The late Will Rogers, perhaps Santa Monica’s most beloved citizen even 80 years after his death, was a world-renowned vaudevillian, movie star, newspaper columnist and radio performer. How beloved? One of our beaches is named Will Rogers and his sprawling 186 acre residence nestled in the Santa Monica Mountains has been one of the most popular of California’s Parks since 1944 when it was deeded to the state following the death of Rogers’ widow. The many ocean view trails are spectacular and on Sundays from April through September the polo matches on the huge grass field is a sight to behold.
Rogers is remembered for volumes of witticisms including, “I’m not a member of an organized political party, and I’m a Democrat;” “Don’t let yesterday take up too much of today;” “There are two theories about arguing with a woman. Neither works;” and “I only know what I read in the paper.” Twitter and “The Daily Show” aside, so it is with me.
On October 29 in the Daily Press I read that our city’s coffers are overflowing by $28,000,000 more than predicted. Then, in my friend and colleague Charles Andrews’ Nov. 19 “Curious City” column, I saw where our outgoing City Manager Rod Gould’s echoed the optimism at “Santa Monica Talks Presentation” at Tongva Park. Like a motivational speaker, Gould ebulliently suggested the state of the city couldn’t be finer. “We’re on the cutting edge of everything and rolling in the dough,” a tongue in cheek Andrews reported, “and man did I sleep better that night.”
Things are so rosy that many city officials appear unwilling to see, speak or hear nary a critical word. But all may change on December 10th. That’s when the Department of Public Works’ Wendy Pietrak, Glennis Waterman and Director Karen Ginsberg will speak to residents from 6 to 7:30 p.m. in the Shores’ lobby North Meeting Room. (Sorry, already “sold out.”)
The trio (and Police Chief Seabrooks!) will answer questions regarding the slew of city-sponsored events. I hope they have mea culpa in hand. If not it might be prudent to frisk residents at the door for rotten vegetables.
The problem is that for years now, it’s as though any and every loud event somehow just has to be staged at picturesque Ocean View Park. Unfortunately it’s surrounded by the Sea Colonies and the Shores the majority of whose residents probably hope to sleep in on the weekends. Not likely unless they’re deaf.
The recent “Noise Nightmares” series of events culminated on Oct. 4 with the World’s First Vegan Oktoberfest. (Also the world’s loudest!) Apparently the city’s Community Events decided it would be a good idea to combine 3000 people, untold kegs of beer and ear-drum busting music that was so loud it was heard eight blocks away. Decibel count? Imagine an outdoor Rolling Stones concert.
The city didn’t stage the Oktoberfest by the beach with the giant speakers facing the ocean. Instead it was physically located as close to 1,500 residents as possible without actually being in their apartments and condos.
And it went on for 16 hours, if you include the equally nerve-wracking noise generated by taking the event down that lasted until 2 in the morning. Loud beeping trucks, jackhammers, steel poles clanging to the ground. Compounding matters, Police told irate, sleep-deprived residents who phoned to complain that the takedown was permitted when in fact it was for Sunday during the day! Oops.
A la Ed McMahon, “And just how loud was the music, Johnny?” From inside my apartment, I couldn’t be heard on the phone. I had to shout as l left a voice mail for Council Member Kevin Mc Keown who was so shocked by the Oktoberfest cacophony that he made a MP3 file. It circulated as did my subsequent columns on the subject and soon word spread in City Hall that something was rotten in Denmark, or at least too noisy in Ocean Park.
The sad truth is this is just one more example of the ongoing battle between residents and the city; between quality of life issues and commercial interests. With all the development in the past decade, if the battle was a boxing match it would have been stopped long ago with commercial interests winning by a resounding TKO. I don’t care that we’re $28,000,000 or whatever the figure is, in the black, somehow residents have to start coming first again. That said, I’m not holding my breath. Instead I’m writing this column.
Perhaps Rogers’ most famous quote is, “I’ve joked about every prominent man of my time. But I never yet met a man I didn’t like.” I’m not sure even good-natured Will would have been that upbeat if, while he was sleeping in on the weekend, some civil servants staged a Vegan Oktoberfest directly across the street.