YOU DIDN’T GIVE IT MUCH THOUGHT
(In this metaphor) – when several neighbors heard a loud knock on their door, late at night, and were taken away and arrested. For littering.
Yes, the notion that littering was the linchpin problem facing this fast-deteriorating planet, had gained a lot of traction. (A lot of people are not good at thinking things through for themselves, especially things that come from a source they want to believe.) Very quickly, many were repeating it, few were questioning it, and those who did were mocked, shamed for not wanting to save the planet. Many politicians pushed the idea, in stentorian tones.
You never littered, so… someone else’s concern.
But then, in a rare unconscious moment, you flipped a gum wrapper out your car window, and someone reported you.
Days after your arrest, the state legislature decided, California being always a leader, especially in environmental matters, that the only way to stamp out that dangerous littering scourge was to exact the most severe penalty. The death penalty.
So now, here you are, standing on a scaffold, and as they put a hood over your head and a rope around your neck, you wonder – what are my options?
Yes, it is a little late for that.
IS THAT WHERE WE STAND NOW?
As residents of the city of Santa Monica, with monstrously tall and wide (and ugly) buildings being approved, spawning fortune-making progeny for a few but draining the wealth and soul out for the many.
Am I going overboard? Some would laugh, yes, but many here would shed a tear at the harsh reality. Things have changed rapidly and many are in mild shock over the huge project going in at Lincoln and Ocean Park, following the Vons and the inching-skyward Great Wall of Lincoln.
Why is this happening, so quickly, now? Money, great big huge piles of money, and don’t let anyone tell you differently. How? Thank Sacramento, for radical recent legislation like SB 9 and 10 that removes so much local control from every city over their own zoning, all in the name of that made-up housing shortage. But the string of developer-friendly bills has been trickling from the north for years. It’s just gotten bolder lately, using homelessness and a made-up housing crisis as the social causes that no caring person could dispute.
Of course, my opening metaphor was exaggerated, even kind of silly sounding. But reality is catching up. Developers already had a pretty free rein from some local politicians who helped them PAC in the density, but now it has been codified. Our options are being removed, by law. The new laws are particularly onerous, but we’ve seen this trickle south from Sacramento for years.
DON’T SWALLOW THAT LINE
Is it hopeless now? It’s never hopeless! If the Ukrainians can risk their lives to fight the Russian army, I think we can fight for Santa Monica.
But we spend too much time fighting the wrong battles. It’s not an accident. It’s an old, old tactic, used by everyone from Vlad Putin to local “advocates” for the homeless. Frame the dispute in sympathetic, humanitarian, liberal progressive terms, that makes anyone who opposes you look like the bad guy.
Sometimes, the folks “on the other side” really do believe the nonsense they’re spouting, but don’t be ashamed, don’t be distracted. Call them on it, and reframe the debate.
I will never forget the angry, moving speech delivered through tears by Emma Gonzales, one of the Parkland students who survived, shortly after that horrific day of carnage. She called out a string of platitudes and excuses as to why nothing could be done about the endless string of mass shootings we suffer in this country, and each time the crowd roared with her: “We call BS!”
It’s true, I believe. You will never win the argument and make change if you are going round and round about some distraction. Putin is doing it now, with baloney about Nazis and “genocide in the Eastern provinces” (but not a shred of evidence). The GOP are masters at it, and are blaming this war on Biden because he stopped the Keystone Pipeline and is buying that hoax about climate change. Gov. Newsom is jerking our chains about a housing crisis. Don’t get caught up in thinking they really believe it and it is just a difference of opinion. If they do believe it, they bought someone else’s BS, or are being used as a pawn for their good intentions. No matter what, just don’t accept the BS. Call it out.
SOME LOCAL EXAMPLES
“We must build many, many more housing units, to get the price down to affordable. Supply and demand.” I CALL BS! Supply and demand is irrelevant in places like Santa Monica that are so desirable to so many. More new market rate units, to get that handful of “affordable” units as incentive, just raises the price on everything, including existing stock. Ask any local real estate agent. If anyone even mentions S&D in that debate, I can’t help but laugh.
“We need to execute our entire master plan for new buildings at Samohi, for the best learning opportunities for our students for the future.” I CALL BS! Bond measures now totaling well over a billion dollars in the last few years, can ONLY be used for buildings. Maybe we need to pay more attention to great teachers inside those buildings. And maybe we didn’t need to demolish the historic History Building (WPA), the original Samohi on the hill, since the final accounting revealed they had one new building too many in that plan. Why? Declining enrollment was not disclosed until a parent discovered it. Every preservation expert and two thorough professional studies recommended preserving that building. It would have made a great library. Transparency and listening to constituents seems always the right way to go.
“The only way we can get the affordable housing we so desperately need is to demand that developers include it.” I CALL BS! For so many reasons, that is perhaps the worst, least efficient way to do it. Sure works great for developers, though.
“1000 page agendas” – “No assistants for ridiculously overworked City Council members” – “Council meetings that go from 5:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.” – “Insufficient training for newly elected members, to a highly complex and demanding job” – and much more. I CALL BS!
“Your City Council is going to spend many millions of dollars to fight district elections, a terrible, terrible thing (because it weakens our ability to be re-elected), we’re hiring an outside law firm to represent us, one of the most expensive in the world, but we won’t tell you how much it is costing you.” I CALL BS! but this is only one of seemingly endless instances of fiscal waste by our Council and our School Board. Shall we mention the half a billion dollar pension time bomb we’ve done little to address?
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 36 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at firstname.lastname@example.org