Pardon me if I don’t cue my violin and sing the praises of the so-called “community” group Santa Monica Forward as it launches its altruistic crusade to create a “progressive, sustainable, diverse and inclusive” future for our city. Oh, how valiant they are, these supporters of developers, to take on such a noble cause and save the less fortunate among us by supporting thousands of new Tier 3 housing units and all the ground floor retail goodness those projects would surely bring to the benefit of us all. Who could question the purity of their mission as they strive to create their vibrant new Santa Monica, which is oh-so-threatened by evil resident advocates and Residocracy upstarts who dare raise a lance to oppose them? Why wouldn’t we herald these dedicated-to-development Davids in their golden quest to counter an angry army of resident Goliaths?
We will not because residents are smart enough to know the story rings hollow. Santa Monica Forward is a group of pro-development, high-density proponents attempting to put a “community” face on profiteering. Its mission is a sham; its promises are hollow. It is merely the latest act in a much broader campaign to enlist support for a pro-development agenda designed to counter true grassroots gains made by residents who make up Santa Monica’s real community groups: Wilmont, Northeast Neighbors, Mid-City Neighbors, Friends of Sunset Park, NOMA, OPA, PNA, Santa Monica Coalition For a Livable City, and now Residocracy.
The mission statement of Santa Monica Forward is some of the best “Think-Speak” since Orwell’s “1984.” What’s “progressive” are the progressively higher profits developers stand to make unless residents see this group for who it really represents: developers who care about maximizing profits and nothing else. There is nothing forward-thinking about the deception of politicians and builders whose past promises have delivered us the urban sprawl we now grapple with every day. This group speaks loftily of “diversity” and “inclusiveness” but closes its Facebook page and breeds divisiveness as it strives to divide us, our older from our young. And their “sustainability” will sustain only the profit margins from dozens of new projects that would further drain our water and choke our air and our streets with more traffic.
Their urban policy shills preach the need for more buildings with less parking, claiming more parking attracts more cars. They argue Santa Monica’s population has stayed relatively static for decades at around 90,000, but neglect to mention our dayside population routinely expands to three times that number. They support another 5,000 housing units in our already dense city and say everyone will just ride a bike or the new Expo or the Big Blue Bus (with its shiny new blue stools) on Wilshire Boulevard. I’ve never seen one of their designer-suit developer friends on a bus or a bike. And here’s one final inconvenient truth: Very few of those who truly need the housing Santa Monica Forward and their chorus of development brethren pant to build will ever be able to afford the market-rate housing units they strive to stack in our city like so many sardines in a can.
So, no, our horns are not trumpeting their arrival. They’ve been here all the while. And we’ve heard their song before.
John C. Smith is a Santa Monica resident.