It’s time to confess my dirty little secret: I do not live in Santa Monica. Never have.
There. I said it.
However, as I look back on my first year as Editor of the Mirror, it occurs to me that Santa Monica has been an important part of my life for over 30 years.
My mother has lived on 5th Street for over 20 years. My children have been visiting here since they were babies and we lived in New York City. I am fairly certain my youngest daughter Ava was conceived here.
I grew up on what is now referred to as the Westside, a phrase that still makes my friends and I smirk. I went to Uni High, a cheap-seat homer from the Santa Monica city limit, and thus spent a goodly amount of time at the beach, and scarfed down many a late night meal at Zucky’s making dumb jokes, debating movies, and discussing with great seriousness the larger sociological implications of Star Trek.
But Santa Monica was a lot different in the 70’s. There was no Promenade; much of the city was blighted and dangerous. By the time my mother moved into the area in the mid-80’s, things has already begun to improve, but no one had any idea of the kind of town Santa Monica would eventually become.
Over the past year, I have been on a steep yet enjoyable learning curve with regard to local politics, community concerns, and who the players are in all aspects of local life. And like any community, there are disagreements here, sometimes passionate, occasionally vitriolic, but usually, in my humble estimation, driven by principle. Whether it’s preserving trees, limiting construction, going “green”, renters’ rights, dealing with the homeless, etc., one may not necessarily agree with a group or individual’s position, but those positions seem to represent, to the persons in question, what is best for the community. And if it appears otherwise, that person(s) gets called out, and the position must be accounted for.
And so life in Santa Monica is really one big balancing act: balancing economic growth with environmental responsibility; balancing the desire for increased tourism and visitation with neighborhood quality-of-life and traffic issues; balancing urban renewal with the need to maintain the City’s signature architectural character; balancing the need for social services with fiscal responsibility; the list goes on.
At the end of the day, despite its problems, Santa Monica works. The opposing forces seem to keep each other in check. Voices make themselves heard, and all opinions have a place here. It is no wonder that this city is one of the national leaders when it comes to issues like the environment, “green” policies, and responsible growth. One can easily imagine, when these issues come up in other parts of the country, that the conversation eventually includes, “Well, in Santa Monica they….”
Which brings me to gratitude. I’m grateful for what I’ve learned this year. Grateful for what I’ve had the opportunity to write about. Grateful to be a part of the Mirror, and to be an active member of the Santa Monica community (even though I live in the Valley).
So, I thank the many locals I’ve met in my capacity as Editor, and the wonderful people whose hard work gets the Mirror to the newsstands every week. Times are tough; they might get worse before they get better. But standing on Ocean Avenue, a block or so north of Wilshire, watching yet another spectacular sunset made me think, “Hey, things could be a lot worse.”