OH MY GOODNESS…
That’s way too heavy a topic for lunch on a gorgeous day at the beach, isn’t it?
Let’s just nibble on some cool salad. Maybe with a couple of delicate, perfectly grilled slices of Kobe beef on the side.
By now y’all probably know I love basketball right up there with the big three, sex and drugs (scotch/whiskey) and rock and roll. I love it for so many reasons and can argue soundly that it is superior to every other sport. Except perhaps pickleball.
So for me, last Wednesday, Kobe’s 60-point night in his last game ever, was pure heaven. It was without question one of the most remarkable occurrences in all sport, ever.
That same night, another amazing record was set, but Kobe’s wild night bumped it out of the spotlight. Up in Northern California, the Golden State Warriors broke the record everyone thought was untouchable: Michael Jordan’s Chicago Bulls season record of 72-10. The Warriors went 73-9, and never lost two in a row, something never done. Wizard Steph Curry finished the game with more than 400 3-pointers in a season – no one had even hit 300 before.
I love Steph. He’s a loose, laughing, dancing magician, a little guy for basketball at 6’3, 190 and there’s never been his like. I am a lifelong Lakers fan, but when Jim Buss completely ruined in 18 months his late father’s work of a lifetime in building the Lakers’ name, I bailed and became a Warriors fan. I will stay away as long as Jim Buss is in charge.
OK, LUNCH IS OVER
And the war is on. War? Charles! – a bit incendiary. For the soul of our city – hyperbolic?
Well, sadly, I don’t think so, and neither do a lot of folks who have lived here longer than my 30 years and have seen plenty of shenanigans. If you’re not convinced, you will be in five years or so when you look around at “the new Santa Monica” and wonder how our horizontal, sunny skies beach town went high rise, in the shade and too much like Manhattan (but lacking a Central Park).
Maybe you’re not aware of the tsunami of development that is coming our way. How about a 12-story behemoth (maybe a little less) in the middle of Downtown, on land paid for and belonging to we the people, but being turned over to a private developer for a relative song? It seems like not the right direction or right anything to many of us residents, yet our City Council loves it and is scrambling to make small adjustments they think will make it acceptable, before approving it outright. Did I mention we have an 84′ height limit Downtown?
Many who live here think that linchpin public property should be a plaza-like, mostly open space showcase, beautifully representing Santa Monica for all the residents and our millions of visitors, as nearly every great city around the world has in its downtown. Instead, it would be as big as a football field stood on end. The signature joke is that open areas on the upper floors are being touted as “open space” available to all Santa Monicans – you know, parks, only six stories up. Great views. Grab your kids and the soccer ball and a picnic lunch and hop on the elevator, we know you all will.
There’s a 12-story office complex at 4th and Wilshire, built 1981, that sold itself partly on the attraction of the wonderful open area in front that would be available to all Santa Monicans, the gift of open space, an iconic gathering spot. When’s the last time you drove by and saw anyone just hanging out and enjoying the sun there?
Also moving forward are 15-, 21- and 22-story hotels within four blocks on Ocean Avenue. (Ahem – 84′.) One of them is an iconic design by our own world-famous Frank Gehry. Many think the Downtown behemoth I mentioned above is a beautiful design. Many think the 21-story white tower at 100 Wilshire, built in 1971, is beautiful. No doubt we could fill our limited skyline with beautiful tower after tower. But some of us think tall waving palm trees, sunshine, sea breezes and open sky are the most beautiful of all, precious and irreplaceable, and what Santa Monica has been known for for nearly a century and a half. You can’t have both.
And that’s what it comes down to. You can’t have both. This war did not just begin. It’s been going on for at least half a century. In the early ’70s there were plans marching forward to line our beach with high-rise apartment buildings just like the two we now have right on the sand (but it was stopped at two). There were serious plans to tear down the pier to make way for a bridge to an island to be built in the middle of our bay, with a luxury hotel (1500 rooms) and high-end restaurants and shopping, and a bridge from the island out to Malibu and another to LAX. People organized and rose up to preserve their beach town, 1,000 people showed up at a City Council meeting, the Council backed down (and was voted out of office).
Personally, I am in favor of measured, sustainable growth. We have so much we can add to our city without going up and going overboard, that will maintain our standing as a beach community that all the world still wants to visit. Be careful of choking that golden tourist goose we so rely on for revenue.
There are so many issues that people get caught up in. Height, density, transit, housing, resources. So many important things to consider, but consider this.
Neither side is wrong. Neither side is bad. It always comes down to your vision for Santa Monica. Your vision determines how you feel about all the related issues.
I spoke recently to a local who said, “I’m from Manhattan, I like high rises!” Then why didn’t you move to downtown L.A. and let Santa Monica remain a low-rise beach town? “Because I like living at the beach.” I disagree with his reasoning, but he’s not wrong. Different vision.
It doesn’t have to be war. I hope we can work together to find compromise, with civility. But it’s getting pretty nasty out there.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “No one goes there anymore. It’s too crowded.” – Yogi Berra
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 30 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com.