I ALWAYS WIND UP HATING IT when I chat with someone who knows more about Santa Monica history and politics than I do, as I did recently. I crave increasing my knowledge and understanding, but I get so depressed.
This was such a great little town, historic beach town, where mighty Wilshire reaches the sea, the end point of America’s highway, Route 66 (now the 10 Freeway), the focus of the California dream. Boldly bordered off almost 150 years ago from the beast-on-the-east LA because of its citizens’ sense of place and history. And vision that it was different here, an oasis from the surrounding urban sprawl, and should always preserve that special quality.
Our predecessors built our own schools, parks, libraries, police and fire, transit, water supply, hospitals, infrastructure. And City government. And alas, that has been our downfall, at times.
I’ve seen things change dramatically in the last five years but this is still in so many ways a great little beach town, now inevitably larger and modernized. And that’s OK. No one could expect Santa Monica to still be populated with only turn-of-the-last-century bungalows, courtyard apartments and mom and pop stores. We’re not a museum; we’re a vital, growing, 21st century community. We have modernized, mostly within reason, and built out as we’ve moved along.
But there are those who see us, especially now as land prices here have insanely skyrocketed, only as a vein of gold to be mined and abandoned, debris be damned, and it seems to me that they are using other well-intentioned but naive people and groups for their own purposes.
There are unfortunately those who are willing tools of unscrupulous developers, for whatever their reasons: money, power, ego. And there are many, I’m sure, who sincerely believe in their own vision — of the future, of modern urban planning, of regional responsibilities, of new transport solutions, of pressing but conflicting needs. But those who don’t consider first the people who already live here and how Santa Monica is unique, have a different vision than mine.
A vision which does not include open skies and sea breezes unobstructed by high rises, adaptive reuse of what’s already here, more parks and trees and fewer offices, a city you can traverse in less than half an hour, effective (not elective) efforts to preserve and increase our rapidly dwindling diversity and real affordable housing, an acknowledgement that we have already much more than met our “regional” obligations for housing, realizing that we can maintain our excellent City services with wise investments, not developer giveaways that leave us with peanuts, and that our severe shortages of water, power, police and fire protection and drivable streets (for starters) must be solved for the population we already have, before we add to those problems.
It should be obvious that our City Council, Commissioners, and staff are there first and foremost, and perhaps only, to serve the residents of Santa Monica. Am I wrong? What am I missing?
Are they there to serve outside developers who want to make an absolute killing and give little back in return, except lasting damage and ugliness? Are they there to serve the citizens who aren’t here yet, the ones who will come from West LA and Qatar and Buenos Aires if we build enough condos for them? Are they there to serve the “community members” who work here but don’t live here? Are they there primarily to further their political careers?
Are they there to build a dense, high rise extension of Los Angeles because… well, really, why would you? Los Angeles in all its glory is already there. I don’t get to tell LA what to do by voting in their elections, do I? We have our unique problems to solve, for the people of Santa Monica, and that’s what I elected my City officials to do.
We are a lovely, highly desirable destination for so many reasons, and our huge numbers of daytime visitors prove that much of LA and the world want to come here for what we are now and what we have always been. Why would you want to radically change that, when you don’t need to? Have you not heard the tale of the goose that lays the golden egg?
Sometimes it is clear there are constituencies other than our citizens who are being served by our elected officials, and that’s depressing because people, usually out of ignorance, often vote against their own best interests at election time. The vast majority of Santa Monicans seem to either be uninformed or (intentionally) misinformed about issues that will greatly affect them, or they simply don’t care. They don’t care until they see that 12-story building going up, or realize traffic is now trapping them here after 2:30.
I feel very few of our elected or appointed officials are what I would deem “bad guys,” — just misguided. But many voters here are looking to sweep the rascals out. Given recent history, that will be difficult. How about a miracle instead? The leaders we’ve already got — recognize the error of their ways.
I believe in miracles. (You sexy thing…)
ALMOST OUT OF TIME…
“Sneaky Ole Time” at the Ruskin, at the airport, is due to close (for now) after this weekend and next. But I predict a future for it, as do some folks at CAA, and others who have gotten involved.
Two times was not enough for me so I went again last Friday, and met for a drink and chat with the man who wrote the most clever and funny book, Steve Mazur, a lifelong screen writer (“Liar, Liar,” “The Crooked E”). I got to compare notes with him from a different writing perspective (we’re both scared to death of attempting a novel), and learned a lot about how different and demanding screenwriting is. He has long been an instructor in UCLA’s Writer’s Program.
Sitting next to him at the performance, I got a kick out of seeing him smile at his own funny lines. Although I’m nowhere near his class (so to speak), I could relate.
I talked with someone else who was seeing it that night for the third time, and at an earlier show overheard someone remark that it was their fifth time. You better go now – you’re way behind.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “Music is forever; music should grow and mature with you, following you right on up until you die.” – Paul Simon
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 firstname.lastname@example.org