April 21, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Publisher’s Notebook:

Lamoreaux Departs

St. John’s President Bruce Lamoreaux has been released from his contract, and Lou Lazatin was named interim president and CEO.

Lamoreaux worked his way up through the organization (Sisters of Charity – Leavenworth) – from radiology lab technician to St. John’s CEO. During his tenure, the hospital completed the first phase of its major rehab. The St. John’s development agreement with the City is the largest in the city’s history and will result in a completely new, larger valuable community resource.

The first new structure to open has curving hallways that are less daunting than the usual hospital corridors, as well as upgraded technology. All the rooms are private, have windows and, as a bonus, flat screen plasma TV screens!

Lamoreaux was a real gentlemen and a gentle man, I wish him the best in his next endeavor.

Teachers Negotiate New Contract

SMMUSD’s teachers’ union is currently negotiating a new contract. The District is in good shape financially, assuming the state doesn’t impose new cuts, so there’s an opportunity for the community to put its money where its mouth is by providing the best possible teachers’ salary and benefit package. After all, if the District wants to attract the best and the brightest — and keep them — then we must pay them.

The flipside is that these are uncertain times, schools are being squeezed every which way and the District is finally running smoothly and professionally. Teachers aren’t perfect, however, so it will be a delicate balancing act to pay appropriately, yet remain financially soluble. The community has approved District parcel taxes and squeezed the City of Santa Monica to pony up additional support. The result has been outstanding schools, as evidenced by our exceptional students. In the end, it is the teachers in the classroom that we count on to provide good education. Let’s give them recognition and respect in terms of a proper contract, while providing for classroom enhancements and for a program that fully meets the needs of special education students.

Rule Change

The City of Santa Monica is considering a rule change for developers that would affect the number of units that must be set aside in each project for affordable housing.

Currently, a developer may opt to pay in-lieu fees, which are also slated for a major increase. Current rates are $6 a square foot for apartments (soon to go to $22) and $11 a square foot for condominiums (soon to go to $26). That’s a big jump, but appropriate to market conditions and comparable to other communities.

What developers are concerned about is the proposal to drop in lieu fees in exchange for mandating that developers build more affordable units per building. If (and it’s a big IF) my math is accurate, the proposal would force a developer of a 50-unit complex to go from five affordable units to 13 or 25, if he wants to locate them offsite.

The question is, will this make building housing unprofitable for the developer? Developers say it will. They can now build affordable apartments at offsite locations within a 1/4 mile of the building, which allows them to create upper end condo complexes or upscale apartment complexes. Others want mixed housing to mean just that — rich, middle and poor all in the same building.

If the in-lieu fees are sufficient, then we should stick with the current arrangement and the City can build the affordable housing itself, as it has the means and the money to do it. This will just strengthen its position.

It also helps that many people are advocating that the City use its own funds instead of federal money for building affordable housing, as it gives the City more control over who gets the apartments. Federally financed projects forbid giving preference to Santa Monica residents.

The City should also consider buying existing rental stock and keeping it affordable, as it’s probably less costly to buy them than build them.

Celebrating Old Trees

The Campaign for Old Growth had a great reception at AXE on Abbot Kinney last Tuesday night. Venice beat poet Philomene Long opened the “show” with beautiful poetry espousing the love, breath and passion we derive from trees.

Former Democratic Congressman Dan Hamburg was the emcee and, in his usual firebrand oratorical style, he expressed his deep conviction that the cutting of old growth Redwoods must be stopped NOW. I concur wholeheartedly.

Hamburg invited Humboldt District Attorney Paul Gallegos to the event to put a human face on the struggle. Gallegos sued Pacific Lumber for destroying watersheds with their barbaric logging practices (including old growth Redwoods), only to face a recall election. When he handily defeated Pacific Lumber’s well-financed campaign, it was obvious that politics on the North Coast had changed.

The fund-raiser ended with Keely and Pierce Brosnan speaking of the need to save these ancient wonders for future generations. Their presentation was really performance art, as the moment they began, the crowd became hushed, respectful and stood in awe of the passion these two exhibited in defense of Redwood trees.Please contact your favorite state elected representative and beg him or her to support this measure.

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