We enter another weekend of “don’t.” Don’t use our parks, don’t go to the beach, don’t walk on a mountain trail, don’t congregate in groups, and most certainly, don’t cough or sneeze within six feet of one of your fellow humans. Yep, we are all grounded. And, for a good reason. Collectively we are trying to keep everyone in our community alive and in good health. COVID-19 won’t kill all of us, but it might kill your mother, your neighbor, or the checker at the grocery store you frequent. This disease reminds all of us that, as humans, we are all invested in each other.
I was reminded of that investment as I walked Ocean Park Blvd yesterday. I talked briefly with Fred Deni, one of Santa Monica’s favorite restaurant owners. His Back on the Beach Cafe is shut for the duration of this health crisis. Fred wanted to keep the pancakes and omelettes coming, but our beaches, Annenberg Beach House, and bike path are all closed. He feels for the forty-two employees he had to furlough and will reopen when this crisis has passed.
While walking OP Blvd, I encountered Juana Meyer, one of the capable managers of Bob’s Market. She was happy to note that the food delivery issues are largely over. The senior hour is working well, the staff is getting hazard pay, and the market is open regular hours. Management is procuring plexiglass safety panels, and the team is wearing gloves. Most importantly, they are trying to keep 89-year-old owner, Bob Rosenbloom, at home. It’s not safe for him to be at the helm of his business now.
We enter another weekend of “don’t.” Don’t use our parks, don’t go to the beach, don’t walk on a mountain trail, don’t congregate in groups, and most certainly, don’t cough or sneeze within six feet of one of your fellow humans. Yep, we are all grounded. And, for a good reason. Collectively we are trying to keep everyone in our community alive and in good health. COVID-19 won’t kill all of us, but it might kill your mother, your neighbor, or the checker at the grocery store you frequent. This disease reminds all of us that, as humans, we are all invested in each other.Phil Brock for SMa.r.t.
Our city’s “mom & pop” Oaxacan bakery, Antiquerra Panaderia y Pasteleria at 1704 Ocean Park Blvd, is staying open. It is entirely family-run, and they are hanging on, although it’s tough. Revenue is way down. Last Sunday’s gross was only $30. Speaking for her family, Blanca Gutierrez is praying that the landlord will cut them some slack. They have been open for thirty years. Buy some delicious dinner rolls from them!
I crossed the street and walked into Bolivar. Samohi graduate, Jose Carvajal ’86, started his restaurant in 2001 and is fighting to keep the doors open. His business is down 50%, but he has decided not to furlough his staff. Staying open from 7:30 AM -7:00 PM six days a week, he caters to the neighborhood, and the neighbors have been loyal. Jose was a childhood transplant from Venezuela and is still in love with the city that took him in. He is helping local chefs who are now working from home and wants his employees to be able to pay their rent. He only wishes his landlord would reach out to help him. Landlords and tenants all have to share the pain of this unprecedented health crisis. Arepas anyone?
Walking out of Bolivar, two Santa Monica besties were having a conversation, at a respectful social distance, of course. Samohi’s Amelia Mardesich and New Roads’ Louisa Cichowski, both seniors, were troubled by the closure of their schools. Louisa, in a senior class of only 80 students, found the adjustment less troubling. Looking ahead, Louisa believes that this is only the first painful adjustment for our world out of many more to come. She thinks that the COVID-19 crisis proves that people can come together for the common good when the need is urgent. She wants this lesson to translate to the need for action on climate change. Louisa wants humans to understand that we will have to change our habits dramatically, for the common good. Amelia is a member of Samohi’s famed choir and describes herself as a social animal. She is frustrated by Samohi’s necessary closure and wants to be able to commune with the 650 seniors on campus. While adjusting to online learning, she feels more adult responsibility and freedom but still misses her friends and teachers. The virus has vaporized the Prom, scholarship recognition, and graduation ceremonies for the Class of 2020.
You need to do what you can to help your neighbors. Last night, we helped a neighbor whose packages arrived at the wrong address. As we helped carry her boxes, she told us that they were full of medical supplies for her husband, who is in hospice fighting cancer. COVID-19 is not the only fight out there. I couldn’t give her a well-deserved hug last night, but my heart is with her. We have to find ways to smile, to be empathetic, and to acknowledge the fact that we are all worried and scared.
On another note, I erred last week in stating that the Housing and Community Development Department (HCD) had notified the city and developer that the California Surplus Lands Act did not apply to the Plaza at Santa Monica. HCD only referenced the new provisions of the Act, not the original law. There is substantial evidence that ultimately the land must be utilized for parkland, affordable housing, or educational purposes. The Act can stop the construction of the proposed behemoth.
COVID-19 has derailed the local spending gravy train. Can the current leadership of Santa Monica respond to an entirely different reality when this crisis has ended? The free-wheeling spending days of our municipal government will stop. Taxing more and developing more must be replaced by common sense fiscal restraint. Our residents cannot handle more taxes. One of the lessons of this deadly outbreak will be that we need to reduce urban density, not increase it.
I ask your momentary indulgence. My mentor,John Lonsdale, passed away in Santa Monica two weeks ago. I often talk about the fabric and thread of our community. “Johnny Lonsdale” was a large part of that fabric. The thread stretched out over sixty years of coaching and leading the young men of Santa Monica. He was the Assistant Executive Director of the Boys Club of Santa Monica. He worked there for a half-century, a little league coach for sixty years at Memorial Park, a mentor to thousands of kids, and a father figure to so many. One of my friends, former SMPD sergeant, Ira Rutan, said, “We all became better people because of John Lonsdale.” To me, he was the John Wooden of Santa Monica. Read more at https://tinyurl.com/JohnWebsterLonsdale.
Our life today reflects Psalm 68, which starts in misery and ends in darkness: “You have caused friend and neighbor to shun me; my companions are in darkness.” As reasoning beings, we know that there is always light at the end of every tunnel. The light will shine again, brightly, as we stir to an evolving world. Our optimism and hope will prevail because the human spirit always has.
Dr. Bruce Aylward of the World Health Organization stated, “This will end with, you know, humanity victorious over yet another virus. There is no question about that.”
Wash your hands, be well, use proper distancing, and don’t shun your neighbors.
By Phil Brock for SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)
Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Santa Monica Arts Commission.
For previous articles see www.santamonicaarch.wordpress.com/writing