There’s a new building going up in town. I know, there’s a LOT of them, but the one in particular I’m starting with is the child care facility that is being built for our city employees on the former parking lot of the Civic Center. This is a nice public benefit that we are providing to those who work so hard to keep our city running. As a family law attorney and strong advocate for both maternity and paternity leave, I think having facilities that support families is important.

I’m curious, though, as to why that development has moved seemingly so quickly through the approval and building phases. Wasn’t there supposed to be a soccer field or something built? Maybe I’m just misremembering…

The city is exploding with new development and that means that there will be denser population and mixed usages. Santa Monica will soon be extremely packed with residents, most of who will be living in multi-unit buildings and the demand on our public resources will only be increasing.

In theory, those residents will be birthing more residents, who will be utilizing our school systems, our public transportation and our parks with greater frequency. As we grow denser, we will need to provide for those public services and the burden will need to be shared among all residents to a greater degree. We can only make real property owners and businesses shoulder the burden for so long before we need to increase the prevalence of “user fees” which fall disproportionately on the lower income families in our city.

I realize that many a landlord and homeowner would agree with me that the full burden of these costs should be more equitably distributed across the community. I bet they would also like to see less government and fewer employees, as would many of the businesses who would like to have the intense regulation of all the things they do reduced.

As a city we have much to be proud of, but also much to be concerned with. The crushing debt of long-term city employee pensions is certainly an issue that demands greater scrutiny. The fact that so many of our city employees cannot afford to live here, even with their salaries topping six figures speaks to our “livability” factor. One of the many concerns I have is that this city is simultaneously restricting parking more and more, increasing the parking fees and reducing available spots.

The proposed remodel I saw of Memorial Park at 14th and Olympic appeared to be reducing parking and adding in tennis courts, at a rather steep price in my opinion. While I like the idea of having more and better parks, I also want them to be user friendly and that demands parking that is not exorbitant. Metered parking in this city is exceedingly expensive, and the revenue from parking tickets is going to cover expenses for the employees to issue parking tickets and repair the meters. The image of a snake eating itself seems most apt here.

I recognize that we need to try and balance the constant drumbeat of development with the incessant call to limit it. One look at the arc of history of any great city will show it’s a constant developmental battle and land should be put to its highest and best use. But if we take all land and make it all the highest and best use, we would have monolithic dwelling that houses humans in units. We’d be a step or two away from The Matrix, and who knows, maybe that is our future.

If that is our future, I don’t want it. I think we need to have space breathe, land for children to run free and dogs to play. It used to be we had streets and sidewalks for that. Today, we have purpose-built parks that are highly regulated and expensive to build and maintain.

We need leaders who have a wider view of what is possible, and more importantly the internal fortitude to say no to some of the development that is being proposed, and to start limiting the growth of City Hall, before we choke on our tail.

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 or 310/664-9969. You can follow him on Twitter @davidpisarra.

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