September 28, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Publisher’s Notebook:

And yet another year travels by. Santa Monica and the Westside had a 2007 without any true crisis or bellwether issue to speak of. There was a drought and we had fires, but the City of Santa Monica was hardly affected. The economy was stable, and though residential property sales slumped, values held and commercial property values skyrocketed. We had the usual environmental squabble with citizen residents fighting City Hall’s desire to cut trees, and City Hall met with residents over the future direction of the city as will be outlined in the city plan.

To paraphrase a popular movie, there were all the usual suspects in terms of city “stories.”

One of the success stories in town came with the opening of the homeless court, but even more significant was the assigning of special space on the West LA VA grounds to be turned over for vet housing, specifically for homeless housing, a need which will benefit our vets, the homeless, and the general demeanor of our city streets. We can thank Bobby Shriver for his intergovernmental work and sheer tenacity for this bit of good news.

We had a shooting at Eddie’s Liquor this year, nothing to be shocked by, but the concern this time is that the shooting may have come from Santa Monica-based gangs and not from out of the city as has most often been the case. Some people feel Pico, specifically around Eddie’s in either direction for several blocks, is simply not safe to walk at night. This is not a pretty picture, and tells a story about our fair city that is hard to digest.

Assistant City Manager Gordon Anderson is now saying the feds will cut off our development funds if we don’t cut the ficus trees downtown. I would like to find the federal official who is threatening us with this. More likely, the case is that Anderson and the city just want their way and are not willing to do the necessary redesign work to help preserve the trees. First it was disease, then it was shade and light, now the truth is revealed – it is about the money. Well in some ways it is understandable – development money is a good thing – but I am sure our city officials can find a way to get approval by the feds and hold on to the trees. They can at least try. I suppose some poor tree will ultimately be cut, to prove a point. Its sacrifice will allow the city to save face; let’s just hope they don’t chop too many.

One of the more intriguing stories of the year was the SMMUSD gag order for the departing financial official Winston Braham and the same type of gag orders for the parents of special needs children. This one really got the dander up of the Santa Monica City Council, which is currently withholding funds to the district until a thorough review is done. Nothing short of the elimination of these types of gag orders should satisfy the Council, but watch the district continue to try and justify this senseless condition for child enrollment.

Santa Monica almost had its first medical marijuana farmacy when the Herb King on Main Street was acquired and started to carry marijuana for prescription users only. Some councilmembers were against allowing a dispensary despite resident voting in town that has supported marijuana and medical marijuana in the 63-72 percent range. For some reason, our esteemed former mayor and some of his colleagues refuse to get the message from residents and insist on ruling as a minority opinion. The DEA put out a not-so- subtle message to the owners of the Herb King property that they needed to lose their legal tenant who was abiding by all the laws of the State of California or be at risk of being considered part of a criminal conspiracy and potentially lose their property. You can imagine how fast it took for them to close the place down. The same dispensary now operates openly in Venice, Westwood, and West Hollywood, but not in Santa Monica, where the city staff is very slowly preparing rules for the possible, but highly unlikely, possibility of the City Council taking up the idea.

It is a good sign for our local economy that Yahoo! has chosen to take a large footprint in our community. Their 175,000 square feet at the Yahoo! Center may just be the beginning, as it appears their plans are to take on more building space. Google has also placed a hold in downtown, and Red Bull has taken up occupancy at the old Paper Mate factory. Santa Monica vacancy rates have dropped to as low as 4.5 percent from a high of just over 12 percent a couple of years back. Pricing, however, has made it difficult for small business owners to own their own property, a key component for these owners to have long-term staying power and for acquiring wealth.

This whole California Incline construction project has me nervous. With the city’s top engineer claiming the project is just 30 percent designed, how could they give a realistic construction budget and timetable? Once again we are undertaking a major endeavor unprepared. I am hard-pressed to believe this task can be redone in a nine-month window. I am hearing the same thing I have heard before with the City of Santa Monica: “We have the money, let’s do it.” Messing with those cliffs is going to be a harrying experience; let’s just hope they have brought in enough of those out-of-town experts they love so much to review the situation carefully. If and when they choose to move forward, the city needs a well-designed traffic plan to deal with the overload on city streets, particularly Santa Monica Canyon that can get gummed up on a good day.

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Congratulations to Kristina Andresen for being given the prestigious Naylor Award from the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce. We are blessed in this community with many people that value service as a major value. For kindness, generosity of spirit, and selflessness Ms. Andresen ranks at the top of the list. It is good to see the community remember a person like Mr. Naylor and doubly good to see an award in his name go to someone so special.

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Santa Monica – UCLA Medical Cente is finally finishing some of its upgrade work, with the Nethercutt Emergency Center now open. Financial obstacles have plagued this overall construction project, but at least the UCLA campus is now done so money appears to be flowing again. Be great when the scaffolding finally comes down and a new park emerges in front of the hospital.

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The Civic Center plan, with its residential component, keeps getting approval. RAND will be hedged in with a new ultra high building being built in front of it next to the Viceroy hotel. Doesn’t seem right that while RAND was asked to play within the rules on their height requirement that an immediate neighbor should get a pass. Of course I don’t see the logic of housing in that zone anyway, so to me it is all nonsense. Our city fathers like to move pieces around on the city map and build things, so the idea of buying up affordable housing and allowing existing residents to stay in place is rarely on their radar screen. No, they would rather build, build, build and complete a Civic Center project plan that in the end will have the original Moderne design barely a footnote. And all new construction will be of different design too! Hodgepodge is more like it. Let’s hope they don’t chicken out on the parking lot conversion to playing fields at the Civic Auditorium, with parking beneath it, similar to how they have done it at UCLA. That may reign as the single most popular idea for the Civic Center to date.

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Our dear friend Philomene Long passed away this year. She was a poet extraordinaire: a Venice Beat poet and someone whose every utterance was performance art. Philomene was a Lakers fan that used to come up to the house and catch a game or two a season with me. She would get very excited and thrilled at the amazing capability of basketball players. She and my three-year-old son (at the time) never did quite understand why we lost Shaq, but her support of the team did not waiver. I can give Philomene much credit for my marriage and my family. It was at her writing class at UCLA that my wife hung out with Arthur, an old junior high school friend of mine who introduced us. Philomene was there at the beginning, through a break up (maybe two?), and finally, along with husband John Thomas, with us on our wedding day. She has contributed gloriously to this newspaper many times, and her light was shining brighter than ever when fate made its call. It is said that we all vibrate energy and that those vibrations can remain resonant for many years after a person’s death (think Buddha or Jesus). Philomene’s resonance will continue to be felt, her poetry will live on, her love and laughter and brilliant insight will stay. All of us get to continue to enjoy her. Philomene, we did not get Kevin Garnett, and the Lakers look woebegone once again. I will, however, share a pizza with you during one glorious game in the season. Please do join me.

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WISE Senior Services and the Center for Healthy Aging merged. Both organizations have served our community well, and if the move is to streamline management while continuing a high level of care and programs, then it is a good thing. The recently built WISE adult day care center on Pico Boulevard was designed to provide daytime services for the elderly, which often relieves caregivers so they can work or do other household errands. Plus, it gives those who may otherwise have little ability to get around a place they can be well served and comfortable.

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Maybe I am getting soft in my old age, but I actually approve of something the city did. I get a kick out of our newest 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.

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Local super-citizen Bob Gabriel passed away this month. At my first Chamber of Commerce meeting, I saw Gabriel’s picture on the wall as a past president and could feel his long-term involvement with the business community. We spoke only on a few rare occasions, but I always kept his political business sense as perspective, helping me to balance my own. Gabriel always advertised in the Mirror, even during times when he disagreed with its political stance. I respected him for that. I believe he enjoyed his stature in the community and made good use of it by helping his wife Louise found and grow the Santa Monica Historical Society Museum Project. Bob’s story is one for the history books now, and one for his family, friends, and our community to treasure.

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Santa Monica based Activision, Inc., a true local business success story, joined forces with Vivendi earlier this month. The worldwide electronic gaming business is larger than movies, and I recently explained to my son that Mario (Super Mario now) is the most recognized “person” in the world.

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Santa Monica opened a new park at the Airport. With it came a cool dog park, with just a slight original glitch for our Mar Vista neighbors – they weren’t welcome. The city ultimately corrected this unfriendly behavior by demanding that all dogs must have Santa Monica tags in order to bark and play there. This park, of course, is not within sight of a Santa Monica resident, as Mar Vista overlooks it. The park promises to be a haven for soccer fans, just as an expansion at Olympic Park would be for Santa Monica residents, if the city were ever to get off its duff and plant some dang grass at the old Fisher lumber yard. Has it been three years already with nothing done? How much slower can they move?

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Arlington West, just to the north of our Santa Monica Pier, continues to be a constant reminder that the country is still at war. Every Sunday, new crosses are faithfully added to respect the departed. It is a moving experience, and one that brings war home to our fair city.

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This year has been a lot about the City meeting with residents about a new general plan. City Manager Lamont Ewell has been diligent in bringing people together to discuss the future land use plans for the city. He appears to have no clear agenda of his own, which is refreshing in itself, but eventually he will have to weigh in due to the federal, state, and county mandates on the city that he is responsible to manage.

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Lest we forget, after having the highest rainfall (41 inches) total ever in 2006, we were followed with the lowest rainfall (2) in 2007. The recent rainfall in November and December does not count due to the odd cutoff for rainfall totals.

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Finally, censorship hit town when the Big Blue Bus banned what they considered risqué ads from America’s Next Top Model program.

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