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Letters to the Editor:

This letter was originally sent to the City of Santa Monica Department of Code Compliance June 2, 2008.

Dear Sirs:

Back in April of 2008 the restaurant South opened at 3001 Wilshire Boulevard to rave reviews and crowds of people. The only ones not smiling were the neighbors, myself included.

The noise and chaos South has brought to our once-quiet 1100 block of Stanford Street has become unbearable for some of the older residents who feel they have no other recourse but to leave late-night messages for the police to come quiet things down. Younger residents like myself, who also do not appreciate being woken up in the middle of the night or Saturday mornings every weekend, realize there are many options for recourse, including taking legal action.

None of the neighbors had any problem with previous restaurants at this location, but South is actually being used as a nightclub, which I believe may be in violation of the permitted use. Additionally there was no posting of a use-change zoning hearing that I, nor any neighbors, were aware of, and online I could not find an Environmental Impact report by the restaurant owners addressing the impact the higher influx of traffic and later hours of operation would have on the neighborhood.

And where do the throngs of patrons park? Some use the valet service, some try to park in the liquor store parking lot and the rest end up on Lipton Street or the 1000 block of Stanford or Berkeley Streets. These eager patrons are noisy walking to South and even louder when returning drunk to their cars.

South and their patrons are imposing on the high quality of life we residents sought in choosing to live in Santa Monica. The main issues causing high levels of stress that the neighborhood would like resolved are:

1- Late-night noise caused by intoxicated patrons returning to their cars parked on Lipton Street and on Stanford Street north of Lipton.

2- Noise from within the bar and outside that gets amplified like a megaphone by the parking garage.

3- Noise from 200 screaming sports fans watching TV that is louder than amplified music.

4- New rooftop HVAC system running 24/7 that seems to exceed decibel allowances.

5- Weekend early-morning trash pickup.

6- Drug use by club patrons on Stanford Street.

7- Increased vandalism and littering along Stanford Street.

Some suggestions of actions to take toward restoring our quality of life are:

1- Verify South is being used as permitted and enforce any necessary changes to comply. If the current floor plan with tables 10 feet apart is in compliance we would like South to add a minimum of 12 more dining tables and chairs similar to their existing ones.

2- Restrict parking on both sides of the 3000 and 3100 blocks of Lipton Street and the 1000 block of Stanford Street to NO PARKING AFTER 6PM and NO WEEKEND PARKING.

3- The parking garage walls, ceiling and columns are to be coated with a sound-absorbing material.

4- The restaurant’s western wall of glass and emergency exit to be made a solid wall and door.

5- Remove all but one television screen from the interior.

6- Construct a sound barrier around the rooftop HVAC.

7- Suspend or delay weekend trash pickups until after 10 am.

8- South in-house security to patrol the sidewalks within 100 yards of the location until 3am.

The Stanford Street neighborhood does not want South to remain at 3001 Wilshire in its current incarnation. We would like to see environmental impact and sound studies to prove that South is properly zoned, constructed, permitted, and used as a C6 restaurant establishment adjacent to an R2 neighborhood

Until then, on behalf of my neighbors, I request South’s operating permits be temporarily suspended or greatly curtailed, including reducing hours of operation to 11am -11pm and limiting alcohol sales to beer and wine, until all the issues are addressed and changes approved by the city and completed to restore the peace in our neighborhood.

Sincerely,

Steven Fogelman

* * * *

As a Treesaver, I appreciate Lynne Bronstein’s excellent articles about the fate of our beautiful trees. Her recent article contained many shockers, especially this memo form the City Manager’s office: “…seven months of lost time. This has increased the cost of the project by over $100,000.” There is no doubt who pays for this: we, the taxpayers; we, the people who were against the “project” from day one; we, the people who thought we elected a council who would listen to us. My question is, who gets the “over $100,000”? Who gets over $100,000 for NOT cutting down trees for seven months, in fact for doing NOTHING for seven months? Lynne, can you find this out for us? And can you also find out why deciduous trees will replace our magnificent evergreens? Why must we unnecessarily endure the unpleasant sight of trees that appear dead for several months out of every year?

Thank you for your attention,

Cecilia Rosenthal

* * * *

Paul Cummins is to be commended for his tireless campaign to keep education at the forefront of our thinking in Santa Monica and nationally. Recent calamities within the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD), though less catastrophic than those of inner city schools in our larger region, indicate there is a crisis in public education in our own community. Santa Monica’s public schools are a prime reason families locate here, but when our District’s administrators fail to monitor and react to small problems, they grow into major ones, and threaten the exemplary reputation of our local public schools.

One recent example is our delivery of Special Education needs. A long-festering conflict between several parents and the SMMUSD’s Special Education administrators over the level of service authorized and provided has caused heartache, investigations, and is related at least in part to the planned departures of the District’s two top administrators. Lost in all this has been possibly an even greater problem: the demoralization and departure of many of our District’s Special Ed service providers, those professionals who work day in and day out to address ever-increasing needs in this field. (Special Ed staffers include speech pathologists, school psychologists, special day class teachers, and occupational therapists.)

Cummins’ point concerning teacher burnout is relevant here. A casual glance at the number of speech pathologists recently departing the District should send shudders within the community. In just one year, between June of last year and the end of this current school year, more than 2/3 of the speech pathologists serving our District will have resigned or retired, most of them earlier than their normal career spans. Speech pathologists are among the most difficult of secondary education staff to recruit; their training is highly specialized and universities turn out a limited number. These are human assets not to be toyed with, and experienced ones are in high demand everywhere. But in Santa Monica they have been caught in the crossfire between frantic parents and willful school administrators.

Sometimes even communities that value education and support local financing initiatives like Santa Monica can be ill-served by the implementation and monitoring of educational policy. If a school district fails to adapt programs that address changing, often dramatically increasing needs, and also fails to implement performance evaluations of their administrators to measure effectiveness and community impact, problems multiply until fixing them is formidable or near impossible.

Not only do District administrators need to be held accountable, but so too do our elected School Board officials.

Rodney Punt

Santa Monica

* * * *

On May 2, 2008, a twelve-year-old student at Lincoln Middle School in Santa Monica went with her parents to Santa Monica Police Department headquarters and told detectives that Thomas Beltran, a teacher at Lincoln, had molested her during school hours.

The twelve-year-old Lincoln student who first went to the police showed great courage. But she was not the first to complain about Mr. Beltran. On March 14, 2006, an equally courageous eighth grade Lincoln student made a written complaint about the way that Mr. Beltran had touched her. Ms. Kathy Scott, principal of Lincoln at the time, informed the SMPD, which investigated the complaint but found insufficient evidence for criminal charges. Ms. Scott then wrote a letter on March 30, 2006 to the SMPD explaining that she had removed the student from Mr. Beltran’s classroom and had told Mr.

Beltran to stop touching female students.

This student’s complaint was serious enough to warrant a police investigation, and serious enough that she is now considered a fifth victim in the charges against Mr. Beltran. But apparently no record of her complaint was kept anywhere at Lincoln or at the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District offices.

The SMMUSD policy on complaints against teachers is contained in its agreement with the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, available at the SMMCTA web site. (This agreement, and all documents mentioned here, are available at lincolncommunity.googlepages.com.) This policy is unusual and, in the absence of any explanation given by the SMMUSD, can help explain Ms. Scott’s actions. The policy states that if a student, parent, other employee, or member of the public makes a complaint against a teacher, the teacher may request a meeting including the teacher, the complaining party, and an administrator. But “if the complainant refuses to attend the meeting, the complaint shall neither be placed in the unit member’s personnel file nor utilized in any evaluation, assignment, or disciplinary or dismissal action against the unit member.”

Very few children, or even adults, would be courageous enough to make a complaint against a teacher knowing that they would have to then meet the teacher face to face.

Why did the SMMUSD adopt an unusual policy on complaints against teachers which makes it almost impossible for a student’s complaint to even be recorded, especially for the most serious matters? The SMMUSD has yet to take responsibility for this policy or answer questions about how it worked in the case of Mr. Beltran. This policy is outrageous and has placed, and continues to place, our children at risk.

Michael Chwe

UCLA Associate Professor in Political Science

Parent of two Lincoln Middle School students

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