To the Editor:
I often receive emails from Sunset Park residents who feel imprisoned in their homes during “rush hour” by frustrated commuters abandoning clogged major boulevards and cutting through narrow residential streets.
This traffic is the primarily the result of over-development in the Special Office District, which added thousands of new commuters but neglected to come up with an effective city plan as to how we would accommodate them.
Proposition T would end this lunacy by limiting new commercial development for 15 years, in order to allow our city to create and implement a plan to deal with current traffic before we add even more.
So I was surprised to hear that State Senator Sheila Kuehl has come out against Prop T.
Following Senator Kuehl’s argument, allowing the City Council to continue approving more large office projects, such as the Lantana Entertainment expansion on Olympic (2,000 additional daily car trips), the Lionsgate project on Colorado (2,000 additional daily car trips), the Village Trailer Park project on Colorado (2,000 additional daily car trips) will somehow reduce traffic congestion in our community.
I fail to see the logic. Will Lantana and Lionsgate employees and visitors be riding the bus? All of them?
Senator Kuehl also states that Prop T will “allow” developers to demolish rent-controlled apartments and build market-rate apartments and condos.
Surely the Senator must be aware that this destruction of affordable rental housing has not only been “allowed” but has been happening for many years, within blocks of her own home, all over Santa Monica, and all over Los Angeles (which doesn’t even have Prop T on the ballot).
One need only look at the Planning Commission Current Case list at www01.smgov.net/planning/planningcaselists.htm, or the Current Projects List at www01.smgov.net/planning/planningcomm/currentprojectsplanning.html to see what the future holds in store for us.
In 1999, a local newspaper reported on a Rent Control Board projection that by the end of the year “2,359 units available at 80 percent of median income last year will be lost” due to the Costa-Hawkins Rental Housing Act, which mandated vacancy de-control.
In 2007, The LookOut News reported that, “more than half of Santa Monica rental housing is at market rate.”
Since both our state legislature and our City Council have failed to protect much of our affordable housing, it’s disappointing to see some of them making a scapegoat of Prop T, rather than accepting the blame themselves.
If the City Council follows the recommendation of its own Planning Department, it will change development standards in residential areas to discourage teardowns of the remaining affordable rent-controlled housing.
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In a recent letter to the editor, Councilwoman Pam O’Connor brought forth a statement from the city attorney, asserting that the city attorney did not intend her silence on the fiscal impacts of Prop T to be interpreted as Prop T having no fiscal impacts.
The city attorney may not like her actions being watched, but what she does speaks volumes. The city attorney is charged with the duty of determining the fiscal impact of Santa Monica initiatives. Santa Monica taxpayers paid $100,000 for an economic evaluation of Prop T, which was formally presented to City Council. The findings of that evaluation have been the very heart of the campaign of those who oppose Prop T.
The difference between the city attorney, and the various politicians that are opposed to Prop T, is that the city attorney is subject to very high ethical standard when making certifications that are used in elections. Her refusal to use any portion of the city’s economic evaluation (which was written by HR& A Advisers, a company that specializes in lobbying for developers) can only mean that the city’s economic evaluation failed to provide any reasonable evidence to prove its findings.
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Thank you for your article about school board candidate Chris Bley. He definitely would be an antidote to either one of the incumbents running.
One important fact your article didn’t mention: Bley is the only independent candidate running for the school board. The other three are all backed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights.
Why is this important? Because board candidates backed by Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights inherit a ready-made, pre-paid campaign–their names appear on almost all of SMRR’s political mailers. The deck is heavily stacked in favor of their election.
So the surest way to be re-elected is to stay on the SMRR slate by cultivating the favor of a handful of people: the SMRR Steering Committee. Accountability to the public is not part of the equation. The result has been district administrators’ feeling free to run roughshod over special ed parents and their kids, with board members ignoring it and then arrogantly covering it up; financial mismanagement and the cover-up; and who knows what is yet to be uncovered?
I don’t know him personally, but Chris Bley’s educational background more than qualifies him to serve on the board. And – best of all – he will answer to parents and students and the community. He will be accountable to us!
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PAST and PRESENT PERFECT – is RIFT ?
Last week I received an email from a supporter of RIFT – they had forwarded it to me – from the primary sponsors.
I have never written a letter to the editor before; however, as I read the “reasons why” one should support the measure – I stopped at an attack on Nat Trives. Nat is someone I do know and the author’s words helped me to realize that the validity of the piece was factually marginal.
As a friend of Nat Trives and his family – and as a centrist on most issues, I feel qualified to state that Nat is a consensus builder and someone who ignores partisan, racial or spiritual boundaries. He puts the good of our city before everything, except his family.
Yes – their statement was truthful that Nat Trives is a past Mayor of Santa Monica (1975) and he is a past chairman of the chamber (where he worked to build bridges between the Chamber and the City) – why is hard work and dedication to our city a bad thing ?
The piece failed to expand on the fact that Nat has given unwavering time to our city and the many non-profit boards he supports (the YMCA, the Symphony, the Historical Society and many other organizations which benefit seniors and children). He has dedicated his life to helping others and he is known as “Mr. Santa Monica” for good reason – not only because of the many boards he serves on; but, because of the many roles he fills in our community.
His roles started with his devotion to Samohi as their student body president and continued as he started his professional life as a Santa Monica Policeman, while putting himself through college to later become Santa Monica College’s Deputy Superintendent, before he retired.
Our city and its residents are richer, having someone in our corner like Nat.
The residents have spoken = we will never have another high-rise building in Santa Monica.
Let’s move forward and spend our energy on real traffic buster issues that can help us – such as bringing light rail to Santa Monica!
BTW – The author helped me to determine that I am against RIFT.
Kristina Andresen, Architect
Chair, SM Building & Safety Commission
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The crisis on Wall Street and its fast track to Main Street demonstrates what we don’t know can indeed hurt us. It’s time for Americans to be vigilant and become aware of all threats to the vitality of our economy. One threat is lawsuit abuse.
Because October 6-10 marks Lawsuit Abuse Awareness Week, it is the ideal time to illustrate one tax most people are unaware they even pay – the lawsuit tax.
In its 2007 annual report on U.S. tort cost trends, Tillinghast Towers Perrin found that our country paid $247 billion in tort costs. That comes out to $825 for every man, woman and child, or $3,300 for a family of four.
This “tax” is excised in numerous ways, such as higher prices for goods and services, higher insurance premiums and higher medical and pharmaceutical bills.
As hard as this cost hits citizens, it impacts companies even harder, particularly small businesses. A recent survey by California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse (CALA) and members of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) found that lawsuits have a significant impact on the small business community.
Of the nearly 1,000 people who responded to the survey, nearly 83 percent believe that the number of liability lawsuits in California is increasing, with more than 98 percent stating that lawsuits filed against businesses have had a negative impact on business growth and prosperity.
In addition, just the threat of a lawsuit can have major impact on small businesses. Nearly three-quarters of survey respondents said that the threat of a lawsuit could force them to close their doors. Majority percentages of respondents also said such threats could force them to raise their prices or lay off employees. Considering close to 60 percent said they have been threatened with a lawsuit in the past five years, these numbers could have serious implications to the state’s business climate.
Year after year, bills that would help California’s small business community are voted down in our legislature’s committees. Even though study after study finds California’s business climate to be among the worst in the nation, our legislators refuse to act. Harris Interactive/Institute for Legal Reform ranked our state 44th in terms of its legal climate in a recent study, while Forbes ranked California 40th on its list of the best states for business.
The CALA survey came to the same conclusion. Nearly 98 percent of respondents felt that California needs to pass new laws to protect businesses from frivolous or unfair lawsuits and nearly 95 percent feel that current laws favor those who sue.
Litigation costs have an enormous impact on our society. During this week and throughout the year, we should encourage our legislators to stand up against frivolous lawsuits and vote for common sense reforms. Every man, woman, child, and business in America could use a break from the lawsuit tax.
Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse
This is an open letter to you, and I have copied the local newspaper on it as I believe it is worthy of public attention. I am extremely disturbed by the abuse of city resources in enforcing this absurd ordinance at 4th & Adelaide.
Before I outline the numerous ways in which this ordinance – and its enforcement – are ludicrous, I’d like to make the most poignant example right off the bat. While the City/Police have one or two Park Ranger officers on duty for 8-12 hours a day EVERY DAY to monitor about 150 feet of grass, things are happening in other areas of the city where those resources could be of practical use to public safety. One such incident happened on Saturday, October 4th:
I was jogging on the beach (and stretching in the grass just south of the pier – geez, in hindsight I hope that’s a legal place to stretch…) when a group of about 30 young teenagers with skateboards, all dressed in black, converged upon the beach. A man, who I presume to be mentally disabled or homeless or both, walked by and a group of these teenagers started taunting him. The man became intimidated and moved away from them. A handful of the kids pursued him, one of them running with his skateboard in hand, swinging it at the poor man – nearly connecting. As the man tried to dodge the assault, he ran into a metal pole and went down. I was one of a few bystanders who then suddenly intervened, forcing the kids back so that they did not GANG up on the poor man. The man got up and ran off. I was pretty scared myself, instructing the kids with as much vocal force as possible to “walk away,” along with one other (thankfully larger) man.
There was no policeman or park ranger in sight.
At this time (approximately 3pm, Saturday 10/4), there were Park Rangers sitting in their car at 4th and Adelaide. These Park Rangers were not there to look out for public safety – as many exercisers stand in the middle of TRAFFIC, stretching, talking, jogging, shuffling their iPod, etc. while the Park Rangers say nothing to them. However, when a jogger moves OFF the roadway, OUT of traffic, and onto the grassy median, the Park Rangers jump into action, forcing these people to move off the grass.
A few other observations:
• The new yellow signs that were placed in the medians that read “Walking or Jogging Only” are made of hearty metal. They are painted black on the sides, and are just about knee-high. They face east/west — even though the logical movement of walker/joggers would be north/south. What this means is that the very signs themselves have become a public safety hazzard for the very people they are meant to ALLOW on the medians. If someone is jogging on the median, they will be jogging north/south, and in that direction the signs are difficult to see and would be VERY easy to run right over – I can only imagine the injuries that would result. This would be especially true at night – and as dusk now moves earlier and earlier in the fall season, this will create a bigger hazard for the many people who enjoy a workout after work.
• These yellow signs also include the familiar raised, open hand symbol. This is typically the symbol reserved for “Do Not Walk” – a.k.a the “upraised red hand of the Do Not Walk signal,” to which an officer once referred when I asked him about jaywalking regulations. Why would this symbol be used here when walking is allowed? Why would it be used near the corner, in a residential neighborhood, where crossing is allowed?
• This law is not enforced anywhere else in the city that I can find. Trust me, I’m certainly not advocating taking MORE policemen and park rangers off their beats and having them “guard” the medians. But what this does indicate to me is that they are simply responding to specific residents’ complaints in that area. The Santa Monica Police force is now becoming the personal security company for people who believe that the medians belong to them, not to the public.
• I have often seen these Park Rangers idling their vehicle while on duty – a colossal waste of city resources as well. And on Thursday (10/2), I saw the Park Rangers parked in the spot immediately closest to the concrete “stairs” where everyone does their workouts. They saw something going on that they didn’t like at the stairs, so what did the Park Ranger in the driver’s seat do? He started up his vehicle, honked several times, then DROVE FIFTEEN FEET to the stairs and got out of the vehicle to chase down whatever he had seen that he thought inappropriate. He drove fifteen feet rather than get out of his car. And he was blocking traffic when he stopped there – for no reason that I could detect.
• The actual ordinance refers to “median planting strips.” But that does not necessarily include these medians anyway, as there is nothing really planted there. Just grass and palm trees.
• It is ironic that Park Rangers are diverted to enforcing this task. If these medians were considered “parks,” then this ordinance would not be applicable in the first place.
• I do understand what the intention of the law may have been – which is that people begin to congregate in the medians with equipment and personal trainers and group classes, and people are using it to run their personal-training businesses. I see how that can be a nuisance. But I’m just one guy who lives in the neighborhood – about 200 feet from there, actually. I like to run and finish my run with a stretch in the grass. I’m not making noise, I’m not bothering anyone, I don’t have to park on that street, and I’m not a commercial activity. I don’t even drink bottled water. And yet every time now I am harassed by the Park Rangers. It is INCREDIBLY frustrating.
It sickens me to think of the City’s valuable resources – the excellent, well-trained, and professional Park Rangers and Police Officers – being wasted on something so trivial that has absolutely nothing to do with public safety. And I believe that every time that a crime happens in the city with no officer present –– like the one I intervened in on Saturday – it will now be the Police and City leadership that are to blame. Please reconsider the prioritization of this outdated, absurd, and downright elitist city ordinance, and refocus our city’s resources where they belong: public safety.
SM Resident since 1994