April 17, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos


History lessons


To the editor:

Re Paul Cummins’ “We Could Do It” column, our country truly would be better if we simply adhered to the moral test set forth by the late Senator Hubert H. Humphrey, to wit:  “It was once said that the moral test of  government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life — the sick, the needy and the handicapped.”

As for the wealthy bearing more of the tax burden, nearly 100 years ago President Theodore Roosevelt in his December 3, 1906, message proposing a graduated inheritance tax and graduated income tax, answered that proposal when he opined that:  “The man of great wealth owes a peculiar obligation to the state, because he derives special advantage from the mere existence of government.  Not only should he recognize this obligation in the way he leads his daily life and in the way he earns and spends his money, but it should also be recognized by the way in which he pays for the protection the state gives him.”

But alas as we suffer under the current unjust GOP system which taxes want and exempts wealth, we appear to be back to what Representative Cordell Hull (D-Tenn.) [later Secretary of State under President Franklin D. Roosevelt] observed 92 years ago, i.e., ” A glance at the fiscal history of all countries shows a constant struggle on the part of the wealthy and more powerful classes to shift the chief weight of Government taxation to the shoulders and backs of those weaker, poorer, and less able to protect themselves from the injustice and oppression inflicted by disproportionate tax burdens.”

This conflict has been and is today being waged in the United States.

Norman G. Axe

Santa Monica


In favor of CCSP


To the editor:

I said in the last Civic Center Working Group meeting that we should pause after reflecting for a couple of years on the draft Civic Center Specific Plan, to see if there are new insights to improve it. It’s a compromise, the work of many people, as most civic works are. After discussion, I believe it has been improved, should go forward, and can live up to our hopes to indeed become Santa Monica’s “crown jewel.”

The first big question was how much housing, how tall, and where. Some housing is a given, as that is one source of the money to purchase the RAND site. Some in the community had sought over 600 units and less park area. The Working Group’s recommendation calls for 325 units, all adjacent to RAND in the block south of Olympic Drive, in buildings no taller than 56 feet, except 84 feet in a small area next to the Viceroy Hotel (matching the hotel’s height).

The centerpiece of the Civic Center, the main reason for doing this, is to create a large and special park area. This plan provides an expanse of park from City Hall to the Pier, and another large area at 4th and Pico. The Planning Commission also recommended decking over the freeway east of the McClure tunnel to convert that corner from freeway trench into more park opposite the Pier.

A Specific Plan defines streets, sidewalks and bikeways, and what land uses and building sizes are allowed in different areas. It’s not intended to be a detailed design of the park areas. This is the reason for “the lack of detail” that the editorial lamented. That will come later, and we should be vigilant that the detailed park plans are good.

The Civic Center Specific Plan calls for a mix of park areas and uses. The largest, Palisades Garden Walk between Main Street and Ocean Avenue, Olympic Drive and the freeway, is described as an arboretum-botanic garden-art park. I imagine it as a small San Francisco Golden Gate Park leading to the beach.

The Planning Commission also supported my recommendation that the buildings on the south side of Olympic Drive include retail like ice cream and sandwich shops, for people to enjoy eating in the park. Note that this largest park area would become smaller and less park-like if the existing RAND buildings were to remain, as some have advocated.

The Town Square area in front of City Hall would be for gatherings and events. I oppose consultant Boris Dramov’s description of this as largely pavement; events shouldn’t preclude green park space. I enjoy the traditional small-town feeling of the rose garden in front of City Hall, and would be reluctant to lose that.

A soccer field fits across 4th Street from Samo High. It would be used by both students during school days and AYSO kids evenings and weekends. It would bring many people into the Civic Center area, some who will go off to also enjoy the other areas. It’s a balance between parks for natural scenery and for activities.

A speaker at the Working Group hoped for major fountains throughout the string of parks. I’d love to see this, like we find enlivening traditional cities’ parks and plazas.

I’d never liked the draft plan’s dog-leg of Main Street-Olympic Drive-2nd Street. It was replaced in the new version with a diagonal to protect the Moreton Bay Fig Tree. I find this made a better plan overall, for both circulation and the balance of park areas. The potential City Services building was also scaled back a lot, no longer arching over Main Street, and per Planning Commission recommendation to be no taller than City Hall.

I was dubious about building a new bridge over the freeway. I’m fond of the landmark Main Street arch bridge, and wouldn’t it be simpler and less expensive to just keep using it? Two reasons are that it would need significant seismic retrofitting, and it’s too narrow for wider sidewalks connecting the Civic Center with downtown. The Specific Plan proposes keeping it for pedestrians.

The Working Group and Planning Commission both endorsed removal of Santa Monica Place from the Civic Center Specific Plan. What would then govern its allowable redevelopment? I verified that current zoning there limits height to 56 feet; with a Development Agreement it could go up to the General Plan limit of 84 feet. Accurate traffic measurements remain an issue, but with the removal of Santa Monica Place we’re only talking about additional traffic from park use, new housing, and a smaller City Services building. Extension of Olympic Drive to Ocean Avenue will mitigate by providing more routes. Do we not have a downtown park because people will create traffic going there?

The Civic Center Specific Plan is a framework. I encourage ideas to improve it before the City Council, and then in later detailed park designs.

Darrell Clarke

Vice-Chair, Santa Monica Planning Commission

Santa Monica


Praise for Samohi art


To the editor:

Because of the great public concern about recent student (and adult) conflict at Samohi, more people should hear about a vastly more positive event that took place on campus, Thursday, 18 May – the opening of the Art Department’s annual show of work by graduating seniors and presentation of awards.

Reports of student fighting made me expect to pass through a metal detector to enter the event.  Instead, the entrance to a courtyard of  refreshment tables was blocked only by an overflow crowd of students, parents, teachers and other visitors.  The worst I could report is that the Roberts Art Gallery was so crowded it became warm and humid inside.

And the crowd stayed pretty tightly packed through an extended series of presentations as awards were handed out by alumni, teachers and others.  There was excitement at announcement of many winners’ names, and acknowledgement that right choices had been made when a few students received more than one award.  (At least 40 DVDs of the proceedings were sold, so the excitement and pleasure probably didn’t just flare up and flame out.)

The art studios are sizable and well equipped, and the Roberts Gallery is big for a school exhibition space.  This is part of a Samohi tradition:  We were told the campus art gallery opened at least 60 years ago, so it is the oldest school gallery in all of LA County.

The artwork spanned many media (drawing, electronic media, painting, photography, pottery and sculpture), and the students’ work is very good, both in the seniors’ exhibit and in the studios.

But I was most impressed by the presentation comments from several of the teachers.  They spoke – sometimes briefly and sometimes not so briefly – about almost every winner and about many non-winners, too.  What they said was clearly sincere and seriously considered, and one could hear that the best of adult mentoring takes place here.

Before I left, I spoke with some students and parents who told me that reports of daytime conflict and menace are accurate. But, despite that, the essence of teaching, learning and growing up is continuing in the healthiest possible way, at least in this department.

Departing families were talking together in good spirits and with pride, and the whole city should know and share their feelings.

Art Harris

Santa Monica


P.S. The exhibition – and more work than the gallery walls could hold – can be seen on the web at www.samohi.smmusd.org.


Thank you note


To the editor:

Santa Monica College recently held its Classified School Employee Week Luncheon and Dinner, attended by more than 250 classified employees. The event was jointly planned and executed by classified employees and managers. It was a great success, and we were pleased that several speakers recognized the contributions of our classified employees, who include our police officers, secretaries, groundskeepers, custodians and many more.

Speakers included SMC Board of Trustees Chair Carole Currey, Interim President Dr. Thomas J. Donner, and Giovanni Vela, the new president of the California School Employees Association Chapter 36.

We’re also grateful to the volunteers whose contributions were invaluable: Jim Serikawa, Carol Evans, Kyle Smith, Jere Romano and Katharine Muller.

We want to publicly thank all who contributed to the goodwill generated at the event.

 SMC Classified School Employees Week Committee

Maria Bonin & Martha Jimenez, Co-Chairs and Patricia Brown, Joanne Guercio, Sherri Lee-Lewis, Delia Padilla,  Judith Penchansky, Rhu Ramirez, Alex Siefert, Gayle Sosa 

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