THE SMALLER THINGS ARE IMPORTANT TOO
Sunday, May 31, 2020. Has there been a worse day in our city’s history? Maybe, but not in the 34 years I’ve lived here. People were sitting at home watching it all unfold on TV, incredulous, in shock. Peaceful protest marchers (along with the few who weren’t peaceful) were attacked by our police with tear gas and rubber bullets, while massive looting downtown just a couple of blocks away went unchecked. So many family businesses destroyed, right before our eyes. Friends of mine in Spain saw it on TV there.
Something like that makes the news. What doesn’t, even here, is the day to day, creeping realization so many have that they are no longer safe in the city they love.
I won’t rehash last week’s column, and those events of May 31. But to be clear, I‘m not fear-mongering. I’m responsibility- and accountability-mongering. This is about stepping into our future by acknowledging our past, and fixing what’s wrong.
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE FOR THIS?
A petition demanding Police Chief Cynthia Renaud’s removal got 60,000 signatures within a few days. Certainly not every one of those signatories currently lives in SM, but just as certainly, a lot of them do. Our Council members have long been known for dismissing the opinions of residents who speak up — “the usual suspects.”
That was two months ago. The City Council took no immediate action. Mayor McKeown proposed the #8Can’tWait program so many cities have immediately adopted — and they decided to study it. “Don’t shoot at a moving vehicle” needs study? We’re spending six figures to hire yet another consulting firm, to study 5/31 and give a report in a couple of months. I think they don’t want to look bad by firing the Chief, because they hired her. Delay, distract — sound familiar?
THE PSYCHIC DAMAGE
To the sense of safety for all of us in this city won’t easily be forgotten. Especially if we just return to business as usual. This was a very big, very bad mistake that cannot be brushed aside with platitudes and studies. It is indicative of the direction things are going and the way this city is being run. People are reminded, usually after the fact, that elections have consequences. Well, consequences also have elections, and we’ll have one pretty soon.
It took more than 1,000 angry residents packing the Council chambers, petition in hand, in 1973 to get the City Council to listen to them and back off from their cockamamie vote to tear down the Pier and build an island in SM Bay with high end shopping, high-rise resort hotel, bridges to Malibu and LAX. (Three who voted for it who were up for reelection, were crushed.)
So this is nothing new. But it needs to change. We need, especially in these perilous times, a City Council that acts on behalf of residents first, and listens to them. All I see is business as usual.
HERE’S WHAT THE PETITION
To remove Renaud also pointed out:
“Many of us have witnessed firsthand the deterioration of the Santa Monica police force’s ability to maintain order and decency on our streets over the last few years — record numbers of burglaries and violent crimes, to willfully allowing rampant vagrancy. Based on NeighborhoodScout analytics, as of 2019, Santa Monica is only safer than 2% of all US cities on a per population basis for both violent and property crimes.”
Note it does not blame the police force. The responsibility for all this goes straight to the top, those same nine people. They all need to go.
What to do with these dire statistics? Sadly, more and more longtime residents are getting the hell out of Dodge. Not so crazy about living the wild west as soon as they step outside their front door.
THINGS ARE DONE DIFFERENTLY
In other cities. On a recent OPA zoom call one former longtime board member told about calling the police department to notify them that a very large, very unmasked party was going on across the street, as has occurred there with regularity. They were told to call Code Enforcement. At 9:00 on a Saturday night? Of course no one answered the phone.
Do you know what LA did? They recently announced that a recurrence of a large, unmasked and therefore illegal gathering would see the utilities shut off to that building. Bam!
Speaking of Code Enforcement and masks, that’s our City’s solution, finally, months too late: handing out citations. How many enforcers? The City’s web site lists 12 officers. I recently heard an SMPD officer say he thought there were eight.
But wait! They will be doing this in addition to their normal duties, including citing violations for construction/demolition, landscaping maintenance, building misuse, inappropriate parking, exceeding permitted hours of operation, illegal short-term vacation rentals, operation of home business beyond limitations, and that unimportant little thing, tenant harassment by landlords. Right. Code Enforcement? No enforcement. No safety.
Do you know what Hermosa and Manhattan Beaches did? They hired an outside firm to handle that. I’ve been saying for weeks that we should hire 100 out-of-work locals, train them and start handing out those citations like they were coupons for free chicken. Bingo. You protect your residents by putting masks on the science deniers, you raise revenue for the City, and you give people jobs.
Is it safe to continue to build, build, build, densifying our already too-dense city in a time of pandemic? Was it safe to allow scooter companies to make SM the guinea pig by dumping their product all over our sidewalks with no permission, permit, payment or parameters, with residents being permanently injured? This year the City paid out $42,600,000 to victims of sexual abuse by City employee Eric Uller. He was not the first but the third such abuser. Do you think our kids are safe? Remember the fuss over private trainers using our public parks for business, for free? Now we have tents pitched in Palisades Park and other public places, accompanied by open drug use and, ahem, fornication.
We have gained a sad reputation as the city that doesn’t enforce its laws, and guess who that draws as visitors? Ongoing. For years. Not safe. Radical change is needed.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 33 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org