WE PUT UP WITH SO MUCH
Then just grit our teeth, or shrug our shoulders, or weep quietly. Well, what can we do? The big money’s against us, and the political establishment and the legal system is stacked. We’re outgunned.
Am I talking about Santa Monica or Washington? Both. But let’s talk about Santa Monica.
When I first awoke from my slumber about local politics eight years ago, it was because I was increasingly uneasy about the changes I saw taking place here, coming in waves in this town I had settled into with appreciation and delight for a quarter century. These changes were going to eat away at and destroy what I loved about Santa Monica, and it seemed to me it didn’t have to be that way.
I was angry, and I wanted some answers. Even if it meant getting myself to marathon City Council and other meetings. (By and large a charade, I soon discovered.)
The push by outside forces to monetize what we residents hold dear had been a pitched battle for decades, with the citizen brigade winning many hard-fought skirmishes, losing others. But I discovered that many here sat up and took notice about the same time I did. Overdevelopment seemed to be suddenly on a fast track.
MY CALL TO ARMS
Was finding out our Norm’s was going to be demolished, after close to half a century of serving our community, for a five-story retail-housing complex, 100 units. Just what we needed at that already-jammed intersection, plus the train about to come through. (Adjacent projects will add a total of 663 units.)
Our Norms wasn’t just another fast food joint. There was something different, charming, and very Santa Monica about this one. I began interviewing some of the wait staff and cooks and discovered a local and a global diversity, from East LA to Ethiopia to Ecuador. The manager was from Pakistan and we wound up talking more about music than food, mostly Jimi Hendrix. He knew his stuff.
And he also provided clues as to why so many had been working there 20 years, 30, even 40. It was a place where many got their first job because the company was willing to take a chance on someone who seemed to have good character but no work experience. So hard to get that first job, for those without connections. The kind of business operation we should fight to keep, I thought.
I spoke to many patrons near the end who said their grandparents brought them there, or they hung out with friends from Samohi decades ago and were still coming back. I spoke to one couple who said they met there, got married, and always came back to celebrate big anniversaries.
SO HOW COULD THE CITY LET THIS GO?
I naively wondered. Shouldn’t there be some ordinance that prevents it? I couldn’t fault Norms for accepting an offer for some $11,000,000 from a Texas developer — with that, they were able to build three more Norms. But why wasn’t there something on the books here that would prevent such an offer from even being possible, why wouldn’t a place like this, part of the fabric of our small city for half a century, be protected from such profiteering? They were doing just fine, from all accounts, turning a nice profit. Half the time you had to wait for a table.
Is everything for sale? Everything? How silly of me. This is capitalism. It’s a privately owned business. Government can’t tell them what to do.
But… what I’m discovering more and more, when it comes to the problems our City tells us can’t be solved or can only go one way, is that there are cities somewhere else who have solved those problems. Because they enacted laws to protect, not exploit, their residents. The law is subject to interpretation, and manipulation. That’s why we have so many lawyers! Laws are written (often by lawyer-legislators) intentionally to be malleable, generally to the benefit of their friends in business. So wealthy interests, standing to make huge profits, who can hire a room full of lawyers, generally get their way.
BUT WE HAVE LAWYERS, TOO!
On staff, tons of them! Problem is, like our City Council, like our City Manager and the directed staff, they’re not working for us. They are working to execute the “vision” they have for the Santa Monica of the future (and their future ambitions). A vision which will leave our city unrecognizable, built tall and wide, outstripping its resources, with unmanageable crime and traffic, plundered of all it has always been rightfully famous for.
The city we love, the city the world loves to come to (9,000,000 visitors/yr), is fast disappearing. And most here don’t even know the half of it, what’s coming (or about to be torn down), what’s in the pipeline to surely be approved by this City Council. We are already screwed. But it ain’t over, oh no.
I think our City Council believes they are doing what’s best for us. I also think OJ really believes he didn’t do it. I think humans have an unlimited capacity for self-delusion.
We can only judge results, not intentions. And when I look at the results this City Council has given us, I want every one of them gone. They’ve had plenty of chances and on virtually every issue, especially the big one that drives everything else, the rate and scope of development, they have earned a big fat “F.” No, “F-“.
SO, TWO QUESTIONS
How do we turn these rascals out? (If we get district voting, we can do it all this November instead of having to wait another two years.) I have a notion. Just a notion, mind you, but we are desperate. I will reveal it next week.
But here’s the harder question: who is going to run that we can trust, who has sworn off Kool-ade, who will act in our best interests, always, and for more than a year or two?
That, my friends and neighbors, only you can answer, and you’d better hurry up. I think there is an earthquake building on the national political scene, and we sure need one here. Honesty, transparency, integrity and Santa Monica residents first.
QUESTION OF THE WEEK: Is that asking too much?
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “The question isn’t who is going to let me; it’s who is going to stop me?” — Ayn Rand
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 32 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com