Politics is inspirational, a joy, life affirming.
— no, wait a minute, I think I’ve got that backwards.
Here’s something else I’ve got backwards: too much politics in my life lately, need more music.
I had a great run of music week before last, to which I alluded in my last column, and if we’re both lucky I’ll get around to that in this column, because there’s not much I like talking about more than great music. It’s why I got into that biz and kept at it for four decades.
I got sucked in (great benefits, but low pay, I learned later), my sophomore year at UNM. After concluding that my double majors of Psychology and Political Science did not explain the world to me, I switched to Journalism. (Having esteemed journalist/mystery author Tony Hillerman as the department chair didn’t hurt.) I immediately grabbed the desk of Arts & Media Editor at the UNM Lobo (fourth largest newspaper in the state). I got tons of free vinyl, great seats at great concerts, interviews with fascinating artists, and the daunting task of responsibly, knowledgeably, reporting and critiquing. I loved it. Turning people on to great music they might otherwise miss has been, in a way, my life’s mission. I also produced a cable TV show right here in Santa Monica, 75 episodes, had an FM radio show, managed a band, ran a tour service to live music nightclubs and wrote for many local and national publications, in print and online.
I worked on my high school paper before that. Sports, mostly. But I always had an interest in current events. I “read” the newspaper with my Pop since before I could read, snuggled into his ample lap. The family watched the evening news every night during dinner. I knew that Democrats were good, Republicans not so good, socialized medicine was terribly bad, and FDR was a hero for the ages. (My views have changed on one of those.)
I got almost every question right on our weekly current events quizzes at school. I loved them. I knew where most countries were and their leaders and could name every member of the Cabinet. In grade school. Can you imagine? Now, most college students can’t tell you who our Vice President is.
So it’s no wonder that I grew into a political beast. I feel it’s a civic obligation to be informed, but I don’t love it, even less on the local level. I didn’t start going to City Council meetings or even know for sure who the mayor was for my first quarter century in Santa Monica. Then about six years ago, I could no longer ignore the terrible ways in which my beloved adopted town was changing, and I wanted some answers, dammit.
I’m still looking for them, but I have, through literally countless hours of reading, watching boring broadcasts, attending all sorts of meetings and talking to all sorts of people here, come to some conclusions.
Nothing groundbreaking, folks, but the common sense seems to get lost in the noise
of the warring factions here. And believe me, that’s just the way the developers want
- It’s no accident.
It kept nagging at me. How can I argue with good ideas I believe in? What’s missing here? I approve of green and sustainable, I want people to be able to bike and walk safely and have true mass transit, I support unions, I cherish our traditional diversity here that gentrification is destroying. I know we need to prepare and build for the future.
But you can’t isolate these good ideas, in a community already so densely packed. With a population of 94,000, we welcome more than 8 million visitors a year. That’s crazy. You have to account for it all, before you consider adding more. The people with the good principles, I feel, are blinded by their enthusiasm and are not looking around and acknowledging what’s already here, how strained our resources are. We can do it, just not so fast.
All the good arguments for overdevelopment ignore the elephant in the tiny Downtown condo. We are already jammed, we have so much in the pipeline, we have limited resources (especially water), our traffic is rapidly grinding to a standstill, we have a light rail now so those who work or play in Santa Monica don’t have to live here. And yet the chorus rises up from throats paid to sing — We need more! — joined by well-intentioned futurists. Our City Council nods, and approves. And the voices of those who live here are not heard, many feel. And so, Measure LV becomes needed, desperately needed.
THE PLATINUM COAST
Real estate on the ocean is gold, no, platinum. Everybody on the planet wants a view of the ocean (exaggerating only slightly). And we are LA’s beach town. Follow Wilshire to the sea and you’ll be looking up at the statue of Saint Monica. A million people would move here tomorrow if there was housing. But only the well-off could afford it. The sales and rental prices of homes are not going to drop, even if you build 100,000 more units here tomorrow. Yet some people praise and back too-large projects because developers have thrown in a handful of “affordable” homes.
Here’s the way it works. Some entity owns property here. The greatest return is to build as high and dense as possible. Said property owner reasons, I can’t just come out and say I want to build inappropriately to Santa Monica so I can make millions, so what do I say? I say low flush toilets, I say no new car trips, I say whatever it takes to get the folks who do have great principles on my side, ignoring the immovable fact that more, even if it flushes less, is still more. Water doesn’t grow on trees. We don’t have the kind of regional mass transit yet that allows people to abandon their cars.
Look first at what’s already here, build reasonably and truly sustainably while maintaining our low profile. Palm trees, not high rises and concrete canyons, against an open sky — that’s Santa Monica.
You see? Once again, music gets squeezed out. That’s not right. “Music is Life,” not politics. But what are you going to do? I love this town too much to not try to do something to keep it livable and lovable.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “What you don’t do can be a destructive force.” — Eleanor Roosevelt
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 firstname.lastname@example.org