WE ALL HAVE OUR LIMITS, AND SANTA MONICA, you’ve reached mine.

I’m tired of the petty, egocentric, corrupt politics that gets just enough good stuff done to allow Santa Monicans to still feel they live in a “progressive city.”

The tough citizens of Hollywood organized to stop construction of two completely out-of-place skyscrapers (worth near $1 billion), which would sandwich and halfway block from view one of LA’s most recognizable buildings, the Capitol Records Tower. (Also, there’s that little detail of an earthquake fault, but it looks like for now the developer has prevailed.) Here we have a whack-a-mole parade of big, tall (not that tall!) new developments coming that the overwhelmed citizenry can barely comprehend, yet we have to fight for years now just to preserve an iconic, historic mural of a peaceful sylvan scene, at a busy intersection clogged with traffic, because a handful of people want a new mural in its place, right there, yup, that’s the only place for it (issue still not resolved).

Just last week, according to former residents of the Village Trailer Park who say there is video of the destruction, 120 trees, planted in the early ’50s, were bulldozed from the property. Not replanted. Just knocked down, cut up and hauled off. 120. Even if it was legal according to the Development Agreement for that property, what kind of City Council approves a DA that allows it? It seems sadly unnecessary. Not to mention, of course, all the residents who have been bulldozed (not quite literally).

France just passed (unanimously) a law forcing supermarkets to stop destroying expired food items and instead donate them to food banks to feed the hungry. Several city governments in California support the work of church/synagogue coalitions to feed the hungry, while in Santa Monica it sometimes seems our City staff is more intent on finding ordinances that discourage such activities. (I know, I know, it’s a complicated and volatile situation here and has been for decades.)

Cities around the world, for more than 30 years, go all out to support Make Music Day every June 21, and Make Music LA has their mayor, council members and county supervisors, neighborhood associations and all manner of arts groups on board as sponsors, while in Santa Monica we have to plead to get our City Hall behind even token support.

Millions from City coffers for early childhood education (good!), but in an oversized (and still growing) building in the wrong location, and given over to for-profit interests, not so good. But when we try to find ways to turn our shuttered Civic Auditorium and its grounds into an arts center, we’re told by city-paid consultants that the City has no money for that and we must do so by building hotels, mixed use retail, office space and/or apartment/condo high rises.

Admittedly, we’re a better city now than when 1,500 mostly minority families were displaced for the construction of the end of the 10 freeway in the mid-’60s. But somehow that doesn’t make me feel better.

SO THAT’S IT FOR ME. I decided last weekend to pack up and move to San Pedro, a small town by the ocean with similar population and area and also a long and colorful history. Much longer, really; “Two Years Before the Mast” was written about docking there in the 1830s, the Spanish explorers were using it as a port in the mid-1500s, and the Tongvas settled there thousands of years before that.

Upton Sinclair was arrested there in 1923, at Liberty Hill, for reading from the Constitution during a longshoreman’s strike, and more recently Pedro had its own unique punk scene, anchored around the Minutemen and Saccharine Trust and the Dancing Waters club.

You can call it Pedro, or San Pedro, but you have to say “Pee-dro” like the folks who live there, not “Pay-dro,” or they may run you out of town.

Life in Pedro has always revolved around the sea, and the really diverse population of Italians, Mexicans, Croats, Japanese, Serbs, Scandinavians and Greeks reflects that fishy history. The Port of Los Angeles is the busiest container port in the Western Hemisphere, and that huge operation was almost in Santa Monica, until a political battle at the end of the 19th century settled it in Pedro’s “favor.” So now you get to gaze across a gorgeous open sea at Malibu and Catalina Island, instead of an endless parade of huge white cruise liners and container ships and a forest of gigantic loading cranes (that always somehow remind me of the Martian machines in “War of the Worlds”).

I get a kick out of reading their proudly progressive Random Lengths newspaper (since 1979), but I also read two pieces this weekend that showed me another side of that area. In San Pedro Today magazine, a columnist who must have missed or ignored the whole debate about the Stars and Bars, defended the Confederate flag as primarily a proud symbol of Southern heritage, and a newswire piece run on the front page of the Daily Breeze area newspaper actually defended Walter Palmer and trophy hunting as the one thing that keeps the rest of the endangered animals alive, through the revenue it generates. Not correct, and yikes.

The arts scene is thriving, and some Bergamot refugees will likely end up there. Gnarly writer Charles Bukowski, when he got famous enough that he could live anywhere, moved to San Pedro. Nuff said.

I’m pulling your collective legs a bit; the tag always at the end of my column still holds true, “wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really” But I do get discouraged sometimes, and it did feel like I was moving when I had to sort through everything I own and double bag or haul out to two cars anything remotely ingestible, for the invasion of the termite tenters. And then rewind the process two days later. We stayed at my wife’s family home on the hill there, and got a great pot roast dinner to boot.

Pedro’s cool but it will have to wait. I haven’t given up on Santa Monica yet. But we can do better, can’t we?

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “A newspaper is not just for reporting the news as it is, but to make people mad enough to do something about it.” – Mark Twain

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 therealmrmusic@gmail.com

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