April 23, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Reflections & Observations:

Bus, Stop!

Developer Craig Jones’ appeal of the Planning Commission’s approval of the City’s big, new bus yard expansion is scheduled to be heard by the City Council at its April 12 meeting.

Jones’ appeal is based on his objections to certain features in the expansion. We, on the other hand, object to the entire project on the grounds that it’s in the wrong place.

In the face of rising gridlock, City Hall has begun touting the pleasures and benefits of walking, bicycling and public transit, and yet it is preparing to expand what it sometimes calls, in a ludicrous euphemistic leap, the bus “campus,” in downtown Santa Monica, hard by two freeway ramps and a block from Santa Monica Place.

Most of the so-called campus, which is bounded byFifth and Seventh Streets, Colorado Avenue and Olympic, will be a parking lot for buses. It will also contain a bus service shop, a mammoth administrative building, and a shelter for homeless people.

The shelter should be in downtown Santa Monica. Big Blue – parking lot, service shop, administration building and all – should be on the eastern edge of Santa Monica Airport, near the junction of Airport Avenue and Centinela.

The advantages and benefits are obvious – except to City Hall.

First, if the Big Blue hub were at the airport, a good number of the 164,000 people who come into Santa Monica daily could park at the bus yard and take a shuttle into the city – thus significantly reducing traffic and the need for parking all over the city.

Second, bus traffic, a major factor in traffic jams in the city, would be reduced, as buses would no longer begin and end their runs in downtown Santa Monica.

Third, the bus fleet could include more small shuttles and fewer Big Blue behemoths.

Fourth, the existing bus yard would be an ideal site for an affordable housing complex, which would be within easy walking distance of virtually all of downtown.

Fifth, in addition to parking for its residents, the complex could contain public parking – which could be accessible directly from the freeway and further lighten the traffic load in downtown Santa Monica.

When we suggested moving the bus yard to the airport to a City official, he said, “It’s too late.”

It’s never too late to correct a mistake before it happens, of course, and expanding the existing bus yard in downtown Santa Monica would not only be a major mistake, it would end for all time a simple, cost-effective, workable opportunity to substantially alleviate downtown traffic and parking problems, and increase the affordable housing stock.In the last dozen years, City Hall has made a number of major mistakes. Surely, it would prefer not to make another – especially one as momentous as this one would be.

Profound Misunderstanding

At last week’s City Council meeting, Councilman Bobby Shriver noted that Santa Monica-based architect Thom Mayne had just been awarded the Pritzker Prize, his profession’s most prestigious prize, adding that he was the first American to receive the honor since 1991, and the second Santa Monican to win. (Frank Gehry won the Pritzker in 1989). Shriver’s Council colleagues then joined him in congratulating Mayne on behalf of the residents of Santa Monica.

So far, so good.

But then, in his self-anointed role as chief City Hall cheerleader, Councilman Richard Bloom, in effect, congratulated the City for creating an environment that nurtured such celebrated architects.


A remarkable number of world-class architects live and work in Santa Monica and Venice, but the City of Santa Monica seldom employs any of them and when it does, as one leading architect told us, “The best architects do their worst work for the City.”

To our knowledge, City Hall has never had the taste, sense or imagination to invite either of Santa Monica’s Pritzker Prize winners to design a significant municipal structure, and the planning staff has subjected at least one project by each of them to the kind of endless, mindless, and costly nitpicking that can make truly talented men weep with rage and frustration.Given that, it seems reasonable to assume that Mayne and Gehry have chosen to live and work in this great old renegade beach town – in spite of City Hall’s consistently ham-handed treatment of architects and their works.

Wake Up, and Smell the Chaos

CN’s “Crossfire” claims it has “the best political briefing,” but, despite the departure of its creator, Aaron Sorkin, “West Wing” offers, hands down, the smartest take on politics anywhere. It’s not factual, but it’s far truer than anything you’ll hear from the self-anointed TV pundits.

And so it was that last Wednesday, in the midst of another lunatic week in Washington, a character on “West Wing” summed it up perfectly when she said, “Wake up, and smell the chaos.”

As you must have noticed, the media, the courts, Congress and the White House have all recently been obsessed with Terri Schiavo, the woman in Florida who had a heart attack in 1990, suffered what doctors described as irreversible brain damage, and has been kept alive by machines since then.

When her husband asked recently that she be taken off the machines, her parents objected and took steps to block their son-in-law’s decision. Soon, President George Bush, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the religious right, and various courts all got into the fray, the media turned its magnifying lens on the debate, and then, lo, the House of Representatives, driven by Tom Delay, the majority leader, who’s facing charges of unethical behavior, jumped in, and tried to short-circuit the judicial process.

And so it was that the world’s oldest and proudest democracy reconfirmed its new status as the world’s richest and most powerful banana republic.

This is not to say that Terri Schiavo’s situation isn’t tragic. It is. And if someone we loved were in a similar state, we have no idea what we would do, so we can’t possibly make any judgments about her husband’s decision or her parents’ objections to it. It’s an intensely personal question.

But we know exactly how we feel about the intervention of Congress, the Bush brothers and the religious right.

Congress, the Bushes and the religious right have all managed not to do anything about the war in Iraq, the health care crisis, the President’s ban on stem cell research, the soaring deficit, the job drain, the millions of Americans, most of whom are children, who live in poverty, and so what in hell are they doing, jumping into the middle of the intensely personal Schiavo case, and breaching the lines between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government? Is the fate of Terri Schiavo more worthy of Congressional attention than the fate of all the malnourished children or the Americans and Iraqis who’re dying daily in Iraq, or the people who can’t afford medical care in this country? Of course not.

But it’s a whole lot easier for Congress and the Bush boys to showboat than to actually do something about the millions of children living in poverty.

As for the religious right and/or the right to lifers, they have the right to believe anything they like, but they do not have the right to impose their beliefs and their alleged morality on the rest of us, nor do they have the right to violate the fundamental principles on which this country was founded in the name of their beliefs.

The founding fathers knew what they were doing when they called for the separation of church and state and created three separate but equal branches of government: the executive, legislative and judicial, in order to ensure that no one branch would dominate.

The system of checks and balances worked as well as any government can, and better than most, and managed to survive the Civil War, the Great Depression, the assassinations of the 1960s, and Richard Nixon’s assaults, and it may survive the ascension of the religious right in the Bush administration, but, in the meantime, we are all the worse for it.And anyone here who thinks that the demagogues can’t swamp this democracy should have a look at Sinclair Lewis’s 1935 novel, It Can’t Happen Here.

And Now For The Good News…

Somehow it always arrives just in the nick of time.

Literally. We’re speaking, of course, about Daylight Saving Time, which will arrive Sunday morning, April 3, at 2 a.m. and give us an extra hour of sunshine every afternoon, which we richly deserve.Of course, if there were any sense in any legislative chamber anywhere, we would do away with Standard Time and enjoy Daylight Saving Time all year long, but that’s too much to hope for, so let us enjoy it to the full for the next six months, and hope for a miracle.

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