We all knew it was going to happen – the plot of land next to the moribund bowling alley is just too valuable. The “Pending Demolition” paperwork has been posted on 216 Pico. Currently it’s a two-story office complex and adjacent parking lot. It’s a relic of those old courtyard style buildings with some parking underneath the second floor. Whatever circuitous route this latest development project takes, in the end it will likely be some horrid mixed-use box with green and yellow “architectural art.”

The sad but true reality is that this current usage of the land is not the “highest and best” use of it. That phrase is a maxim of the law. Land should be put to its “highest and best use” for the good of the community. We learned that phrase in law school years ago, and in general it works well.

However, just because the building and the land should be redeveloped doesn’t mean that I have to like it. I’d much prefer the city to remain small and quaint. That won’t happen though.

My wistfulness for a beach culture of the community is a throwback to a time when our country was more polite, more genteel and frankly people were more connected to each other. Today we lose ourselves in the latest app on our phones and don’t engage with each other over pizza and root beer.

I remember being a kid playing video games at the bowling alley. I know it sounds hypocritical for me to say that I played video games, and simultaneously think phone apps are bad – but hear me out. When I would play Galaga or Ms. Pac Man oftentimes one of my friends would be over my shoulder watching and “coaching” me. Oftentimes we’d switch roles and he’d play while I shouted instructions. I don’t see that level of interaction amongst people today as they play Candy Crush while sitting in Congress listening to the State of the Union, or on a bus riding to the beach.

I know it is inevitable for things to change, for buildings to be torn down and built up. Population increases, land value inflation and the need for more housing are driving the transformation of Santa Monica. It will be worse when the airport closes and the building codes change. When it is built out, and the inevitable multi-use, buildings get approved there, (and don’t doubt for a second that it won’t happen and I don’t want to hear any complaints from those who were so sure it was “just going to be a park” – yeah right! Can I buy a bridge from you as well? ) the traffic will be that much worse on all those side streets.

As a divorce lawyer I counsel others on accepting the changes in their lives, whether they asked for them or not. I’ve noticed that even when people want the changes they’ve asked for, there is often an ambivalence about giving up the old life. As an expert in telling people that it’s the resistance to change, not the change itself that creates the stress, you’d think I’d have an easier time accepting change – but no. Maybe because I see so much change, I am more resistant than others to accepting it. I desire the consistency of some things in my life, because so many other parts of it are always in flux.

I’ve said it before, and all we really need to do is look to history and other cities, the natural bent of cities to become more compacted and built up. Our future is to look more like Manhattan Beach. We will have the density of Venice Beach one day soon. The developers call it progress. Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t, but in any event it’s our turn now, and we will have to learn to deal with it. Though I still don’t like it.


David Pisarra is a Los Angeles Divorce and Child Custody Lawyer specializing in Father’s and Men’s Rights with the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist.  He welcomes your questions and comments.  He can be reached at dpisarra@pisarra.com or 310/664-9969.You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra