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Letters to the Editor:

New Wave

To the editor:

Maureen Dowd takes off on President Bush, after having her fun with the news about research on chimerical animals (Dowd, 7 May 2005). Her ditsy chatter may be good for a giggle. The subject, however, is scarcely funny. Were she to consider the matter intelligently and try to comment intelligibly, she might find herself drowning in very cold, depthless waters.

Suppose she’d asked, Is this enterprise re chimeras chimerical? And suppose the answer came back: What is now in its earliest stages of experiment heralds the workings of an apparently irresistible impulse: How to change and harness that strange (and wondrous) piece of flesh and bone which creates ideas? Furthermore, suppose today’s situation were framed like this: We are in a desperate race to beat the Japanese and the Chinese; it is intense and — unstoppable.

Dowd may regard herself as a liberal Democrat. But the odds I would post at 100 to 1 describing her attitude to this new wave of genetic research would be one that holds hands with the farthest right wing of Fundamentalists and Creationists.

Jascha Kessler

Professor of English & Modern Literature, UCLA

Wanted: adult business

district

Dear Mayor O’Connor and Council Members, Lincoln Boulevard has had many massage parlors for years. Recently, a huge, 7000 square foot sex paraphernalia store has opened its doors. The new shop is steps away from three preschools, a children’s playground and a church, and shares an alley with family residences.

Because of a weak, outdated ordinance, the City of Santa Monica was not able to declare the new adult paraphernalia shop an “Adult Business” and was not able to enforce any protections for the surrounding community and its children.

Adult business operators, who are well-known for doing their legal homework, are taking advantage of the gaping loopholes in Santa Monica’s ordinance.

We are grateful for the care with which the City Manager’s Office, the City Attorney’s Office, the Planning Department, Business Licensing Division and many other departments in city hall took in evaluating the legality of this latest shop opening. Exhaustive research found that current code does not allow definition of obviously adult-oriented sex businesses as “Adult Use,” permitting an adult oriented business that advertises itself as an “adult mega store” adjacent to schools and homes.

Residents of Sunset Park and Ocean Park, as well as parents of school children from throughout the City, require that our neighborhoods be protected as friendly living environments for our children’s safety, the suppression of crime, protection of land value, and the encouragement of neighborhood friendly businesses.

We request that the City Council direct its legal and administrative staff to update the Adult Entertainment Code. We feel the Code needs to match the effective, contemporary ordinances of nearby cities, and provide enforceable restrictions that support the spirit of the ordinance.

We request that the rewrite on this discrete section of code begin immediately. Due to a slide toward a red light district now underway on Lincoln Boulevard, it should not be remanded to the City’s three-year “Shape the Future 2025” project schedule.

Recognizing the Constitutional rights of adult business operators, and respecting the blend of residential and commercial styles in the City, there are many viable ways for adult businesses to exist in Santa Monica without adding to blight, encouraging crime, or diminishing the lives of children.

Research shows several provisions in the code of other cities that serve as examples for Santa Monica:

1. Hermosa Beach — an adult business is defined as any business in which over 20% of its stock-in-trade consists of materials exclusively intended for adults.

2. Las Vegas — a percentage of inventory OR sales is used to define “Adult Use.” This threshold avoids the loophole of padding the store with racks of “front” merchandise.

3. Las Vegas — adult business cannot be less than 1000 feet from churches, schools and other adult establishments, which is farther than the Santa Monica ordinance currently offers.

4. Hermosa Beach — includes standards for businesses which do not qualify as adult business based on the 20% rule but which deal in adult paraphernalia. Code also sets standards for newsstands which carry adult publications. These standards help avoid inadvertent exposure of children to adult materials.

5. Odon, Indiana — adult business exteriors may not have flashing lights or bright colors. Limits are placed on signage as well. Flashing lights, neon and bright colors attract the attention of children. Additionally, the garishness of this style may not blend into the style of nearby businesses.

6. South Pasadena — restriction of any signs, advertising, posters, photographs, graphic representations or stock in trade that can be viewed from off the site and depict specified adult subjects.

7. Hermosa Beach — to avoid inadvertent exposure of children to their wares, code requires the interior merchandise to not be visible from the street and certain lines of sight within the store, which makes the crossing of the line into more “sexually active” uses less likely.

8. Santa Rosa and several other cities — restrictions on granting adult business permits to those with a criminal record or association.

9. Santa Rosa — hours of operation limited to 8 a.m. – 12 midnight. Santa Monica’s new adult mega store remains open until 2 a.m.

10. Several Cities — existing adult uses that do not conform to new code are not ‘grandfathered,’ or allowed remain noncompliant. Any “Adult Use” business must comply with the new code, or move to an area where it can comply within one year.

Adult Entertainment businesses could moved from C3 and C4 zones, narrow commercial strips surrounded by residential property, to M1 and LMSD zones which provide the widest buffer to residential neighborhoods, schools, churches, libraries, and parks. The Ninth Circuit Court, in its 2000 decision, clearly favored the City of Long Beach in its re-zoning of adult businesses to other areas of the city finding the action constitutional. Since there were alternate locations within the City where adult business could locate and not be in violation of code, the new code was found “content neutral and as such did not create time, place, or manner restrictions.”

Regarding Massage Parlors, we recommend that any prostitution arrests at massage parlors result in “scorched earth” provisions. Prostitution arrest at massage parlors should weigh upon the building owner by preventing that landlord from renting the premises at all for a significant period of time. This will encourage landlords to either investigate their leasees, or partially carry the responsibility of their crimes. This will prevent owners from changing corporate entity and continuing business in the City following prostitution arrests.

We are ready to answer any questions as neighbors, parents, and property owners surrounding these areas.

Thank you for your consideration and timely attention to this matter.

Sincerely,

Neighbors for Friendly Neighborhoods

Nina Fresco

Eric Gabster

Vera Lee Trask

Jeee & Sheila U’Ren

Matt Schabe

Dan Halperin

Santa Monica

Ed. Note: The City Council was scheduled to discuss the question at last night’s meeting.

Hostility is as hostility does

To the editor:

According to the Mirror, only residents of Santa Monica should have a role in determining how the city is developed, not people who work in or for the city, not people who own businesses in the city, not people who own property in the city, and most emphatically not people who want to develop property in the city.

The Mirror simultaneously criticizes developers as being “in it for the money,” while complaining that housing in the city is too expensive. It apparently never occurs to the Mirror that hostility to development has something to do with the cost of housing.

There are only two ways to make housing more affordable. The city can either make existing housing less desirable — perhaps by eliminating the services provided by the city employees who the Mirror says have no “real and legitimate role” here — or it can build more housing.

Developers don’t make money unless they not only provide something that people want, but also something that people can afford. If a project is unsuccessful or outlives its usefulness, the city is not “stuck” with it; the property can be redeveloped. This is what used to be known as progress.

There are, of course, people who may not like a particular development, but they are not forced to live in it or to patronize businesses that are located in it. By the same token, they have no right to prevent those people who may want to live in the development, or who may want to patronize businesses in the development, from doing so. They certainly have no right to expect the government to enforce their intolerance toward the wishes of their fellow citizens.

Finally, the Mirror laments the fact that Santa Monica did not turn out the way planners intended 25 years ago. The Mirror calls the result “chaos;” it is more accurately described as “freedom.” No doubt, if the city could have been run as a dictatorship over the past two decades, the reality would have been closer to the plan.

If people do not like the way the city has turned out, they are free to leave. What they should not be free to do is force their beliefs on their neighbors.

Enlisting the power of government to force a property owner to do something with his property he does not wish to do, should be seen as no different in principle from enlisting the power of government, for example, to force the Mirror to take a position in its editorials that it does not wish to take.

Robert A. Philipson

Santa Monica

Strongly disagrees

To the editor:

As a private land use consultant, I’d like to thank you for featuring my name in last week’s editorial… and for spelling it right (“Whose City Is It Anyway”, Mirror, May 4-10, 2005). Good marketing aside, however, I must strongly disagree with most of what you had to say.

First, I believe most thinking people will reject your view that Santa Monica residents are the only “stakeholders” worthy of participating in the City’s new General Plan update process. Clearly, residents have a voice, perhaps the loudest voice, because they are the voters. But many others have a stake in how this lovely beach-side City is managed. Business owners, property owners, employees, and visitors all deserve a seat at the table. This town is fanatic about “process,” and the only fair process when making decisions that will affect many different groups is to invite those groups to make their views known to the ultimate decision makers, the City Council.

Second, your general promotion of an “us vs. them” mentality is simplistic and counter-productive to the goal of making Santa Monica a great place to live, work, shop and recreate. Its not helpful to demonize business owners and developers. Certainly, many Santa Monicans, like other Los Angeles area residents, are fed up with traffic congestion and parking woes. Others decry conflicts between adjacent commercial and residential uses. It’s also true, however, that many residents love to be able to walk to nearby retail stores, restaurants and entertainment, even those run by “chain stores.” One third of Santa Monica residents enjoy working in commercial buildings right here in town. And, all residents enjoy what tax dollars from a robust local economy help fund – clean beaches, great parks, police and fire services and strong financial support for local schools. The mutual benefits local residents and business derive from each other far outweigh the negative impacts. Where negative impacts occur, respectful discussion and negotiation through a fair and open public process is the answer. Your brand of tribal thinking, accompanied by name-calling and clannish chauvinism, always results in poor outcomes – sometimes tragically so.

Howard RobinsonLos Angeles

in Uncategorized
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