On Wednesday, November 19, the Santa Monica Planning Commission held a Town Hall Meeting at Lincoln Middle School starting at 7:00 PM to hear comments by residents
on the Zoning Ordinance. The following is the speech given there
by Ellen Brennan.
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My sincere thanks to you for providing us this opportunity to speak. It’s late
and you’ve sat there all evening so we could be heard. Thank you.
Well, we now have the attorneys’ and their developer clients’ dream book. It’s 4 inches thick. It’s our Zoning Ordinace. And now it’s time to dissect it.
I’d like to start by referring to a piece of U.S. history, dear to those of us who grew up in this country. It’s an address given by our 16th president, Abraham Lincoln, on the battlefield at Gettysburg, one of the worst battles of the Civil War. It’s become a classic. It ends thus: “That this nation, under God shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.”
Notice he did NOT say, government of the attorneys, for the attorneys, and by the attorneys. He did NOT say, government of the developers, by the developers, and for the developers. However, up till the early part of this year, that’s what we’ve had in Santa Monica. There was no government of the people and by the people in Santa Monica. The Planning staff would steam roll over us and the majority on the council would rubber stamp any development that passed their way. We could stand at the microphone 100 deep (I remember the night I was speaker 104 out of 109) and we were totally ignored.
Then Armen Melkonians developed his website, Residocracy, and everything changed.
The Hines project was approved, by the City Council, promising to bring 7000 more cars a day to the most gridlocked part of Santa Monica.
Residocracy members took to the streets to collect 6500 signatures in 30 days. Instead we collected 13,500 verified signatures in 19 days. and the Hines project was stopped. We put the development community into shock and the energy of collaborating to stop development continues to grow.
Later in the year, when our Airport Commission came up with 3 things the city could do to stop the jets and fight schools from flying over our homes and schools, bringing us noise and danger and polluted air, the City council approved the suggestions. The Pilots Union out of Washington D.C. decided to flex their muscles. They filed an initiative and attempted a hostile take over of our airport, intending to force our city government to run it to suit them.
The people in Santa Monica, led by John Fairweather, Zina Josephs, Neil Carrey, and many, many others in a cluster of groups came together to defeat AOPA. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association came. They put on a memorable campaign of lies and deceit. They spent over a million dollars. Members flew in to go to our polls to persuade us to vote their way. And when the dust cleared, they had lost 40% to 60%. So when we tell you this zoning ordinance, dream of the developers, will not stand, you better believe that we mean it. And in this last year we’ve learned how to make such statements stick.
I suggest you get rid of tier 3 on all the boulevards. After listening to Ron Goldman tell us how unbelievably many one and two story buildings exist on the boulevards, it’s clear that tier 3 is no longer appropriate or needed on the boulevards. By adding stories to low buildings we can pick up all the housing we need along the boulevards.
Make sure that Wilshire Blvd is no higher and no denser than
Santa Monica Boulevard. There’s no excuse for higher, or denser buildings on Wilshire. That boulevard is bordered by neighborhoods whose residents deserve to have their life style preserved and their homes saved from overshadowing by huge buildings and the traffic they bring.
Get rid of the Activity centers. These were intended to be built at the subway stations. But the Subway has been cancelled. There is now no possible excuse for building higher, taller buildings at Wilshire and 26th or Wilshire and Centinela. Just get rid of these. The impact on neighborhoods and on traffic outweighs any rationale developers can think up.
Eliminate all opportunity sites. Everybody knows the Opportunity sites were never in the LUCE, but because of the tyranny of the process and the fact that residents never get to answer staff or question staff, this myth has perpetrated itself even though everybody knows its untrue. There’s no reason to allow any developer to penetrate a height limit, destroy our skyline, rob us of sun and sky.
Now lets talk about A-lots. They are overlay zones placed over the large boulevard parking lots to insure that when the lot changes purpose and the parking lot is not needed, the A-lots are to revert to Residential zoning. This is the law on the books now.
However, it’s been discovered by Amy Aukstikanis, chair of Northeast Neighbors, that someone (currently unnamed) in the Planning Department, in preparing the LUCE maps, changed all 33 of the A-lots to commercial zoning – without a change in the ordinance, no vote or discussion by council, no public discussion, and no notification of any kind. And now that it’s been discovered, the fight is to get all those 33 lots changed back to the legal designation – residential. We ask you Planning Commission members to pay particular attention to A-lots to be sure they are rezoned to residential. This makes a big difference. These lots were intended to be buffer lots between development and neighborhoods and fulfill the important promise of the LUCE to preserve neighborhoods, and their way of life.
Please notice that Abraham Lincoln did not say at Gettysburg that government “to protect and enhance the City’s fiscal health” should not perish. It’s likely that some of you don’t even know this phrase is in this document. That phrase needs to be taken out of this document. Someone in this town went seriously off the rails when they thought they could highjack this zoning ordinance for the benefit of the City with a capital C. – shorthand for City Hall. That phrase is a perversion of the democratic process. Just take that phrase out. It’s listed under Chapter 9.01 Title, Purpose, Authority. 9.01.020 Purpose L, M, N, O, P are added in red
(N. To protect and enhance the City’s fiscal health.) It is on page I-4
Kindly remove this phrase. There’s no way the city’s fiscal health should be placed above the general welfare of the people of Santa Monica.
This document shall be for the benefit of the people who live in Santa Monica. And in case you think that’s a joke, we remind you that twice in one year the people of Santa Monica have confronted an entity that did not respect our way of life. and twice – WE WON.
Against all odds, government of the people, by the people, and for the people is returning to Santa Monica.