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Publisher’s Notebook:

You had to know the Santa Monica City Council would pussyfoot around with allowing a herbal farmacy in town. The voters of California voted to approve Prop 215 authorizing the use of medical marijuana. Many enlightened and progressive cities in the state have made provisions for residents to legally abide by the law. But not Santa Monica, where 71% of voters approved Prop 215. Despite this overwhelming majority, Mayor Richard Bloom sent the subject of Santa Monica’s response to staff, a usual stall practice, to investigate the issue. Like 10 years of Prop 215 wasn’t enough, they have to study this some more? Call your friends in West Hollywood, they will set you straight. Or Ukiah in Mendocino County, or San Francisco.

Councilman Robert Holbrook, defying the will of the residents, said, “I don’t want this type of activity.” I bet he has no objection to liquor stores or his type of pharmacy. Holbrook is a pharmacist dispensing synthetic drugs, where real drug abuse is rampant. McKeown made the only positive point when he noted that a Chinese herbal pharmacy was on the same street and why couldn’t this type of farmacy be given the same type of business license. That sounded good to me. Expect more stall and less stand-up behavior from the city council on this issue. Go to Venice or West Hollywood to fill your prescription.

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With all this talk of mega projects in New York City and an architectural design contest for Los Angeles, I could not help wonder how Santa Monica is going to look in the future. Who is really focusing on this? Developers? The Architectural Review Board? The Planning Commission? Who on the city council is leading us in the right direction? When I ask about this, I usually get, “We have it all figured out, we know what we are doing, trust us.” I have heard that one before. What that means is there is no movement to move the bus yards out of downtown, housing is definitely coming to the civic center because they say “it must,” and the city must continue building new housing units. I get nervous when people are so certain about what “has” to be done. Have we no control of our own destiny?

I keep hearing that the city must grow its population. That the “rules” set by the state is that each city must keep building in order to get certain funding. It is like population growth is mandated. And the city is obligated to densify. What horse manure is this? What if the City of Santa Monica wanted to sustain itself at this population level? They say we need more housing so people don’t have to travel as far to our commercial office complexes. They say we need more affordable housing, yet there is no policy to buy up affordable housing stock, just money to build more. Imagine if the City of LA had bought Lincoln Place? A whole community would have been saved. Today in Santa Monica a similar transformation is occurring as rental housing is being disrupted as it’s being converted to condominiums.

Will the city eventually be forced to “go up”? They did it when they converted a lovely residential neighborhood into Santa Monica Shores. They tried again at Santa Monica Place with those large towers. The Fairmont Miramar wants to build up at its location. Developers will keep trying. After all, there is a lot of money at stake here.

It will be interesting to see how the Santa Monica Place mall reinvents itself. If they open up the center and link with the civic center we may have a real winner.

Montana Avenue needs more restaurants and public benches where people can sit and relax. It has evolved into the most exclusive shopping district in town. It would have been nice for the newly renovated Pavilions to have given us some windows or an opening on the Montana Avenue side rather than making us live with that big blank wall. Shame on them.

Maybe if we are lucky Dutton’s Brentwood Bookstore will come to Santa Monica. We have several great districts that could greet them, and I have a hunch the residents will support them. That would be a big win for us.

There is not enough time to discuss each street, but when one considers the future of Pico, Lincoln, Santa Monica, Ocean Park, Wilshire, Main Street, Broadway and Olympic, one realizes there is a whole lot of city to be considered. And then there are the residential neighborhoods. Besides rising values, what else lies in store for them? Better schools? More parks?

Regarding transportation, it appears inevitable the Red Line subway will eventually travel all the way down Wilshire Boulevard to Ocean Avenue. It may be as long as a decade, but eventually you will be able to take a subway to midtown, Hollywood, Universal City, the Valley, Downtown, and hook up to routes to Long Beach or points east. Coupled with the Exposition line – an above-ground light rail going from USC/Downtown to Santa Monica – the possibility exists of a decent mass transit system. Though I appreciate buses, if we can move their service underground, our surface streets would see a huge relief. And how about a real push for better bike lanes?

The next big bottleneck is Lincoln Boulevard, where some type of transportation system is need that will take us to LAX and points in Venice, MDR, and Playa Vista. L.A. Councilman Bill Rosendahl is already discussing this issue. Let’s hope he accomplishes something in the short time he has in office.

As for parks and greening, let’s hope we don’t have any more mass executions of trees that took down 100+ eucalyptus in various locations and some of our mature ficus that stood grandly in a Main Street parking lot, and that have been threatened in other neighborhoods. Let’s make accommodations for these green additions to our city and plant some more. I hope they have some nice cover at the new Airport Park. I look forward to the green expansion of Olympic Park to Broadway, which sorely needs some softening. Please, no commercial or apartment complexes there. Just green.

Discussion on what to do with Santa Monica Airport will be a major debate in this town. To be candid, the airport serves a very upper crust of society, and the land may be suited for a higher and better use. Still, I have a soft spot in me for the legacy of Donald Douglas and rather enjoy eating at the Spitfire or Typhoon and watching planes come and go.

As for our real miracle – the beaches – I am not in favor of a new breakwater that will accommodate cruise ships unloading hordes of tourists. Or even fishing excursions. Let them go out of the Marina. The breakwater is not healthy for the environment and should not be rebuilt. The Pier, as much as kids love it, would be a nice place to have some quiet space as well, though it may be too late for that. And history seems to preclude it. For my son and his friends, I want a Santa Monica that has clean beaches. Last year I got sick from body surfing, and it would be a shame if my kid were unable to enjoy the surf the way I always have.

As for the civic center, god only knows what the place will look like once they are finished with it. The bureaucrats have their hands on this project and they are not going to let go. City Councilmembers have their feet dug into the ground with them, so don’t expect any civic involvement. They will do what they want, so hold your breath. Certainly this is one place where any type of link to the past has been quickly ditched. People are even attempting to disassemble The Santa Monica Civic, which can use a face-lift and modernizing, but does not deserve to be destroyed. Perhaps the Civic’s proposed underground parking and greening of the surface to accommodate playing fields will help to soften some of the newer harder edges. In the end, the place will be a hodgepodge with no two buildings alike. It is a shame really. I love our City Hall and could only have wished our city fathers would have built on that theme and kept that warm, elegant and classy design throughout.

Architecturally I am concerned. We are building housing and mixed-use with one thing in mind: maximizing square footage and profitability. I know it is a business; however, does our Architectural Review Board have any say in terms of style? Or is big, boxy and out-to-the-max our fate? Please, no more sacrificing neighborhoods for large-scale housing developments. Let’s keep our residential areas family-friendly.

I wonder if those big, big businesses at the Water Garden and the Yahoo Center will ever feel part of Santa Monica and participate as true corporate citizens? Or are they just hanging their hat here?

Will the arts and culture be supported?

Let’s make sure to support our schools and make permanent the special financing implemented in the last few years, and even increase it if necessary.

I can only trust and hope that the Pico Neighborhood becomes safer for residents and that the violent crime that exists there abates. Family services and education is one of the keys to success here. The other is community involvement with law enforcement.

Our hospitals have grown and will be modernized shortly. Now the question comes up whether residents can afford their services and if we need more affordable clinics in neighborhoods that require them.

I think it would be good to have term limits on our city council. We need new blood to keep it invigorated. I am sorry Terry O’Day did not win a seat; he is just the type of fresh face we needed. I also think the city should vote according to districts so each area has more political clout, especially the Pico District that has been underserved for years. If you want to increase voter turnout, try districts and even have a vote for mayor, where the residents get to choose. Top dog votes usually bring more people out. Perhaps Richard Bloom would have won as mayor, or maybe Bobby Shriver.

Michael Rosenthal

Publisher

in Uncategorized
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