At this holiday season, we should observe that Santa Monica is a city blessed with gifts. A stable tax base maintains a high standard of city services. In a time of hardship everywhere, Santa Monica has a balanced budget and the city has the third highest assessed value in Los Angeles County. Crime is now at the same level that it was in 1956, although you might have to get with some older crime victims to analyze the full weight of that. And the city is reducing homelessness by measurable indices. It’s not news, but it’s still true: We’re lucky to live here.
That said, it is the duty of newspaper columnists to find at least some things to be wary of in the coming New Year and I have my list. Here are a few things that we don’t want in our Santa Monica stockings this Christmas.
People are always going to want to come to our beaches and they should because the beaches belong to everyone. But let’s be sure we’re helping ourselves with traffic by carefully weighing each new development proposal and the potential impacts it will have on traffic. Apostles of the Whole Foods at Lincoln and Rose will testify that there hasn’t been a significant uptick in traffic on Lincoln since that store opened. But last Friday there was gridlock on Lincoln that actually made parking and getting out to walk a better option for me. There are skeptics that say the building of a rail system to Santa Monica won’t significantly reduce traffic. But it will demonstrate that our city can look to the future and adopt traffic calming and reduction measures. We’re creating more parking, but at the same time we need to look at whether or not we’ve already hit some limits on development. Which I think gets me to my next “Do Not Want” gift…
Honestly, can anyone point to a gap in the pantheon of retail in Santa Monica? Sure, I can. A Target or WalMart or similar “big box” store meant to offer goods to working people. But with that exception can we agree that we have most of, if not all, the retail we need? There’s nothing sadder than an older building with some level of architectural and design integrity being pulled down to make room for something new with little or none of that… and another cluster of street-level retail. A lovely movie theater on Wilshire was closed and gutted to make more retail space. To my knowledge (visit SMMirror.com with comments) that space hasn’t been rented since the theater was booted out. And as far as too much of our retail being aimed at the 1 percent, we could reasonably take on a “big box” as long as it occupied an existing space where higher end had once again gasped and fallen.
No More Beach Infomercials
It’s a personal thing with me, and I admit it: I believe that a public area is just that, and that the public has a right to enjoy that space without commercial messages. The city may benefit from fees allowing product demonstrations or product-promoting events at the beach, but it sickens me to see those areas used to sell razors and athletic shoes. Two years ago at “Glow,” Disney set-up a rig that created a water spray upon which video could be projected. Then that system later showed up at Disneyland. We told the public “Glow” was an art event, not a Disney product development project. The lines can be tricky and thin, especially when events need sponsorship. But it’s a beach, not Times Square.
Yellow Jersey Bike Path Demons
Again, a personal thing: Once while enjoying the beach bike path safely in my lane, I was ordered to “Move over, bitch!” by an on-coming “serious” male bike rider in default black body stocking who was out of his lane, but obviously had more rights on the bike path than I did. It’s as stupid and dangerous as texting while driving: We’ve got to get these clowns that think they can ride multi-speed bikes in a black swarm without slowing their tempo off of a beach bike path populated by tourists on crab bikes, children on tricycles and middle-aged couples gently pedaling along. As attractive as the beach bike path is, it is not a training course for competitive bike racing. The city needs to ticket these arrogant creeps, and in handing over the citation mention something about swearing in front of children.
Guns and Victims
The last two things we don’t want in our Santa Monica stocking are more gun incidents and victims of those incidents. This year saw an increase in gun-related violence in our city, and one could simply shrug their shoulders and say, “It’s everywhere.” No, actually, it’s not. In Hong Kong, the percentage of homicides by firearms is 2 percent. In England it’s 8 percent, although maybe that’s because there are more homicides involving Colonel Mustard in the library with a lead pipe. But in the U.S. it’s 65 percent: Guns are how we like to sort things out. Is there anything citizens of Santa Monica can do? Well, some of our citizens make films and television shows. In the New Year, they could tell fewer stories where all the conflict in the narrative was resolved by gun fire. I’m not saying Colonel Mustard’s way is better, but at least he’s not advertising guns.