Downtown Santa Monica (File photo)

CURIOUS CITY — SO MANY OF US PINE FOR THE GOOD OLD DAYS IN SANTA MONICA. For me, that was before I got involved in politics.
Oh, c’mon Charles, you’re a big boy, been around the block, been reading newspapers and watching the evening news since you were a kid, worked for Kennedy and Obama, you know exactly what politics involves, right?
Well, I’ve got a pretty good idea that raising pigs involves mud, but until you get down in it, it’s still academic.
Not that I’m really in politics. I only write about it. But that means I go to meetings, listen to speeches and candidate forums, read some interesting things and a lot of boring too-long ones, and have so many people come to me with their tips and info about this and that. As election day draws nearer, this all increases exponentially.
My life never included any of that, by choice, and my life was so peaceful. My teeth were longer (no gnashing, only noshing), my drinking only moderate. Yes, there is a dollar cost too. (Note to self: buy cheaper scotch. In the large bottles.)
I admire politicians who really, truly run and serve because they see something wrong that they believe they can and must right, and really, truly don’t have another agenda. I also like unicorns, and have seen about an equal number of those.
Phil Brock, our Rec & Parks Commission chief running for City Council, is close to that ideal. I know him pretty well, and feel an affinity because I know he would be as happy not running and not serving as I would be writing about Alex the shoe guy and the cockney bloke who runs the best bar in town, and staying miles away from the next City Council meeting. Alas, it’s not to be.
For both of us, it just got to be too much, and we felt we could no longer stand by and watch the city we love go down the sewer. So here I am. Writing this. With a shot beside me and my teeth grinding away.
I tell you a little tale of mine, then one about Brock. Neither of them earthshaking, but illustrative of the frustration one encounters and the real roadblocks to change for the better.
Monday before last I went to our main library, where I got to feel like an adult listening to preschoolers trying to manipulate their naïve peers when I attended the presentation by the OMA team responsible for designing the 12-story game changer being pushed to fruition at the corner of Fourth and Arizona Downtown.
I really am a trusting soul. But when someone stands up and gushes over the promised adult amenities of this proposed building as big as Santa Monica Place, I think, well, maybe those benefits really are more important to some people than the Manhattanization of our little beach town. Maybe being appalled by the notion of a high-rise concrete jungle, traffic-snarled, always in shadowed darkness Santa Monica is my thing, and not a concern for some others. Just because I don’t salivate over the prospect of rooftop yoga classes and strolling a path with plants 12 stories up that’s being called “a park,” and consider the trade off a bargain, doesn’t mean others don’t.
But I also know that some number of those expressing unadulterated delight for the project were likely “plants” sent by the folks who stand to make gazillions from a big, big development/not a reasonable one, on that Downtown property that belongs to the citizens of Santa Monica. Not metaphorically ‚Äì it actually is City property, bought and paid for with our money. I think we could use a nice big open park there, myself, a real park, and so do a lot of other citizens.
Time and again that night people took the microphone to call the OMA team on their disingenuous obfuscation. Many stood to praise the beauty of the design but argue that it doesn’t belong in Santa Monica. It’s too big.
For those of you who really do so very much want another happy hour place with a view, I’m sorry. Grow up. Think past next week. Move to West L.A. It’s not far. But a lot of us are going to fight very hard and long to keep Santa Monica Santa Monica, or what’s left of it. It’s not easy to fight that much money, but I know some activists here who are absolute pit bulls. My money’s on them.
There’s a group called Santa Monicans Against the Miramar Expansion and they meet every couple of weeks, guess where? The Huntley. I’ve got no problem with that. I don’t want a skyscraper Miramar either.
But they’ve been lately discussing political candidates, of course in terms of who would best serve their cause, and at their last meeting, to which they invited only candidates Kevin McKeown, Sue Himmelrich and Jennifer Kennedy, they discussed the pros and cons of various candidates. One who wasn’t there, Phil Brock, was mentioned by many in very favorable terms, with some doubts also expressed about his campaign organization and funding.
Sue Burnside, a political consultant of long experience, several times tried to insinuate that made Brock an unviable candidate, and threw out numbers that minimized how much support was being voiced for him. So, looks like we’ve got nine for McKinnon, six for Brock…
Until finally Residocracy board member Kate Bransfield couldn’t take it any more and stood and said, “if we could wave a magic wand and fully fund Phil, how many would support him?” and asked for a show of hands. According to SMart architect Ron Goldman, “maybe one, two, at most three hands were not raised,” out of 20-some in attendance. That’s a lot more than six.
Guess you’ve got to add a few mud slickers to your closet.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “There is no passion to be found playing small, in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.” — Nelson Mandela
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for almost 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at

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