But first, some good news!
And why don’t you write about good news more often, Charles? There are so many good things going on in Santa Monica.
Yes, there are. And it’s still a great place to live. Step outside and you may feel a delightful ocean breeze, see the sun shining, maybe on the blue Pacific, and if you look in the right direction, maybe no tall buildings. (Getting harder.)
But we don’t need to fix the good things, do we? They won’t increase crime, traffic, homelessness, water scarcity or overdevelopment, or the political influence peddling that makes them possible or at least a lot worse. So I write mostly about…
The bad things
Because how ya gonna fix it if you don’t know what’s going on, don’t know how we got here? Mostly, I don’t understand either. But maybe my observations over 38 years in Santa Monica, and 12 years writing this column, have given me some notions. Educated guesses, if you will. So that’s what I’m offering here, and in the previous column.
I know, it’s a bit of work to try to figure this local stuff out, especially because the bad guys have become very skilled at covering their tracks, and making toads appear to be swans. But this special small city is worth that effort, I think. You have to understand why things are moving in the direction they are, so fast. And — sorry, sorry — you have to be willing to put in the effort to become informed, and, at the very least, vote. Bonus points: inform your friends and neighbors about what you have learned, and make sure they vote.
“We call BS!”
Extra bonus points: go to some city-sponsored or neighborhood meeting, armed with your new knowledge and understanding, and if you think someone is trying to bamboozle us, tell them, in the courageous words of Parkland school shooting survivor Emma Gonzales – “We call BS!” The crowd at a rally against gun violence chanted back her simple, powerful, defiant three words as she read a litany of NRA BS talking points, and called out the President of the United States, Donald J Trump, for doing nothing, as he collected $30,000,000 in NRA bribes.
No, I didn’t forget the “good news.” It’s not earth-shaking but I feel it is worth acknowledging. Two of our local eating establishments have been consistent good citizens of our community, for many years.
Even just a few years ago, several local restaurants would offer something to veterans and active duty military on Veterans Day: a free entree, dessert, discount. Krispy Kreme used to offer coffee and a donut, ANY donut, but stopped, as did IHOP and other restaurants. But not California Pizza Kitchen, in the 200 block of Wilshire. They have offered vets a free entree (with drink and bread and olive oil) for at least a decade. They have a limited Veterans Menu to choose from but it’s not shabby. Choice of three pastas (large plateful), four full salads, six pizzas, and three drink choices. They treat you like any paying customer – better, even, as you will get several smiling “thank you for your service” greetings from staff. You know what? It’s heartwarming to get that, from strangers, 50 years after the fact. (I was drafted, and by great good chance was sent to Germany, not Nam.)
Broadway and Lincoln, makes the best sub sandwiches, in my book, and they also give back to the community several times a year. This weekend, 11/18-19, all locations will donate 20% of sales (not profits) — minimum $2.5M — to Feeding America, through local food banks. Treat yourself, and feed the hungry. They also have been giving back to Santa Monica for at least a decade.
I covered a lot of ground in the last column (Curious City, Daily Press 11/01/23), and even three columns wouldn’t cover it all, but let’s see what I can add. Repeating that this is one man’s opinion, but based upon decades of observing, listening to all sides, attending meetings, chatting (including both Movers and Shakers), reading. My personal biases are taken into account, of course. (If I wanted to live in Miami Beach, or even downtown LA, I would’ve moved there.) We get a lot of people passing through, for a year or two — and voting, from “postcard” endorsements — with no notion of what the fallout will be years after they leave. They know nothing about this city, its rich history and place in the LA landscape. And they don’t care.
Look around you. Drive north on Lincoln, above the freeway. It’s insane what is being built here, and other places in SM. Insane for residents, but perfect sense for those who stand to make billions from such overdevelopment. Almost all those richly benefitting live somewhere else and really don’t care what effect it has on us, only that they can get the permission from politicians and bureaucrats to rush it through. In 2004 we were under 87,000; by 2022, under 90,000. In this decade we are losing nearly 2% a year in population. Is it because of a “housing shortage”? No, that is a corrupt myth, coming out of Sacramento and lapped up by some of our local politicos. They don’t care if it’s not true; it fits their agenda. California’s population dipped for the third straight year, down 138,000. CA lost a seat in Congress because of that.
An affordability crisis
That’s what we have. SantaMonicans for Renters Rights (SMRR) was a desperately needed new organization that got rent control passed in the ‘70s and kept many in their Santa Monica homes. But they became more of a political party over the years, as you could not (one exception) be elected to City Council without their blessing. So Council members marched to the beat of the SMRR drum, and it meant that for a renters’ advocacy group to remain in control, they had to have more and more renters. More and more housing units. Do you see that part of the puzzle now? SMRR is losing power, but people like Denny Zane, a co-founder, still wield a lot of influence. Former mayor Sue Himmelrich has also been a SMRR big wig, and her husband Mike Soloff got the fast track to the Housing Commission, until some folks started muttering that was nepotism. Duh. Too bad SMRR is so busy making sure SM has a never-ending supply of renters, instead of doing anything to create home ownership, the only solid way to guarantee Santa Monicans can stay in Santa Monica.
Well kiddies, there may have to be Part III because there are still a few goodies I can throw out, to inform and confuse you even more. It’s less than a year until the next election, and we need some great candidates for Council to step up, and we need a residents’ PAC to support them. We can do this.
Charles Andrews has lived in Santa Monica for 37 years and wouldn’t live anywhere else in the world. Really. Send love and/or rebuke to him at email@example.com