October 1, 2020 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

Letters to the Editor:

As a longtime resident of Ocean Park, as director of Beyond Baroque in neighboring Venice, and as a Santa Monica Arts Commissioner for several years, I’ve seen many of my creative friends, and the vast majority of newcomers in the arts, move to Silverlake, Echo Park, and parts further east, north, and south. Artists left here, now losing affordable studios (at the airport and elsewhere), are ready to abandon Santa Monica. A number of galleries have already moved to a more welcoming Culver City, to downtown, and beyond.

The damage has been building steadily for years and has hurt the city I love. Santa Monica’s support for, and receptivity to, artists, both prominent ones and younger ones that are struggling, is very much in question. Some call this the genius of the market. I call it a deadly blight – short-term gain exacting long-term harm on neighborhoods, gathering places, and public life.

A number of Santa Monica residents, consultants, and those serving the city joined together, over hundreds of hours, to conceive a better future. The result, the Creative Capital plan, when it was completed, was widely regarded as a national beacon and blueprint for arts infrastructure and artist support. It was endorsed by the Arts Commission, approved by City Council, and culture was voted a budget priority. That was a year ago.

A year has passed and nothing has happened.

While Santa Monica’s grant programs continue, the City Council has not yet allocated funds to implement a plan taxpayers paid for and the Council itself voted for. Crucial time has been lost. Community input is being ignored. A taxpayer investment, so carefully crafted, is dying on the vine.

As the economy grows more uncertain, it is reckless to neglect the arts as a bread and butter issue. Art and artists are vital to our national and regional reputation, our economic diversity, our civic vitality, and ultimately to fulfilling our responsibilities as citizens.

The City Council needs to act to make the Creative Capital plan a reality. City officials need to back up their votes with funds and support what may be our last chance to halt an accelerating trend. A constructive vision for the future of the arts in Santa Monica must begin now.

Fred Dewey

Santa Monica

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Dear Santa Monicans:

I’d like to take this opportunity to thank you all for your generosity during the 15th Annual Spark of Love Toy Drive. In cooperation with Santa Monica Fire Department, Los Angeles City Fire, and ABC/7 News, this year’s campaign was able to run smoothly and provided underprivileged families with a happy holiday experience when times are not so easy.

This year saw some very trying economic times for all of us. Nevertheless, we collected over 3,000 donated toys from the wonderful people that live and work here. With our own needs just below 1,000 toys (where we had families pick them up during the holiday season), we stocked up the upcoming year’s emergency toy supply we keep on hand for children affected by disasters – such as house and apartment fires.

We still donated nearly all of the remaining 2,000 toys to other communities where their needy children received toys, sporting goods, games, and gifts for the holidays, too.

Once again, thank you all for your generosity and compassion this holiday season. Not only were we able to provide smiles to many children here in Santa Monica and a huge relief to many needy families, but you also affected the hearts of children around the entire County of Los Angeles. Our heartfelt thanks from all of us at the Santa Monica Red Cross for your support of the Spark of Love Toy Drives and for making the 2007 campaign such a success.

Sincerely,

Cory Russell

Coordinator, Santa Monica Red Cross chapter Spark of Love Toy Drive and AmeriCorps Member/Interim ARCSM Youth Services Director

* * * *

San Vicente Boulevard from Ocean Avenue to Barrington is one of the loveliest streets on the Westside.

The landmark coral tree median, landscaped residences, and long blocks between stoplights create an almost park-like atmosphere. It’s this park-like appearance that leads walkers, joggers, and bikers to use San Vicente Boulevard as a fitness track.

I give kudos to all who care about their health and are committed to a schedule of fitness. I don’t mind sharing my neighborhood with you, but your pursuit of fitness does not give you license to converse loudly as you go along, carelessly shouting beneath our windows, forgetting that you are in a residential area.

So to all individuals, couples, walking clubs, biking teams: Here’s to your health! Enjoy the greenspace!

…but QUIET, PLEASE!

Aleyne Fawcett

Brentwood

* * * *

What a cliffhanger!

At Monday’s Landmarks Commission hearing of the 2617 Third Street project, there was considerable input from the public, not simply from District residents but also from residents of the South Beach tract, from Santa Monica Conservancy members, from allies of the applicant, and from other interested parties. As a consequence it was a lengthy hearing and since it also followed on the heels of another controversial and well-attended agenda item, the discussion of the ficus trees in downtown Santa Monica, we spent a long evening at City Hall.

It was around midnight by the time the Commissioners finished their part of the discussion of the project and, on the advice of the attorney, decided to take a vote. John Berley proposed and Barbara Kaplan seconded a motion to approve the project, with the provision that a landscaping plan be included. Both of these commissioners are architects and their fondness for the design of the project seemed to outweigh any concern as to its suitability for this Historic District site. Ruth Shari joined them in voting to approve the project. At this point it looked very likely that the project would be approved since there were already three votes in favor, but then Commission Chair Nina Fresco jumped into the discussion to say that she disagreed with them. She spoke forcefully about the disappointment she had experienced when, after repeated requests for a reduction in the mass of the structure and more adherence to the guidelines, the project architect, Michael Folonis, had failed to make changes sufficient to satisfy these requests. She could not support approval of the project. Three in favor, one opposed.

Finally it was Margaret Bach’s turn to speak.

Commissioner Bach has shown great respect for the process by which an application gets approved or turned down. She has spent much time visiting and revisiting the District, talking with the architect, looking at the plans, reading and rereading the District Guidelines, viewing the proposed site of the project. Her response was characteristically thoughtful. She spoke of her appreciation of the design of the project (she is also an architect) and of the many aspects of the application to build it, showing that she had given much consideration to the different points of view that had been presented. Since an application needs four votes to be approved, her vote was going to decide the outcome.

She opposed the project.

(Commissioners Roger Genser and Ruthann Lehrer were both unable to vote having been forced to recuse themselves.)

So now the application has been denied. Will it go away? Perhaps, but it is also possible that the applicant will choose to file an appeal with the City Council. He has 10 days to do so. We shall see.

Karen Blechman

Santa Monica

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