MY WRITE — Two weeks ago (Oct. 13, 2014) I wrote about a new apartment building proposed for

500 Broadway at Fifth Street (formerly Fred Segal) that was before City Council fordevelopment agreement review the following night.

The developer DK Broadway, LLC wants to build a massive, seven floor (84 foot high) mixed-use development with 262 apartments (264,150 sq. ft.), 65,200 sq. ft. of ground floor/subterranean commercial space and four-levels of subterranean parking for 577 vehicles.The project will be two blocks from the Expo Light Rail terminal at Fourth Street and Colorado Avenue.

Two dozen people addressed council and all were for the project. There were no dissenters. I was wondering where the usual slow-growthers fromResidocracy.org, Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City and the various neighborhood groups were.Maybe they felt this was a done deal – and it sure smelled like it – and a waste of time or liked the project and didn’t bother to show up and comment.

The speakers ranged from a mix of business types from Downtown Santa Monica, Inc and the Chamber of Commerce, to a contingent of younger citizens who talked about connectivity, bicycle and pedestrian access. More than one commenter couldn’t wait to move in and a few mentioned the convenience of a new food market for light shopping when walking home from their Expo Line commute.

Some folks liked that the developer was willing to pay for and build 27 units of low income or “more than the required” housing.Other speakers reveled in the community benefits – retail space, rooftop solar panels, landscaping and courtyards – confusing development amenities with community benefits.

Nobody mentioned the cumulative effect of four new developments in this immediate neighborhood like a 65 apartment, six floor building slated for across the street at 501 Broadway and the two tourist-class hotels with 279 rooms under construction a half block away at Fifth Street and Colorado.

Despite the enthusiasm for walking, biking and riding the train, the Downtown traffic and congestion that will result are, once again, being ignored. Me thinks our politicians and planners still believe the old myth about “no net new car trips.”

Council’s unanimous vote on this separated the real slow-growthers (who were home probably watching Animal Planet) from the poseurs on the dais who say they’re for slow growth but can’t say, “Smaller, please.”

The development has to navigate a lengthy review process including public meetings, Planning Commission and City Council, again. Although there might be some minor tweaks along the way, what you see now is what you’ll get when the project is finished. Welcome to the new Santa Monica.

 

Yes on Prop. 45

I’m pretty well finished with recommendations on who and what to vote for come election day.However, one State measure, Proposition 45 on healthcare Insurance rate changes, caught my eye.

It requires approval by the California Insurance Commissioner before any insurance company can change (raise) its rates or do anything else that would affect health insurance charges. The measure would grant the commissioner authority to deny unreasonable rate increases. This has the insurance companies pouring millions of dollar into a “No on 45” campaign.

The proposition from Consumer Watchdog is similar to their 1988 Proposition 103 which imposed similar approvals for auto and property insurance rate changes.

There is only one caveat: Covered California warns that Prop. 45 could negatively affect its ability to negotiate rates with insurers.Consumer Watchdog counters that commissioner oversight won’t disrupt the rollout of the (Obama) Affordable Care Act in California.

Want to hold the costs of your health insurance? “Yes” on Prop. 45.

 

Lost school revenues

Last Monday I mentioned that the DoubleTree Hotel on Fourth Street in the Civic Center may owe the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District money – lots of money – on uncollected rents. The hotel is on school property and its lease involves a fixed rent payment and an additional percentage rent based on hotel “profits.”

Since the lease was signed in 1987, DoubleTree’s owners claim no percentage rent is owed because the hotel hasn’t (ever) been profitable. They’ve not provided the district with any financial data to back-up their claims of annual losses. Worse yet, district administrators have apparently never asked for a financial statement or audits of their tenant’s books.

School Superintendent Sandra Lyon and Associate Superintendent/Chief Financial Officer Janece Maez have not responded to my email inquiring about their investigation into rent monies owed and attempts at collection thus, stonewalling the public’s right to information, as usual.

It now seems that the school board might not be following up to see if rent monies are due. I spoke with several school board members and got different stories about what happened in a closed session discussion. A consultant has been hired to look into the situation but we don’t know if pursuing old revenues are part of the plan.

Who’s getting hurt by all this? Our kids and their education because revenues left on the table mean less resources in the classroom.

After an underfunded teacher pay raise, on March 12, 2001, the district’s Financial Oversight Committee Chair Michael Rich told the school board, “Over the last 20 months the financial crisis has become a crisis of competency and credibility, requiring fundamental reforms of serious systemic problems.”

Thirteen years later, the “serious systemic problems” are still with us with more to come.

Bill can be reached atmr.bilbau@gmail.com

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