I haven’t quite gotten through the entire final report online of the Santa Monica Civic Working Group, who worked hard, nearly two years to formulate a plan for revitalizing our civic center, surrounding our historic but unusable auditorium. I wonder how much a print copy would weigh, since volume one is 40 pages long, and volume two adds another 1,151?

But having attended nearly every workshop and meeting, I can tell you a couple of things. From the beginning, it was obvious the consultant team from HR&A was pushing for “mixed use” to “pay for it all,” meaning retail, office apace, restaurants, and we kept hearing about a hotel (not, do you want one? – community workshop participants overwhelming said hell no – but how tall should it be?).

The idea to include a playing field, which could be used by Samohi students across the street, was badly needed and had been planned for 10 years, was an orphan in the discussion. Even a large turnout at the last public meeting, literally hundreds of parents and students on a school night, did not convince the group to insist in their report to City Council that an athletic field be kept.

In fact, there was discussion whether or not there was even room for it, since the Early Childhood Education Center building, the wrong institution of the wrong size in the wrong place. Santa Monica College is paying $1/year rent. The center will serve as a teaching facility but will be operated by a private for-profit firm. The project has grown like Topsy over the years, even very recently expanded. But we were told that was a done deal, don’t even bring it up, for sure it is going in. I haven’t yet heard a credible explanation for that stance.

The report will be considered by Council at their Feb. 9 meeting, but now is the time to let them know how you feel, especially if you favor the open green space of an athletic field (which could also be used for other community purposes). You can write to Council@smgov.net, and manager@smgov.net, and show up to speak at the Feb. 9 Council meeting.

Right now it looks like the Council will accept the recommendation to table approval of the field. Kick it down the road again. If they wait another 10 years, the students who were promised the field when they were at Samohi will have their own children at Samohi, still waiting.

Speaking of green, LA County is in the middle of a year-long study of its parks, area by area, and it’s our turn. Santa Barbara did a “Comparative Indicators Report” for fiscal year 2015, comparing that city to 11 others in California with similar characteristics, ranging in population from Santa Cruz to Huntington Beach. On p. 22 was “Developed Park Acreage per 1,000 Population” and guess what? Santa Monica is tied for dead last, at 1.4 (now 1.45), compared to Santa Barbara’s 4.0.

So you can show up tomorrow night, Thursday, and tell the county folks what you think of those shady statistics. Civic Auditorium, East Wing, 6 – 8:30 p.m. Snacks will be served, oh yeah.


Last week, I wrote of the imminent eviction of our Main Street shoe guru, the proprietor of Alex’s Shoe Repair – “his baptism name is Ignacio Alejandro Benevides Corona (‘too long to sign on a check,’ he chuckled)” – and it seems he may have skipped a couple, while sick. But he’s got the money now.

The first rule of journalism is, get the name right. When I dropped by to look in on him a few days ago, Alex said he was pleased with the column, but gently informed me that I didn’t get it right – his name – in my first profile (in 2013) and again last week.

He pulled out his driver’s license and showed me, three out of the four names but in a different order, then told me his actual surname is none of the above (!), then proceeded to tell the story of when he first came to this country and they asked him his name and he told them about his brothers and his mother and…

I can understand why it was a problem then because I couldn’t follow it at all.

Alex is being threatened with eviction from the shop he’s been in for three decades, on the last half block of not-yet gentrified Main, just south of Pico.

A heart attack a few months ago didn’t help. (He proudly drew back his shirt to show me the small disc lump underneath his t-shirt underneath his skin, the pacemaker that keeps him alive and “doesn’t even need to have the battery changed for about 10 years,” he told me with some awe, and appreciation.

Testimony from the community might help when he goes to court Jan. 26, to soften the heart of the landlord whose building would be worth more without Alex’s Shoe Repair there. Alex said he’s already has been raised to $2,000/month and I don’t know how he manages that, especially because he charges so little. More likely, the historic building would be torn down for a newer, bigger, taller, shinier one. Alex wants to retire soon and wouldn’t stay for long anyway, but he needs a little more working time to feel comfortable about it.

You can write me (see email below) with any positive comments you have about him and his work, and why you think he’s an institution in our community who should be left where he is in his final years.

TIP OF THE WEEK: Don’t miss this. I went last year and it was so much fun. It’s Robbie Burns Night at the Daily Pint, on Pico across from Virginia Avenue Park. Owner Phil McGovern honors his Scottish heritage by honoring Scotland’s greatest poet, national hero Robert Burns (“Auld Lang Syne”). Scottish ales on tap, a mind-boggling selection of Scotch whiskeys, men in kilts (10 per cent discount plus lots of attention from the lasses), the reverential parading of the haggis and reading of Burns’ “Ode to the Haggis,” before everyone digs in with a free slice, as well as Courageous Cock a Leekie soup, Orkney Clapshot and Scotch eggs.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK (of course): “You can check-out any time you like, but you can never leave.” —Glenn Frey

Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. You can reach him at therealmrmusic@gmail.com.