reverse the trend. In fact there is case law precedent cited in Common Cause v. Stirling (1983) where the court concluded that courts may presume that a municipality will continue practices in light of the refusal to admit the violation. The management of the city will not change and the investor will simply shift the target and the strategy, for example, by seeking to extend the boundaries of the commercial district and by carrying the war to those citizens who are most active in opposition by down-zoning their neighborhoods and by exhausting the citizenry with new efforts. The investors have deep pockets for these encounters and wage wars of attrition.

It would take an effort by the likes of Jane Jacobs who fought development in the city of New York and won.


Bill Firschein

Santa Monica

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