What is a community? People and their institutions. Schools, houses of worship and government. Jobs, stores, parks, recreation, cultural events and entertainment — all are a part of the fabric that allow us to work, play, learn, communicate and live in harmony with each other, together.

In the past three decades, Santa Monica has changed from a community that was pretty much self-sufficient to a community of fashionable specialists. Growth and planning are predicated on what is “hip”, “cool” and “in.” We just don’t build office space, we build “creative” office space for the folks in the entertainment industry, who work in the electronic arts and create content for the Internet.

New developments and the companies moving into them are viewed as money and tax generators. The more revenue generated, the better. But, have we grown so big and avaricious as a community that we can no longer afford the small, independent businesses that serve our needs because they’re not hip and fail to generate massive tax or fee revenues?

Next Monday (May 25), demolition of a small industrial park at2834 Colorado Ave., at the corner of Stewart Street, will commence. “Santa Monica Gateway” (formerly known as the Lionsgate project), with nearly 200,000 square feet of “creative” office space, will replace it.

Since 1940, a variety of skilled tradesman and artisans located at that location provided valuable services that contributed to our wellbeing.

My first visit there 30 years ago was to a mechanic at the TDR Garage who had built a replica of a 1930 Blower Bentley that I had recently purchased. Because it was fabricated on a Volkswagen Bus chassis and featured lots of custom body and mechanical work, TDR was the only place that could or would repair it.

There was a genius in the same complex of sheds and garages who was a master machinist. He machined a two-speed gear shift for my 1940’s era Schwinn. Thanks to his good work, I rode that bicycle for years. Last year, Eric and Bruce at Santa Monica Plastics cut acrylic for me so I could custom-frame a number of original street art pieces purchased on a trip to London. Lucky for me, Santa Monica Plastics found a new space around the corner on Stanford Street.

There were over 30 mom-and-pop-type services at Stewart and Colorado in its heyday. The few left have been evicted and are moving out.

It reminds me of Montana Avenue 25-plus years ago with its half-dozen gas station/auto repair garages, shoe repair shops and a number of small markets. They’re all gone now, replaced by boutiques that sell $325 pajamas and $228 designer jeans.

Santa Monica policymakers don’t like the kind of non-glamorous, unhip services that contribute to a community. Example: car repair shops, smog stations, tire stores and the like are being driven out by high real estate prices and misguided planning policies.

Following them are the plumbers, heating and air conditioning firms, aquarium specialists, pool and spa maintenance services, boat repair, overhead door suppliers, welders, specialty bicycle repair, carpenters and woodworkers, window screen/shade suppliers, electricians, plasterers, iron and steel fabricators, machinists, painters, handyman operations, framing shops and more.

They’re all going to Culver City, Hollywood and San Fernando Valley. A couple are leaving the state.

I’ll bet that nobody employed in the new “Gateway” will be able to assemble a custom iron fence, carve a bannister for a wooden staircase, rebuild the alternator on your Buick or source hardware for an antique armoire. It’s a sad and lamentable loss for the community that the very skilled craftsman and tradesman who’ve served us so well for decades are becoming increasingly scarce and will soon disappear altogether.

Bloom’s sugar tax leaves a sour taste

Our Assemblyman, Richard Bloom, came up empty with his attempt to legislate a 2-cent-per-ounce sales tax on soda and other sugary beverages. Bloom’s Assembly Bill 1357 failed to pass committee last Wednesday. Yes! Pump arm!

Bloom had proposed the tax legislation to help curb high rates of obesity and diabetes, especially in children. Did he really think that the roughly 25-cent tax on a 12-ounce can of soda would deter folks from drinking sugary drinks? The problem is that these kinds of penny taxes generally don’t curb consumption. If someone has a thirst for a 16-ounce Monster or a Big Gulp, a few extra cents isn’t going to deter them.

Another major problem is that Bloom’s “nanny” tax was too simplistic because it singled out only one narrow source of sugar intake. Omitted were donuts and cupcakes, pastries, candy and ice creams and a whole roster of fattening, artery-clogging and diabetes-inducing foods and drinks. Bloom’s legislation also ignored behaviors such as exercise and levels of physical activity or a genetic predisposition to consume excessive amounts of sugar.

Demographically, many of the highest users of sugar-laden foods and beverages are lower-income individuals. AB 1357, like so much well-meaning social engineering legislation, was discriminatory and may have actually hurt the very individuals Bloom was trying to help. His soda tax would impacted them economically far more than someone with more ample means. Ultimately, the badly conceived and written bill failed by a 10-6 vote.

Except for some environmental initiatives, I’m not impressed with Bloom’s record in Sacramento. He ran virtually unopposed last year. Let’s hope, when he’s up for reelection next year, his race attracts some good competition so voters have a choice for a change.

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

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