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2009: Some Things We’re Still Working On:

There is no one way to make a list of most important or most crucial issues facing Santa Monica, not least of all because Santa Monica is not a city beset by “issues.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but the last time we were to any extent “besieged” was when OJ’s civil trial was here and we had to endure the tent city of media knuckleheads that set-up shop across the street from the courthouse. So let’s take a moment and be grateful for the level of relative peace and tranquility that we enjoy as residents here.

With that said here is a look back at events and developments that did matter to our city in 2009, notable for their quality of continuing to matter. They’re in an order of importance to me, but your own list might vary. If so, contact me at [email protected] Our first New Year’s resolution can be a promise to communicate more often.

Growth

Much as Santa Monica can be a location where global trends and innovations begin and then travel around the world, the city itself must remain vigilant about change in the form of growth. There’s nothing “NIMBY” about resisting hi-rise development or new traffic-clogging retail proposals. A city’s residents are not elitists to just say “No” to development when it’s not about improvement or adding low cost housing but rather about somebody realizing a jackpot. In 2010, we must continue to resist the notion that tearing things down and replacing them with charm-less fast plastic architecture brings needed change. The open-air renovations at Santa Monica Place may over time prove to be more people-friendly than what was in place. However, that won’t prove that we need more chain retail glued-on to our city.

Heal the Everything

I’ve been following the activity of Heal the Bay since moving to Santa Monica in 1992 and it’s disheartening to learn that with all the environmental awareness that can be audited in our city, the beach waters around Santa Monica Pier are still capable of getting “F” grades during Heal the Bay’s testing periods. As the Mirror’s Lynne Bronstein reported this year, there’s good news in two projects funded by Measure V (Clean Beaches and Ocean, 2006), one a storm drain improvement and pump to divert runoff from getting to the beach. But we’re Nero fiddling in some kind of groovy Patagonia robe and Nike shoes if we’re not good stewards in making Santa Monica a model city in its sewage and waste management. We have the will and the means and good people to keep us focused on this. Ladies and gentlemen of Santa Monica, let’s be certain we never crap in the ocean right after a $200 dinner. In a world of need, it makes us look like fools.

Less Landing, More Planning

Nothing brought out reader response in 2009 like the struggle to reduce traffic at the Santa Monica Airport. Even after insightful conversations with airport administrators and several reader letters that were less than flattering about my observations, this column maintains a posture that as long as private jets are in the mix of traffic at SMA, there’s an event of the powerful choosing to land their planes in our neighborhoods to avoid the various hassles of LAX. But let’s consider that a carrot to motivate a hard look at exactly what amount of traffic can and should be reasonably sustained at SMA. Swelling traffic is an infrastructure problem at many municipal airports. But just like with our sewage, we should be leading on this one.

“Do You Have to Be Homeless Right Here?”

In 2009, that was often the feeling that emerged when I attended group meetings and listened to home owners about Santa Monica’s on-going struggle between the moral high ground and living with the constituency referred to as “the homeless.” Not that this will bond us all together, but readers should know that every once and while someone will use my home driveway for a bathroom. The constituency is a varied and diverse group, a kind of multi-problem/multicultural amalgam. A new program links all the cities of Los Angeles in attempting to get people into programs and to ensure that a cycle of migration and relocation isn’t mistaken for problem-solving. I spent the winter of 1989 in New York City, a time when homeless people would sleep on heating grates covered with cardboard box blankets. It was also a time when “Right to Life” groups were making a lot of noise, yet here were the full-grown babies of years ago now seemingly without a “right” to a warm place to sleep. Santa Monica leads in the area of homeless response, but as citizens let’s be sure we’re always taking the expansive view.

More 4th of July’s

Since its inception the parade down Main Street on the 4th of July has been, in my book anyhow, a hit. Parents and children get involved, marching in the parade is open to all, and most importantly we gather as a community and celebrate our connectivity as citizens of this city. I know there are plenty of other events that work this same way… I just happen to really enjoy this one. This year Mirror owner and publisher Michael Rosenthal rode in a vintage car in our little part of the parade just shortly before he was taken from us all by cancer. Mike made the effort to be there because he loved the spirit of community reflected by the parade. In 2010, we could honor Mike by evidencing our commitment to where we live more often. There’s plenty to be done in a volunteer capacity. But there’s also a lot that happens when we simply remember that however we got here, Santa Monica is a hell of a nice place to live and work. Especially as it remains open and inviting, and not gated or exclusionary. This, ultimately, is why we live here. Understanding what a privilege that is can make us all do better in the New Year.

Contact Steve Stajich • [email protected]

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