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MY WRITE — For over three decades we’ve been promised a livable city as a result of sustainable smart-growth practices that adhere to a clean, safe and bright future. Instead of practical planning we get pie-in-the sky idealism and social engineering agendas that’ve turned our city into a crowded, dirty and unsustainable place.
Nowhere is that more true than in the way City Hall handles traffic. One of the first city-sponsored meetings I attended in the 1980’s was structured to sell “traffic calming” to us rubes ‚Äì promises to “reduce traffic, make our streets safer and more livable.”
The presentation presented speed bumps, planted center medians, narrowing and removing traffic lanes – all to eliminate the open road aspect and slow traffic. Curb extensions and bump outs promised more pedestrian friendly streets – and less bicycle friendly, as it turns out.
Traffic signals are deliberately timed to cycle red and repeatedly stop traffic. Stop signs are placed on major streets solely to stop cars and reduce spending ‚Äì except it too doesn’t work. Traffic roundabouts, flashing crosswalks, traffic diverters, and dedicated bike lanes have replaced driving lanes. Over thirty years, our streets have become increasingly hazardous and unfriendly obstacle courses for everyone who uses them.
It’s snarled Santa Monica traffic to the point where it has become the most congested in Southern California. It’s a monumental failure from the resident point of view but a success from the bureaucrat’s point of view ‚Äì even though numbers of cars on the road still increase annually.
Despite the gridlock, city leaders opt for more and more new development. When presented with the 142.5 acre Bergamot Area Plan which included over 2,351,000 square feet of proposed development, we were told, “It’ll generate 700 fewer car trips daily.”
When the real number of new car trips ‚Äì 23,000 ‚Äì was revealed, this changed to, “No net new p.m. (afternoon) trips.” Head shake.
My favorite myth is that “people living on/near transit routes will use mass transit and won’t own cars.” That’s just one more nugget in a constant stream of exaggeration, conjecture and outright B.S. that City Hall has been feeding us for decades.
Santa Monica’s planning policies, including the recently approved Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE), are predicated on fuzzy reasoning, wishful thing and outright fantasy.
Planners and politicians alike are embracing higher density, smaller apartments and expanded transit as the best way to deal with urban growth. Blocks of tiny, market rate apartments are supplemented by street level boutiques, wine bars, Starbucks, Subways and Chase mini-Banks. The new urbanite has everything he/she wants.
But, if you need a big hardware store or price-sensitive outlet such as Target, Costco or Walmart, better jump in your car and drive out of town. No car? Load the family onto a bus.

The current thinking is fine for young, single hipsters, but what about middle class families with children or seniors? Santa Monica’s urban planning model does nothing for them.
City Hall policy-makers consistently overlook the fact that most Americans want home ownership, good schools, low crime rates, convenient access to employment throughout the metro area and “human scale” neighborhoods.
In Santa Monica, we build apartments — thousands of them — and politicians emphasize “no condos” thus ignoring the vast majority of people who want to own homes, not rent.
Another mistake that policy makers consistently make is focusing on “creative types” to move into and work in cool Santa Monica while ignoring less glamorous or hip industries with accounting, clerical or blue collar positions ‚Äì except for hotel workers, of course. It’s cultural snobbery.
Our city, like many urban luxury centers, has seen a decline in minorities. Santa Monica’s African American and Hispanic population is shrinking as its middle class has almost disappeared. To make up for it, city leaders prioritize public housing that is only available to those on the lowest income scales recruited to move here from outside the city.
At the other end are the privately owned, single family homes and condominiums affordable to only those in the top income levels. As they are increasingly taxed to pay for our flawed social engineering programs, this housing becomes further out of reach for the average person.
Santa Monica’s regulatory and tax policies work against that very cultural and economic diversity that City Hall and its powerful Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights leadership claim is so vital.
Nevertheless, Santa Monica is a luxury city and its poorer neighborhoods are gentrifying at a fast rate. A recent example of this was a proposed Condominium project on 21st Street and Virginia Avenue scheduled to replace decades-old, rent-controlled apartments.
Wouldn’t it be better if our housing policies encouraged families, mid-income young professionals and managers of various colors and cultures who could restore real diversity and resident longevity?
The future of Santa Monica cannot continue with a planning model that only recognizes the bottom rung of the economic ladder while exploiting the top rung. We must provide the basic elements of the middle-class American dream: a wide variety of decent jobs and home ownership that’s affordable for struggling mid-level income earners, to start.

Apologies to Sue Himmelrich

In last week’s column about outsourcing City hall jobs versus employing from within, I quoted her as saying, “…this (outsourcing) is not social engineering but simply sound policy.” The “outsourcing” in parenthesis is mine, not hers, and it should have read, “…this (keeping jobs in house) is not social engineering but simply sound policy.”

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

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