Given the number of sitcom writer/producers who live in Santa Monica, it’s astonishing that none of them has based one on City Hall’s comical, often bizarre efforts to impose its idea of order on the beach town’s naturally rambunctious residents.
Remember the hedge wars, which began when the City distributed notices to owners of renegade hedges, threatening to fine then $25,000 a day for every day their hedges remained “out of “compliance,” i.e., more than 42 inches tall?.
Hedge owners’ outrage rocked City Hall. Officials immediately claimed the $25,000 a day fine was a typo, but no one believed them. And it took four years and several “interim” ordinances to achieve something like peace. But why is the height of our hedges City Hall’s business anyway?
The latest dust-up between residents and City Hall has already been chronicled in the New York Times’ “Santa Monica Journal,” an irregular feature devoted to our foibles. It’s also on You Tube.
The City Council will take it up Tuesday. At issue is the “appropriate” use of the Fourth Street median,
On its face, it couldn’t be simpler. A 1970 ordinance prohibits all activities on the median but walking and jogging. The City can either enforce the ordinance, or change it.
But nothing’s simple in our City Hall.
All of its trademark twists are already in play– – the rigid old ordinance, the molehill-to-mountain process. community outreach- input, “public education,” surveys and community meetings. And the Council hasn’t had its shot.
According to the staff report, “Although there has been an ordinance prohibiting the use of medians for anything other than walking or running since 1970, the 4th Street median south of Adelaide Drive is regularly used for exercising, stretching, group fitness classes and pick-up gyms. Nearby residents have expressed serious concerns about this use and the associated noise, traffic, and litter. In spite of many attempts to use proactive methods to secure compliance including education, new signs, intermittent enforcement, etc., the 4th St. median at Adelaide Dr. has attracted increasing numbers of people utilizing the area for exercise and other activities that are not permitted by the ordinance. A Park Ranger has been assigned to oversee the area as part of a regular rotation which has minimized non-permitted use of the median. Staff conducted a 1,000 foot survey of residents to gauge community concerns, held a community neighborhood meeting and has begun discussion of potential options and solutions. There is no fiscal impact to continue with the current periodic enforcement of the city ordinance with Park Rangers as already established. If Council proposes other actions that have fiscal impacts, funds will be identified in the current adopted budget…
“The median has become a gathering spot for groups, paid fitness coaches and individual exercisers, many of whom create noise, trash and human waste issues. The noise starts as early as 4:00 a.m. and often continues well into the evening. Recently, a Park Ranger has been assigned to oversee the area as part of a regular rotation… In spite of many attempts to use the proactive methods to secure compliance including education, new signs, intermittent enforcement, etc., the 4th St. median at Adelaide Dr. has attracted increasing numbers of people utilizing the area for exercise, etc.
“Staff has worked with neighbors from adjacent residences on a number of short term interventions to disrupt negative impacts and behaviors. In addition, staff conducted a 1,000 foot survey of residents to gauge community concerns, held a community neighborhood meeting and has begun discussion of potential options and solutions…
“Staff will evaluate additional measures that can be taken to address the neighbors concerns, present recommendations to the City Manager, and return to City Council for further direction, if required…”
Like the residents, I would vociferously object to what amounts to a traveling circus camping out under my windows before dawn every day.
But Santa Monica is one of the most densely populated towns in Southern California and, City Hall’s claims notwithstanding, we suffer from a chronic and growing shortage of open space. Compounding the problem, the things we can’t do in our parks and on the beach far outnumber the things we can do.
Surely, City Hall’s devotion to all things sustainable extends to people. Therefore, it should simply work with the exercisers to find another attractive, suitable and convenient location for them – wiyjout further ado.
Of course, it’s the ado that makes City Hall such perfect sitcom fodder, but surely we can spare a little ado for the sake of peace on Fourth Street.