History: Santa Monica High School as it looked in 1919. The pictured building collapsed in the 1933 Long Beach earthquake. Courtesy photo

HERE I GO AGAIN

With the promise of a list I just can’t fulfill.

So many blessing to living in sunny Santa Monica on the bay, and I count them every day. But, so many things missing, that threaten those blessings as never before.

Even though I’m a new kid here, compared to some, with only 36 years at the same address in Ocean Park, I know a little history. (Though not as much as Marty Liboff or Richard Orton.) I know there were plenty of reasons why famed oilman turned novelist Raymond Chandler, in the ‘30s, chose our charming beach town as the setting for many of his crime and corruption detective novels starring hard bit PI Phillip Marlowe, and called it Bay City. Shabby town, crooked town, sun, sin, seduction and second wives, gambling…

Oh, the gambling! What an incredible part of our history. Endless streams of small boats shuttling from our Pier to a fleet of big gambling ships anchored just past the three-mile international waters line, untouchable by U.S. law. Thousands of gamblers per ship, 24/7, made ex-con Tony Cornero a very wealthy man. When it finally came crashing down after a decade, he had taken on multiple mayors, police forces, CA Attorney General Earl Warren (later U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice), and finally escaped without charges. His notion of courting middle-class gamblers, not high rollers, and offering a “wholesome” atmosphere with entertainment and free food, became the blueprint for Las Vegas. Way to go, Santa Monica!

WE’VE CLEANED UP OUR ACT HERE

Ha. Now our corruption is hidden behind pious pronouncements of a compassionate, progressive Santa Monica that wants only to help… outside developers take away more bags of gold than Caesar ever dreamed of.

Oh, I’m sorry, I meant to write, Santa Monica wants only to help… the homeless,  the elderly, the downtrodden, the mentally ill, the displaced, low income, minorities, women, youth…

Oh, just stop, Charles. We have our own Big Lie here, that we are all that, but if you look at the evidence all around you, and our history (Belmar, Pico neighborhood, Ellis), rather than listening to politicians’ rhetoric and the shiny PR nuggets coming out of City Hall (Main Street’s doing great!), reality wins out. I preferred it when it was gambling and dirty cops and no baloney. At least you could clearly see what you were fighting. Now we’re facing a lipstick shortage, for all those pigs being passed off as Mother Theresa. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

So of all the things missing here, to make this the Santa Monica it could and should be, what comes to my mind first?

Political power, exercised with vision, efficiency, speed and wisdom, in the hands of residents who care about our future. OUR future, you know, US, who already live here and plan to stay, not those drifting through who barely know where they are, don’t care about the future here, and vote that way. And let’s be clear, there are political groups who have carefully engineered this situation. By choking our small city with thousands of market-rate apartments and condos, many so tiny they are perfect for the single high-income mobile techies who just want a bedroom to crash in after work and play, nothing too permanent you know, because they will be moving on, renters, for the most part. Who will vote for the paid endorsements “renters right” SMRR and developer-funded Forward put in their mailbox. Or deliver by phone with the help of Union 11, who wants more hotels, as tall and wide as possible, please, as long as they pay a union wage. I love it when someone says, if you don’t like your elected officials, vote for different ones! Not that simple in Santa Monica.

BUT… ELECTIONS 

Are probably the best bet. Maybe the only one. We did get a slate of three “residents’ representatives’’ last time, a miracle, and a new appointee since, Lana Negrete, who thankfully votes with them sometimes (another miracle, considering most fill-in appointees for City Council seem to have been picked for their willingness to go along with a SMRR majority). It’s a very similar situation to our national politics, where you have a group of political heavyweights who only want what they want and don’t care about fudging the rules, and so beyond the high hurdles of money, organization and disinformation, we simply have to organize voters to turn out in numbers never seen before. Literally, our lives (Roe v. Wade) and the life of our city, depend upon it.

Gambling ships may have irked the authorities but didn’t change Santa Monica. But overdevelopment like we have experienced recently has, and will continue to do so until no one will recognize this once famous and beloved city.

It is so sad, to see the exploitation and ruination of a small city with such a rich history. I mean – ‘Baywatch”!! Actors from Shirley Temple, Garbo and Douglas Fairbanks to Cary Grant, Jack Webb, Robert Redford, Angelica Huston, Sean Penn (also social activist/filmmaker now in Ukraine), Jack Black, Amber Tamblyn, Doors drummer John Densmore and Bobby Shrive, Frank Gehry – all born in SM. Samohi graduated Glen Ford, Robert Wagner, Robert Downey Jr., Rob Lowe, Ry Cooder, and, shamefully, Trump’s Stephen Miller and Nixon’s Robert Ehrlichman. Jane Fonda and Tom Hayden lived here, as did Stan Laurel, Arnold, Abbot Kinney, William Randolph Hearst, Merle Norman. We had two American Grand Prix races here, and the Academy Awards and a long list of history at the Santa Monica Civic (“The T.A.M.I. Show”). Lawrence Welk, Gold’s Gym, Douglas Aircraft, the Santa Monica Ballroom, the Cheetah Club, RAND, Synanon, KCRW/NPR. Muktananda set up his tents on the beach, one of only two places outside of India where he hung out. “Popeye” was created here. And James Dean was here to shoot “Rebel Without A Cause,” at Samohi, but your School Board demolished, without good reason, the History Building, that was the original Samohi,  from 1912. Oh well, Who cares?

I’m willing to bet that the Zoomer-Millennial crowd our overdevelopment-minded political folks here seem to be building out Santa Monica for, know very little of all this, and the majority don’t care. I for one am tired of seeing good stuff thrown out and demolished and too much money spent unnecessarily on shiny new stuff.

Vote. (The campaign has already started.)

As 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  therealmrmusic@gmail.com