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Letters to the Editor:

Shriver Endorses Prop T

Measure T is a tough decision.

Good Santa Monicans are on both sides.

Good arguments are made on both sides.

I am going to vote for it.

Here’s why:

New development—especially commercial development—will generate more traffic. Conversely, if Measure T causes 1,000,000 square feet NOT to be built over the next 15 years, the traffic related to it is not happening. This is common sense.

2. My canvassing tells me that traffic is killing Santa Monica residents’ way of life and they want to slow development down; they do not want more tall, dense buildings. City Hall is ignoring their pleas to preserve what’s left of the low-scale, open feeling that keeps Santa Monica connected to the ocean, mountains, and sky.

There is nothing wrong with putting a brake on for a little while. Once the City “gets it” and aligns its development policies with what residents keep asking for, we can vote to modify or even repeal T.

3. This is pretty obvious, but once a building is built, you cannot get rid of it. The most important results of T will be what we will never see: huge buildings and more gridlocked traffic.

4. I don’t believe the predictions made by Measure T’s opponents:

• City revenues are not at any near-term risk. Because of the long-term nature of development approvals, we will know well in advance if T is keeping too many developers from proposing new projects. If it looks as if serious revenue loss will occur, we can change the law in plenty of time.

The City derives revenue from many sources other than development—that’s why our bond rating is AAA.

Over the past thirty years, various development policy proposals have caused opponents to predict that new development would stop. Those predictions have never come true.

• Police, fire, and schools are not at any risk. If the City loses revenue for whatever reason, funding for public safety and helping our schools are two of the last items in the city budget that would be cut. The notions that passing Measure T will harm school children or cause crime to increase are cheap scare tactics.

• Nonprofits and medical centers are not at risk. Do we sincerely believe that the people of Santa Monica, their City Council, and planning department will not make sure our great nonprofits and hospitals can continue their service to the community? If that requires an amendment to Measure T, the Council can put it on the ballot, and the public would no doubt pass it

• If, over the next 15 years, some very large development is proposed that most residents agree would be good for the city, Measure T provides that a vote of the people can approve the extra square footage.

To summarize:

The effects of our current system

• Certain: More gridlocked traffic and big buildings

• Harmful to the city

• Irreversible: Once huge buildings are built, we are stuck with them.

• No Voter approval of very large projects

The effects predicted by Measure T’s opponents

• Not certain: Ranging from educated guesses to scare tactics

• Not harmful to the city, since they are probably not going to happen

• Reversible: We can change the law if an unintended result does begin to occur

The effects of passing Measure T

• Less traffic growth

• Fewer large buildings

• Voter approval of very large projects

* * * *

To the Editor:

In response to “AA: To Bond or Not to Bond” regarding Santa Monica College’s $295-million facilities bond measure, here is the perspective of some Sunset Park residents who live near SMC. While supporting SMC’s educational mission, the Board of Directors of Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) opposes Measure AA. FOSP, based in the neighborhood that borders SMC’s main campus on three sides, is a city-recognized neighborhood organization. This is the first time it has opposed an education-related ballot measure, and here is why:

Measure AA is primarily a bond to allow SMC to continue expanding its facilities. SMC continues to spend over $1 million per year recruiting students from outside its district, from out-of-state and from abroad. Fewer than five-thousand local students attended the college in spring 2008, while 25,000 came from elsewhere.

This is the third SMC facilities bond measure in six years – Measure U for $160 million in 2002, Measure S for $135 million in 2004, and now Measure AA for $295 million. But more than $100 million remains unspent from Measures U and S!

The $590 million total for all three bonds means that if AA passes, 100,000 Santa Monica/Malibu residents will pay out over $1 billion, including interest, or an average of more than $10,000 per person. (There is no exemption for seniors). So local residents will pay for the construction, although just 16 percent of SMC students live in Santa Monica/Malibu.

By contrast, more than 80 percent of the 12,000 K-12 students in Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) live locally. The school district has passed only one facilities bond measure since 1998, despite having many 1930s and ‘40s buildings on its 16 campuses that need safety upgrades or replacement. That should be a higher priority than expanding SMC.

SMC wants to demolish its 1500-seat Amphitheater, built in 1967, and its Concert Hall, dating from 1979. It’s also planning a new Math/Science building; the current Science building is just eight years old! SMC Trustees have also okayed spending $9.5 million (bond money) for an extravagant campus quad, with fancy fountains and transplanted palms, saying “no” to a traditional “campus green” with grass and a few deciduous trees.

Measure AA’s campaign committee has a $450,000 budget, with money coming from KCRW, the SMC Foundation, the Associated Students, and fundraisers.

In 2002, SMC assured the FOSP Board that if Measure U passed, SMC wouldn’t need another bond measure “for decades.” Two years later, Measure S appeared. Now, it’s Measure AA. A fourth bond could be needed to pay for replacement of the “temporary” classrooms installed after the 1994 earthquake.

Many of SMC’s students could choose these Colleges: East L.A .; L.A. City; Harbor; Mission; Pierce; Southwest; Trade Tech; Valley; West L.A.; El Camino; Glendale; and Pasadena.

West L.A. College has only about 8,000 students on its roomy 70-acre campus (114 students per acre). SMC has about 30,000 students on a 40-acre campus (750 students per acre). Yet SMC spends more than $1 million per year to recruit students from other cities, states and countries.

To accommodate the crowd, SMC has purchased property all over Santa Monica: the Main Campus; the Administration Building at Pico & 27th; the Airport Arts Campus; the Bundy Campus; the Emeritus College on 2nd Street; the Academy of Entertainment and Technology on Stewart; the Madison Performing Arts Center on Santa Monica Boulevard; a vacant lot at Pico and 14th; and it uses John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High School classrooms.

Although some shuttle buses carry students among the various campuses, many students drive, increasing traffic congestion and parking hassles. The Big Blue Bus routes that have been added with SMC students in mind all travel on narrow residential streets, with bus stops by homes, where students wait for the 126 buses a day. Exhaust from idling buses force homeowners to keep their windows shut.

Constant growth makes financial sense to SMC: the majority of its operating expenses come from the state legislature, based on enrollment. So the more students, the more state money SMC gets. The constant expansion has led to the Trustees referring to SMC as a “regional education center” and to Santa Monica as a “college town.” Berkeley, Davis and Palo Alto may be classic college towns; Santa Monica is not.

Opponents of Measure AA include SMC instructors, classified staff, students, and alumni, as well as residents most negatively affected by SMC-generated traffic congestion, parking problems, litter, and construction noise and dust.

Zina Josephs

(on behalf of the Board of Directors, Friends of Sunset Park)

* * * *

This letter addresses the proposed wording of Section 9.04.10.02.080 of the Santa Monica Municipal Code, subsection (f).

(f) Existing Nonconforming Fences, Walls, and Hedges.

All existing nonconforming hedges, fences, and walls that were properly registered with the City by November 15, 2007 in accordance with the rules promulgated by the City Manager shall be grandparented at their height as of August 26, 2005 unless an objection was granted in accordance with the procedures established in Interim Ordinance Number 2268 (CCS).

PROBLEMS:

1. No other city has a grandparenting clause. It is complicated to monitor something that is constantly growing.

2. The ordinance sets height limits but creates innumerable ways for these to be disregarded.

3. The ordinance pits neighbor against neighbor. Citizens are put in the position of trying to establish whose rights are transcendent, i.e. one’s rights to privacy and security vs the other’s rights to sunlight, air circulation, views that maintain property values (Rolling Hills assures the right to views), freedom from mold that negatively effects property values and health, freedom from debris, vermin and insects, freedom from increased electric and gas bills created by decreased sunlight, etc.

Such clashes can be avoided if the ordinance is based on clearly defined height limits (as past ordinances were) and not on personal needs.

4. Nonconfoming hedges exist in the city because the city failed to enforce its prior ordinances.

5. The processes developed to handle the ordinance requirements are totally biased in favor of hedge owners.

(a) Hedge owners are not asked to prove why they should be allowed to keep their hedges at nonconforming heights but hedge complainants are required to prove why these hedges should be cut back to the heights specified in the ordinance.

(b) While the registration process was re-opened for hedge owners, the complaint and appeal process was not re-opened for complainants and appellants.

(c) There was never any cost for hedge owners to register their hedges. Appellants were required to pay $222.36 to file an appeal. Appellants are to be further saddled with costs if they wish to have experts testify at their appeals hearings.

(d) Using the rigid criteria of Interim Ordinance # 2169 that was in effect at the time, the Zoning Administrator ruled that most of the 105 complainants had not “proved” their lives were negatively impacted by nonconforming hedges.

(1) Only one hedge was required to be cut back to the 12 foot limit.

(2) Only twelve other hedges were required to be cut back, but only to heights ranging from 18 feet to 40 feet or the height of telephone wires.

(e) The instructions on the objection forms were misleading.

(1) They asked for photos of the offending hedges and statements as to “how allowing the hedges to remain at their existing heights would be “significantly detrimental or injurious” to the objector “due to the hedge’s, fence’s or wall’s substantial impact on light, shadow, air, or safety, or other objective quality of life impacts.”

Objectors thought they were submitting sufficient evidence when they submitted photos and statements, that, for example, (a) showed a hedge blocking sunlight with the corresponding statement that this contributed to mold growth or to dark rooms that necessitated increased electric and gas bills, or (b) showed photos of fallen debris with statements detailing associated damaged roofs, clogged rain gutters and drains, and/or leaves covering pools and back yards, etc.

(2) The instructions never said the objector had to provide proof. This became clear only after objectors received the Zoning Administrator determination letters that said, for example, that the objector had not submitted his electric bills and therefore had not proved his “quality of life” was impacted negatively. There was no opportunity to re-summit evidence without filing an appeal. To truly establish proof, the objector would have had to keep records over years to demonstrate a correlation between the increased growth of his neighbor’s hedge and the increases in his electric bills. What a ridiculous requirement!

(f) After reading the Zoning Administrators rulings and attending various City Council meetings, most complainants became disillusioned. They felt that the city had created an ordinance and processes that were totally biased in favor of hedge owners and that insurmountable barriers had been erected to prevent objector-complainants rights from being considered. Thus many complainants did not file appeals (which cost $222.36) as they believed there was nothing to be gained by doing so. They felt sabotaged.

6. A basic problem exists with the criteria established for evaluating complaints. The Zoning Administrator made her determinations based on the stringent criteria specified in Interim Ordinance #2169 which was the operating ordinance at the time. After hearing from complainants that the criteria were subjective and undefinable, the City Council felt it prudent to “CLARIFY THE CRITERIA” in a subsequent interim ordinance. This “clarification” however was to be used for hearing appeals only and not for reevaluating the original complaints.

(a) This is patently unfair to those complainants who decided not to appeal. The rules of the game were changed midstream. All objections should be reevaluated in light of the clarified criteria. Appeals might not be needed if this were done.

Respectfully,

Representative of Hedge Appellants and Complainants

* * * *

I and my family have resided in our Santa Monica home for over 20 years. During this time we have helplessly watched the steady degradation in the quality of living in our community due to the increase in traffic that is caused by continuous development in our area. It has been frustrating for us to see our city decision-makers cater to money-talk developers at the cost of robbing thousands of silent households of a peaceful place to live. Enough is enough. It seems that we cannot depend on our elected leaders to protect the interests of our community and so we are very glad to see the Prop T initiative become available to us as a way to stop the damage that is being done. The initiative may not be perfect in its present form but that should not be a reason to reject it. The restrictions it imposes can be amended and fine-tuned over time. It is a measure that is very much needed to turn around the misguided direction that we are on.

Faustino Garza

* * * *

I love Sasha Stone but two things occur to me:

Why does Disney always have to make kids cry and worry and have nightmares? Bambi? Dumbo? Fantasia? Old Yeller? Etc. Why do people think because it “works out in the end” (which it usually does not for the animals) that it’s okay to scare the crap out of kids, much less promote the purchase of dog breeds (many breeders gear up for these movie releases even though the shelters and rescue organizations already are overloaded with them – 101 Dalmations for instance – which are very hard dogs to own despite their great looks, ended up in the shelters, many abused.

I wish Ms Stone would point out how irresponsible this is on the part of Disney and all others who exploit and market flesh without any regard to the consequence or any offer to donate proceeds to shelters and rescue organizations who are the ones to clean up the hurt and horror left by this irresponsibility.

Thanks – due to the housing collapse their are so many sad-eyed dogs waiting for homes in the shelters- maybe Disney can donate some proceeds to help them since they’ve added to it.

Danielle Charney

Ocean Park- Santa Monica

* * * *

RE: PROP “T”

As a College Street Area Resident/owner in Santa Monica for the past 16 years I have seen traffic become impossible/impassible on EAST/WEST and NORTH/SOUTH thoroughfares week-days from 4 PM- 7 PM.

When trying to navigate Wilshire, Santa Monica Blvd, Broadway, Colorado, Olympic or Pico during these hours one becomes acutely aware of the impossible traffic. If PROP “T” becomes a reality it will insure that more developments like THE WATER GARDENS and other major commercial developments will be tempered by the impact of increased traffic IN & OUT of our city.

People PLEASE DO NOT LISTEN to those officials who, likely as not, benefit somehow from developers who lovingly LOOK at our city (SANTA MONICA) as a financial boondoggle to success and bypass the will of its people and the impact more commercial development would bring.

Think about it, would you like more WATER GARDEN type developments along our thoroughfares bringing hundreds or possibly thousands more cars during the rush hours described above??

How many of you have tried to get out of Santa Monica for dinner, entertainment or ??? during these hours only to be thwarted by continuous traffic for hours by employees who live elsewhere and commute to our fair city?? AGAIN think about it, DO WE NEED MORE CARS, MORE COMPANIES BUILDING MONSTROUS FACILITIES FOR THEIR EMPLOYEES??

Remember what Santa Monica used to be like. It will not happen overnight but passing PROP “T” is a step in the right direction.

A Concerned Resident

Madelyn Tarfman

* * * *

To the Editor:

Of all the reasons to oppose RIFT, here’s one you do not see written about. This measure will impact the likelyhood of the Wilshire Boulevard subway from ever getting to Santa Monica.

When Antonio Villaraigosa was elected Mayor of Los Angeles, he also became Chair of the Board of Directors of MTA or Metro as it has re-branded itself. In that capacity he announced his intention of completing the Purple Line subway, also known as the Wilshire Boulevard extension, or the “Subway to the City.” At present the Purple line extends from Union Station to Wilshire at Western (yes L.A. does have a subway) while a longer branch known as the Red Line, extends through Hollywood to North Hollywood. Now that Congressman Waxman has overturned the prohibition on constructing the Wilshire Blvd. subway, Metro is busy studying the feasibility of the purple line extension, holding community meetings in West L.A., Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Santa Monica, while contemplating the details of the best route and attempting to precisely define station locations – all this as they go about the task of estimating costs and ridership.* This effort is, in part, in preparation for an application to the Federal Government to help fund the project to the tune of…, well who knows yet, let’s say many billions of dollars. This application will go into a pool of other deserving proposals where it will compete under the “new starts” program. Applications that offer the most riders for the least cost per rider will tend to rise to the top.

Estimating the potential ridership is a key part of this funding application. The feds have to believe the applicant’s numbers. Applications for systems where the employment and housing densities surrounding the proposed stations are already in place are the easiest to support. However, “transit supportive” land-use policies (e.g., zoning, general plans, specific plans, etc.) surrounding proposed stations can also be compelling to federal government reviewers, particularly where there is a robust mix of uses provided for in those policies (with emphasis on employment I would add).

Wilshire Boulevard, outside of Santa Monica, is the most densely populated corridor in the nation not currently served by high quality rail transit (i.e., a subway). And as you look at the Wilshire corridor, it is pretty obvious that the busiest station along this alignment would be in Westwood, though Century City and Beverly Hills probably provide some pretty good numbers on their own (yes I know Century City is not along Wilshire – but planners are contemplating a bit of a detour to so as to incorporate that employment rich area). It is easy to imagine that a “new starts” application with those stations in the application would provide a cost per rider ratio that would hold its own against applications from New York City (the 2nd Avenue line) or Washington, DC (the Dulles Airport extension through Tyson’s Corner), among others that are being prepared.

However, west of Westwood, densities begin to drop off, particularly as Wilshire moves into Santa Monica. It is true that a stop in the vicinity of Wilshire and 4th Street would seemingly deliver a good cost/rider number particularly as there is not only a large employment base, but also a significant tourist and destination retail draw in that location.

But there is a lot of tunnel and track and several potential station locations in between Westwood and 4th Street that wouldn’t look as compelling today from a cost/rider point of view, as the rest of the system, but with transit supportive policies in place might still be projected to look good, or good enough, in the future. And when I say transit supportive, I’m not talking Century City scale of development, I’m talking Miracle Mile density of development. However, given a 75,000 square foot annual cap on commercial development in the entire city of Santa Monica, as is proposed with Proposition T or RIFT (with no priority given as to where those square feet can be built) it is pretty doubtful that the cost/rider ratio can be anticipated to be any better in the future than it is today. The tunnel and stations between Westwood in L.A. and 4th Street in Santa Monica would simply be unlikely to deliver the ridership to justify the cost. The cost/rider equation would be so low as to bring down the overall average weakening the application for the entire project.

If you’re a member of the Metro Board (which consists of 12 voting members, most of whom are elected officials with, but one member from Santa Monica) then you have a big decision to make. You have to triage the application, decide what to save and what to jettison in order to have the best chance of success. Should you submit an application with absolutely boffo numbers that extends the line to a terminal station in Westwood, or submit one with what is likely to be a weaker cost/rider ratio that extends under a 20-to 25-block stretch of corridor with an unsupportive land-use policy above? As sexy as it sounds to say “subway to the sea,” I think the choice will be obvious.

How ironic it would be, if a land-use policy such as RIFT, aimed at reducing traffic were to wind up being responsible for negating the possibility for high quality transit in Santa Monica along its most significant commercial and employment rich corridor.** It would be tragic enough if such unintended consequences could not have been foreseen, but in this case, they’re in plain sight if we just open our eyes.

*For more on the public process visit: metro.net/projects_studies/westside/meetings.htm

** Yes, I know the Expo line, a light rail, which for the most part will run on grade, may one day also get to Santa Monica if a route through Culver City can be negotiated and funding secured, but its potential impact on traffic reduction while not insignificant is in my opinion simply no where near what the Wilshire line’s would be. Ideally, Santa Monica should be fighting for both lines (as they go to different places) plus a third line running south on Lincoln to the LAX and El Segundo.

Neal Payton

Santa Monica

* * * *

Dear Sir,

Tom Elias wrote in the Mirror, “There, they might encounter a “virtual fence” when they try to cross into Arizona and move on to California – or they might not. That’s because the U.S. Department of Homeland Security last spring scrapped a $20 million prototype of the highly touted electronic sensors which were supposed to cover large portions of the border not slated to get physical fencing.”

I would like to correct the record on this part of Mr. Elias’ article regarding the Secure Border Initiative (SBI).

The project which he says was “scrapped” was a “proof-of-concept” technology demonstration that provided operational, technical, and acquisition insights, valuable input to the SBInet operational requirements documentation, and the initial version of the SBInet solution. Although the actual demonstration is complete, the project’s capabilities continue to provide operational utility to Border Patrol agents in the Tucson Sector. Between September 2007 and September 2008, the system assisted U.S. Border Patrol in the apprehension of more than 3,800 illegal aliens.

It was not scrapped. It is still in place and in operation.

SBInet is continuing to develop this technology and integration project with its main contractor, Boeing. Boeing currently operates three testing facilities in support of such development in Crystal City (Arlington,) VA, Huntsville, AL, Mesa, AZ and is setting up a fourth in Playas, NM.

TUS-1 is the first of two operational deployments of the SBInet solution. TUS-1 will be deployed exclusively in the Tucson Sector and covers approximately 23 miles of international border flanking the Sasabe, AZ, Port of Entry. Project components include 9 sensor towers; 8 communication towers (4 of the 8 communication towers are already in existence); 200 unattended ground sensors; and 6 miles of access roads improvements/construction. We project a TUS-1 construction start in the first quarter of Calendar Year 2009.

AJO-1 is the second of two operational deployments of the SBInet solution. The AJO-1 project will cover approximately 30 miles of international border. The project area is on the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument and is flanked by the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge on the western boundary, and the Tohono O’dham Nation on the eastern boundary. Project components include 6 sensor towers; 5 communication towers; 200 unattended ground sensors; and 20 miles of access road improvements/construction. AJO-1 construction is planned to start following successful construction of TUS-1.

In California, illegal entrants are more than likely to be confronted with a physical fence. U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Secure Border Initiative continues to work on the 14.5-mile long Border Infrastructure System (BIS) at San Diego, as well as on fence projects to the east along the U.S. border that have been identified by Border Patrol agents in the field there as sites for the frequent crossing of illegal entrants and narcotics shipments.

Thank you for your consideration. Please contact U.S. Customs and Border Protection Public Affairs for additional information on this subject.

Angela de Rocha

Office of Public Affairs

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Department of Homeland Security

Washington, D.C.

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