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City Council Report:: Surf Wars, Wine & Cheese Dominate Agenda

The Council adopted an ordinance to further regulate commercial surf instruction on the beach, and approved a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) for a gourmet grocery/deli on Main Street that will sell bottled wine and offer on-site wine tasting three nights a week, at its first meeting of the new year on Tuesday, January 8.

New City Open Space Manager Callie Hurd presented a report explaining that the proliferation of surfing schools and camps using the public beach has resulted in congestion on the sand and in the water and given rise to frictions among swimmers, experienced recreational surfers, and even larger surfing schools versus smaller schools and one-on-one instructors.  Only schools with over 20 students require any city permit, and none of the schools pay to use the beach.

Hurd then introduced representatives of the County Lifeguards who explained that the problem had “progressively gotten worse” over the last four or five years, that there were “too many schools,” and that a safety problem had developed.

The ordinance recommended by staff would require City authorization for all schools and instructors, set a percentage of gross receipts fee, and most likely limit the number of schools, giving preference to “City-operated or City-contracted programs” and “accredited educational institutions providing surf instruction for school credits.”

The Council heard from a refreshing collection of well over a dozen public witnesses who were not habitués of the Council chambers, ranging from “the surfing rabbi” who had been surfing since 1961 and said the sport was “the last frontier to escape the madness that we are in now” to an 8th grade girl from Lincoln Middle School.  Most of the public spoke against the ordinance, with most of the opposition coming from operators and parents of students involved in smaller schools.  (Parents of three-year-olds noted that City-operated programs did not accommodate their children.)

After City Attorney Marsha Moutrie drafted an on-the-spot amendment setting standards for allocating the City authorizations, the Council adopted the ordinance unanimously on first reading.

The gourmet grocery/deli came up on appeal from the Planning Commission’s September 2007 approval of a CUP for Goudas and Vines to allow off-site and on-site sale and dispensation of wine at 2000 Main Street.  The store is proposed by Brandon Kim and his father, who operate a similar business in Montrose and describe it as “a miniature Bristol Farms.”

Lawyer Joshua Kaplan spoke on behalf of those opposing the permit and reviewed the deleterious social effects of alcohol dispensaries and claimed there was too great a concentration of such outlets in the area.  It then developed that Kaplan’s clients were an individual who owns Star Liquor down the street and “Concerned Citizens of Santa Monica” – a rather amorphous and unidentifiable group.

After Councilmember Ken Genser pointed out that the proposed location was where the Pioneer Boulangerie once stood, an establishment not unlike the proposed use, the Council denied the appeal and approved the CUP unanimously.

During the “intermission” in the meeting when the Council and City Attorney retire to closed session for consideration of legal matters and dinner, the public was entertained – beautifully – by a string ensemble from the Santa Monica High School Symphony Orchestra.  The Council later voted to make a $25,000 contribution to Samohi to support the Orchestra’s performance tour to Austria and the Czech Republic in March of this year.

In other action, the Council heard a report from Southern California Edison on its Suntower Circuit improvements downtown, and voted unanimously to endorse Measure R on the February 5 ballot (The Campaign to Protect Quality Schools), which will require a 2/3 vote to pass.

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