So what about this idea of running Olympic and Pico boulevards one-way in opposing directions? Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky came up with this brainstorm in order to help traffic move better from the Westside to downtown. This does not include the City of Santa Monica, incidentally. If the supervisor had not blocked the original Exposition Line for nearly 20 years we would now be enjoying that mass transit option. Yaroslavsky and Congressman Waxman effectively stymied mass transit options to the point that people forget it was Waxman that stopped the Red Line and Yaroslavsky that made it illegal to fund anything other than buses. Both have a lot to answer for. I am still undecided on whether turning these main corridors into one-way streets is a good thing.
It should also be noted that the city fathers of Santa Monica caused the extreme traffic problems on our east end of town by overbuilding large commercial projects. The jobs to residents imbalance is the main cause of our daily traffic jam.
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Maybe, just maybe, the VA property might serve its rightful purpose, serving veterans, homeless ones that is, especially if Santa Monica City Councilmember Bobby Shriver has anything to say about it. Shriver was instrumental in getting South Bay Congresswoman Jane Harman to call a Westside meeting with the Veterans’ Administration to discuss allowing several buildings on a small parcel of the northern end of the VA property to be utilized for housing. You may ask, where is Congressman Waxman on this issue? Or Senator Feinstein who, it is said, has walked over hundreds of Santa Monica homeless in her campaign events without ever doing anything about them. Shame on both for not providing leadership on this. While vets are sleeping in our alleys, Feinstein and Waxman are holding out for a “comprehensive” plan for the property, one that may take another 3, 5, 10 or 20 years to complete.
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I heard from two of our highest officials why they oppose medical marijuana farmacies in Santa Monica. They fear the wrong people will get the drugs. Maybe we should shut down Longs Drugs. Are the wrong people walking into Rite Aid and falsifying a prescription for Valium? Any cursory exam of the medical marijuana farmacies in this state will show that the rules are quite stringent and that a legal prescription is required. The wrong people (those without prescriptions) will find it just as hard to get California Gold from a legal dispensary as they would to get Vicodin from CVS. It is just another false issue raised so people can inflict their drug prejudices on all of us. The State voted yes, the City voted yes, now it is time for our city council to vote yes and allow medical marijuana farmacies. And by the way, New Mexico just approved a medical marijuana statute as well. Governor Bill Richardson, candidate for President of the United States, signed the bill into law.
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Maybe I am getting soft in my old age, but I actually approved of something the City just did. I got a kick out of our new city garage. There was a lot of thought put into the design elements, with extra money set aside for sculptures and colored paneling. Most important was the focus on making the building green, as green as a parking garage can get, I guess. The solar panels on top and the water storage systems are all good things to include.
Shortly after the Los Angeles “insurrection” in the early 90s, I was invited to a design charette hosted by TreePeople up at the Getty. They brought together designers, architects, builders and government entities to figure out how to not rebuild but, as Paul Hawkens – author of the Ecology of Commerce – said, restore L.A. It was there that discussion on how to capture our rainfall, heat and cool our buildings efficiently and power the city of the future was presented to those that would be constructing Los Angeles. There were some design elements that stick with me to this day.
Our own building at the Mirror has long been covered with ivy, which not only helps to green the building and provide more oxygen, but also cools the building in the summer as it prevents radiant heat. Using fig ivy is another great way to cover a wall with green for the same effect. When we first acquired the building it had been occupied by Continental Cable (remember them?), and there was a three-foot strip along the back wall that had been covered in black plastic. We asked why, and they said, “Things kept trying to grow there.” The first thing we did was remove the plastic and put in hibiscus, trumpet vine, Canary Island Pines and several bougainvillea, all with different, vibrant colors. Come visit us today and you will see a spring color fest along a narrow back wall and a chain link fence. There were some years that we never watered it at all, being that these plants were drought-tolerant and hardy. Now our gardener has to cut the bougainvillea back and he tends to water regularly.
My biggest government design complaint is with our school districts, especially LAUSD which has a propensity to blacktop everything. I read where a blacktopped school raises the temperature around and in it almost 10 degrees during a hot summer day. I remember it being even hotter when I was growing up. In fact I did not see green at a school until I went to Paul Revere. I was shocked that so much green even existed in the world having grown up in the mid-city of L.A. Several years ago, one of my friends was real excited when his kid’s school (Marquez in the Palisades) was to receive funds to refurbish the school. They had dreams of green grass, a center court with a beautiful tree in the middle, fields of lavender and decomposed granite walkways. You know what happened next? The city used the money to REPAVE the pavement. Can you believe these Hunyaks? Then my friend helped secure over $12,000 from private sources at the school to install their own irrigation system. When LAUSD heard about it, they made them take it out because that was beyond the charter school agreement. Hate to say it, but it sounded like a “make-work project” for school district employees. What a shame. The parents still keep up a lovely garden, and now there is talk about a small patch for farming being developed. I suggested a citrus grove.
Of course the original book on all this for my generation was the Whole Earth Catalogue, my old living bible on how to live close to the earth in sustainable fashion. Don’t miss your spring planting opportunities as the sun is growing stronger every day and this is the best time for sprouting seeds. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “If I knew I was going to die tomorrow, I would plant a tree today.”