SUSTAINING RESIDENTS IS CITY’S FIRST TASK

The Tuesday, November 1, City Council meeting will be devoted entirely to a study session on “Santa Monica Business Districts and the Local Economy.”

Given the events that took place at the Village Trailer Park Monday morning (see RESIDENTS RALLY TO DEFEND VILLAGE TRAILER PARK below), we hope that the staff and the Council will devote some attention to the unavoidable and sometimes sharp conflicts between business interests and residents’ needs, the ways in which a vigorous local economy, if not scrupulously and thoughtfully managed, can threaten residents’ ways of life and well-being, and the steps that must be taken to preserve the town’s character and its quality of life in the midst of a long-running commercial development boom.

A portion of the session will be devoted to a staff recommendation that “the City Council review, comment on… and direct staff to proceed with implementation of the Strategy for a Sustainable Local Economy.”

Any discussion of a “sustainable local economy” must include a variety of means to sustain both residents and the community itself. 30 years ago, Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights put the nation’s most stringent rent control ordinance on the ballot and voters approved it. Rent control and affordable housing were and
are integral elements in maintaining this gloriously idiosyncratic beach town – in spirit and fact. But over time, state laws have weakened rent control and more and more rental housing has been demolished and replaced by so-called luxury condos, leading to the diminution of our rental housing stock.

The residents of the Village Trailer Park, which epitomizes affordable housing, got caught in the commercial boom that has spread inexorably east from 20th Street toward the L.A. border and south into the Pico Neighborhood and turned the whole area into a mammoth traffic jam.

The owners of the land now want to build a mammoth mixed use commercial complex on it. For reasons it has never explained, the City has never taken steps years ago to protect and preserve the trailer park, and so it was that the bulldozers arrived Monday morning, in violation of the DEIR, and residents gathered and
called on the City to stop them.

It was a Capra movie – with the good guys triumphing. But it isn’t over, and won’t be until any discussion of a “sustainable local economy” begins with the needs, desires and dreams of residents.

RESIDENTS RALLY TO DEFEND VILLAGE TRAILER PARK

Dear Friends and Members of Mid-City Neighbors,

Early this morning, Marc Luzzatto had a Golden West Demolitions crew come to Village Trailer Park to demolish 10 trailers–in violation of the Draft EIR, which states that “no trailers are proposed to be demolished” (p. 168). Fortunately, David Lathem, a resident of VTP, had called me early Saturday morning to ask for help. He sent me the notice he received last Thursday, announcing that the demolition was scheduled for Monday. I called our own Board Liaison Member Catherine Baxter for advice. Soon an email was sent to various City Council Members and Planning Director David Martin and another to the leaders of the various neighborhood associations to alert them to the situation. Kevin McKeown contacted the city attorneys and Rod Gould, our City Manager, questioning the legality of this proposed action. Meanwhile, some neighborhood leaders contacted members of the Landmarks Commission, which had unanimously decided to consider giving Village Trailer Park landmark status, and others contacted the press.

As the demolition team examined trailer B-1, set to be their first victim, Zina Josephs of the Friends of Sunset Park arrived with signs for a protest. Residents of the park came out of their trailers and gathered by the entrance. Soon Ashley Archibald of the Santa Monica Daily Press rode in on her bike, followed later by video teams from KTLA Channel 5 News and KNBC Channel 4 News drove their vans onto the lot. Residents had plenty to say about Luzzatto and living under the constant threat of having to leave their homes at Village Trailer Park. They also talked about how good it was to be part of a community of people who looked after each other and how much they wanted to preserve this wonderful setting they were in at the sunset of their lives.

The demolition team scurried when the cameras came. Interviews proceeded throughout the morning. Jennifer Bjorklund will give her report tonight on NBC4 News. Jim Nash will give his report on the KTLA News. .

After leaving the park, we discovered that the city issued a temporary Stop Work order this morning. Kevin McKeown will request, tomorrow, that his fellow members of the City Council accept an emergency item to “direct staff to explore means whereby the City can best protect the safety of Village Trailer Park residents and of the existing affordable housing, and assure that all of the City’s own options with respect to various ongoing processes are preserved.”

We ask that you contact City Council Members by phone or email, , or come in person to ask them to put this on the agenda and vote to follow due process by supporting this motion.

Remember: It takes a village to save a Village Trailer Park.

Thanks to all of you for being involved,

Gregg Heacock
President of Santa Monica Mid City Neighbors

MONA SIMPSON’S EULOGY FOR STEVE JOBS

I grew up as an only child, with a single mother. Because we were poor and because I knew my father had emigrated from Syria, I imagined he looked like Omar Sharif. I hoped he would be rich and kind and would come into our lives (and our not yet furnished apartment) and help us. Later, after I’d met my father, I tried to believe he’d changed his number and left no forwarding address because he was an idealistic revolutionary, plotting a new world for the Arab people.

Even as a feminist, my whole life I’d been waiting for a man to love, who could love me. For decades, I’d thought that man would be my father. When I was 25, I met that man and he was my brother.

By then, I lived in New York, where I was trying to write my first novel. I had a job at a small magazine in an office the size of a closet, with three other aspiring writers. When one day a lawyer called me — me, the middle-class girl from California who hassled the boss to buy us health insurance — and said his client was rich and famous and was my long-lost brother, the young editors went wild. This was 1985 and we worked at a cutting-edge literary magazine, but I’d fallen into the plot of a Dickens novel and really, we all loved those best. The lawyer refused to tell me my brother’s name and my colleagues started a betting pool. The leading candidate: John Travolta. I secretly hoped for a literary descendant of Henry James — someone more talented than I, someone brilliant without even trying.

When I met Steve, he was a guy my age in jeans, Arab- or Jewish-looking and handsomer than Omar Sharif.
We took a long walk — something, it happened, that we both liked to do. I don’t remember much of what we said that first day, only that he felt like someone I’d pick to be a friend. He explained that he worked in computers.

I didn’t know much about computers. I still worked on a manual Olivetti typewriter. I told Steve I’d recently considered my first purchase of a computer: something called the Cromemco.

Steve told me it was a good thing I’d waited. He said he was making something that was going to be insanely beautiful.
I want to tell you a few things I learned from Steve, during three distinct periods, over the 27 years I knew him. They’re not periods of years, but of states of being. His full life. His illness. His dying.
Steve worked at what he loved. He worked really hard. Every day.

That’s incredibly simple, but true.

He was the opposite of absent-minded.

He was never embarrassed about working hard, even if the results were failures. If someone as smart as Steve wasn’t ashamed to admit trying, maybe I didn’t have to be.

When he got kicked out of Apple, things were painful. He told me about a dinner at which 500 Silicon Valley leaders met the then-sitting president. Steve hadn’t been invited.

He was hurt but he still went to work at Next. Every single day.

Novelty was not Steve’s highest value. Beauty was.

For an innovator, Steve was remarkably loyal. If he loved a shirt, he’d order 10 or 100 of them. In the Palo Alto house, there are probably enough black cotton turtlenecks for everyone in this church.
He didn’t favor trends or gimmicks. He liked people his own age.

His philosophy of aesthetics reminds me of a quote that went something like this: “Fashion is what seems beautiful now but looks ugly later; art can be ugly at first but it becomes beautiful later.”

Steve always aspired to make beautiful later.

He was willing to be misunderstood.

Uninvited to the ball, he drove the third or fourth iteration of his same black sports car to Next, where he and his team were quietly inventing the platform on which Tim Berners-Lee would write the program for the World Wide Web.

Steve was like a girl in the amount of time he spent talking about love. Love was his supreme virtue, his god of gods. He tracked and worried about the romantic lives of the people working with him.

Whenever he saw a man he thought a woman might find dashing, he called out, “Hey are you single? Do you wanna come to dinner with my sister?”

I remember when he phoned the day he met Laurene. “There’s this beautiful woman and she’s really smart and she has this dog and I’m going to marry her.”

When Reed was born, he began gushing and never stopped. He was a physical dad, with each of his children. He fretted over Lisa’s boyfriends and Erin’s travel and skirt lengths and Eve’s safety around the horses she adored.

None of us who attended Reed’s graduation party will ever forget the scene of Reed and Steve slow dancing.
His abiding love for Laurene sustained him. He believed that love happened all the time, everywhere. In that most important way, Steve was never ironic, never cynical, never pessimistic. I try to learn from that, still.
Steve had been successful at a young age, and he felt that had isolated him. Most of the choices he made from the time I knew him were designed to dissolve the walls around him. A middle-class boy from Los Altos, he fell in love with a middle-class girl from New Jersey. It was important to both of them to raise Lisa, Reed, Erin and Eve as grounded, normal children. Their house didn’t intimidate with art or polish; in fact, for many of the first years I knew Steve and Lo together, dinner was served on the grass, and sometimes consisted of just one vegetable. Lots of that one vegetable. But one. Broccoli. In season. Simply prepared. With just the right, recently snipped, herb.

Even as a young millionaire, Steve always picked me up at the airport. He’d be standing there in his jeans.
When a family member called him at work, his secretary Linetta answered, “Your dad’s in a meeting. Would you like me to interrupt him?”

When Reed insisted on dressing up as a witch every Halloween, Steve, Laurene, Erin and Eve all went wiccan.
They once embarked on a kitchen remodel; it took years. They cooked on a hotplate in the garage. The Pixar building, under construction during the same period, finished in half the time. And that was it for the Palo Alto house. The bathrooms stayed old. But — and this was a crucial distinction — it had been a great house to start with; Steve saw to that.

This is not to say that he didn’t enjoy his success: he enjoyed his success a lot, just minus a few zeros. He told me how much he loved going to the Palo Alto bike store and gleefully realizing he could afford to buy the best bike there.

And he did.

Steve was humble. Steve liked to keep learning.

Once, he told me if he’d grown up differently, he might have become a mathematician. He spoke reverently about colleges and loved walking around the Stanford campus. In the last year of his life, he studied a book of paintings by Mark Rothko, an artist he hadn’t known about before, thinking of what could inspire people on the walls of a future Apple campus.

Steve cultivated whimsy. What other C.E.O. knows the history of English and Chinese tea roses and has a favorite David Austin rose?

He had surprises tucked in all his pockets. I’ll venture that Laurene will discover treats — songs he loved, a poem he cut out and put in a drawer — even after 20 years of an exceptionally close marriage. I spoke to him every other day or so, but when I opened The New York Times and saw a feature on the company’s patents, I was still surprised and delighted to see a sketch for a perfect staircase.

With his four children, with his wife, with all of us, Steve had a lot of fun.

He treasured happiness.

Then, Steve became ill and we watched his life compress into a smaller circle. Once, he’d loved walking through Paris. He’d discovered a small handmade soba shop in Kyoto. He downhill skied gracefully. He cross-country skied clumsily. No more.

Eventually, even ordinary pleasures, like a good peach, no longer appealed to him.

Yet, what amazed me, and what I learned from his illness, was how much was still left after so much had been taken away.

I remember my brother learning to walk again, with a chair. After his liver transplant, once a day he would get up on legs that seemed too thin to bear him, arms pitched to the chair back. He’d push that chair down the Memphis hospital corridor towards the nursing station and then he’d sit down on the chair, rest, turn around and walk back again. He counted his steps and, each day, pressed a little farther.

Laurene got down on her knees and looked into his eyes.

“You can do this, Steve,” she said. His eyes widened. His lips pressed into each other.

He tried. He always, always tried, and always with love at the core of that effort. He was an intensely emotional man.

I realized during that terrifying time that Steve was not enduring the pain for himself. He set destinations: his son Reed’s graduation from high school, his daughter Erin’s trip to Kyoto, the launching of a boat he was building on which he planned to take his family around the world and where he hoped he and Laurene would someday retire.

Even ill, his taste, his discrimination and his judgment held. He went through 67 nurses before finding kindred spirits and then he completely trusted the three who stayed with him to the end. Tracy. Arturo. Elham.

One time when Steve had contracted a tenacious pneumonia his doctor forbid everything — even ice. We were in a standard I.C.U. unit. Steve, who generally disliked cutting in line or dropping his own name, confessed that this once, he’d like to be treated a little specially.

I told him: Steve, this is special treatment.

He leaned over to me, and said: “I want it to be a little more special.”

Intubated, when he couldn’t talk, he asked for a notepad. He sketched devices to hold an iPad in a hospital bed. He designed new fluid monitors and x-ray equipment. He redrew that not-quite-special-enough hospital unit. And every time his wife walked into the room, I watched his smile remake itself on his face.
For the really big, big things, you have to trust me, he wrote on his sketchpad. He looked up. You have to.
By that, he meant that we should disobey the doctors and give him a piece of ice.
None of us knows for certain how long we’ll be here. On Steve’s better days, even in the last year, he embarked upon projects and elicited promises from his friends at Apple to finish them. Some boat builders in the Netherlands have a gorgeous stainless steel hull ready to be covered with the finishing wood. His three daughters remain unmarried, his two youngest still girls, and he’d wanted to walk them down the aisle as he’d walked me the day of my wedding.

We all — in the end — die in medias res. In the middle of a story. Of many stories.

I suppose it’s not quite accurate to call the death of someone who lived with cancer for years unexpected, but Steve’s death was unexpected for us.

What I learned from my brother’s death was that character is essential: What he was, was how he died.

Tuesday morning, he called me to ask me to hurry up to Palo Alto. His tone was affectionate, dear, loving, but like someone whose luggage was already strapped onto the vehicle, who was already on the beginning of his journey, even as he was sorry, truly deeply sorry, to be leaving us.

He started his farewell and I stopped him. I said, “Wait. I’m coming. I’m in a taxi to the airport. I’ll be there.”

“I’m telling you now because I’m afraid you won’t make it on time, honey.”

When I arrived, he and his Laurene were joking together like partners who’d lived and worked together every day of their lives. He looked into his children’s eyes as if he couldn’t unlock his gaze.

Until about 2 in the afternoon, his wife could rouse him, to talk to his friends from Apple. Then, after awhile, it was clear that he would no longer wake to us.

His breathing changed. It became severe, deliberate, purposeful. I could feel him counting his steps again, pushing farther than before.

This is what I learned: he was working at this, too. Death didn’t happen to Steve, he achieved it.

He told me, when he was saying goodbye and telling me he was sorry, so sorry we wouldn’t be able to be old together as we’d always planned, that he was going to a better place.

Dr. Fischer gave him a 50/50 chance of making it through the night.

He made it through the night, Laurene next to him on the bed sometimes jerked up when there was a longer pause between his breaths. She and I looked at each other, then he would heave a deep breath and begin again.

This had to be done. Even now, he had a stern, still handsome profile, the profile of an absolutist, a romantic. His breath indicated an arduous journey, some steep path, altitude.

He seemed to be climbing.

But with that will, that work ethic, that strength, there was also sweet Steve’s capacity for wonderment, the artist’s belief in the ideal, the still more beautiful later.

Steve’s final words, hours earlier, were monosyllables, repeated three times.

Before embarking, he’d looked at his sister Patty, then for a long time at his children, then at his life’s partner, Laurene, and then over their shoulders past them.
Steve’s final words were:
OH WOW. OH WOW. OH WOW.

Mona Simpson is a novelist and a professor of English at the University of California, Los Angeles. She delivered this eulogy for her brother, Steve Jobs, on Oct. 16 at his memorial service at the Memorial Church of Stanford University. She lives in Santa Monica.

From the New York Times

Management To Demolish Trailers in Village Trailer Park

By Zina Josephs

Residents at Village Trailer Park (VTP) have been notified that management will begin demolishing 10 trailers on Monday, October 31st.

My understanding is that this demolition should not be occurring at this time due to: A) the Draft EIR process, B) current Planning Department research into the historic significance of VTP, and C) state mobile home residency laws.

Is there anything the City of Santa Monica can do to delay this demolition?

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A) The comment period for the Village Trailer Park Draft EIR lasts until November 28th, and my understanding is that the property owner is not allowed to make changes to the property during the comment period.

http://www01.smgov.net/planning/planningcomm/environmentalreports.html

“In accordance with CEQA, a Draft EIR with Appendices for the project has been prepared and is now available for a 45-day public review period. Comments may be submitted, in writing, by 5:30 p.m. on November 28, 2011.Contact Planner, Jing Yeo, Special Projects Manager.”

B) At its October 10th meeting, after discussion, the Landmarks Commission voted unanimously to direct Planning staff to research the historic significance of Village Trailer Park.

http://www01.smgov.net/planning/landmark/agendas/2011/lca10102011.htm

Agenda Item 11-C. “Discussion on the potential historic significance of the Village Trailer Park located at 2930 Colorado Avenue. (NF)”

During public comment on that October 10th agenda item, one of the VTP owners, Marc Luzzatto stated that the Village Trailer Park had been built for tourists and had never been intended for permanent residents.
He also stated that the trailer park utilities all need to be upgraded.

Following his comment, Village Trailer Park resident Catherine Eldridge spoke and handed out copies of telephone book pages from the 1950’s (from the Santa Monica Public Library archives) that included dozens of private telephone numbers listed for permanent residents at Village Trailer Park. She also stated that all of the utilities had been upgraded 5 to 6 years ago, with the exception of the sewer system, which management was told didn’t need replacing as long as they flushed the system monthly.

C) One of the trailers scheduled to be demolished (I believe it’s A-23), is currently in probate and is therefore not owned by Marc Luzzatto. It was originally owned by a woman who died. Her son, who inherited the trailer, subsequently died, leaving the trailer to his son (the grandson of the original owner). While the grandson was out of town on a job assignment, the trailer park management apparently declared the trailer abandoned, removed some of the grandson’s belongings, and according to VTP residents, seem to have used an ax to make a hole in the roof.

According to California Mobilehome Residency Law, when a trailer/unit owner dies, a relative has the right to move into the trailer or sell it. It seems that Marc Luzzatto — http://www.luzzattocompany.com/ — may have told relatives of deceased trailer owners that they have to move the trailers, and it costs relatives tens of thousands of dollars to challenge him in court, money which they may not have.

Other residents say that when the management hires tree trimmers, the workers sometimes walk on top of the trailers with spiked shoes, which creates holes in the roofs. Sometimes during tree trimming, heavy branches are allowed to fall on the roofs of the trailers, which can create damage that cannot be repaired.
When that happens, if the trailer owner leaves the park, the VTP owner only has to pay the trailer owner the “scrap” value of the trailer, rather than the true value.

http://www.hcd.ca.gov/codes/mp/2011MRL.pdf

“Violations of the Mobilehome Residency Law, like provisions of conventional landlord-tenant law, are enforced by the courts; that is, the disputing parties must enforce the MRL against one another in a court of law. The State Department of Housing & Community Development (HCD) does not have authority to enforce these Civil Code provisions.

“For example…., a homeowner in a park, not the state, must sue the park in court to enforce a notice or other MRL requirement, or obtain an injunction, if the management will not otherwise abide by the MRL.”

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The reason that 9 of the 10 trailers are empty seems to be that the VTP owners and management have managed to persuade some residents to leave, including the man who ended up living in his car and dying of exposure.

It’s really disgraceful that a city which brags about its commitment to affordable housing and protecting neighborhoods is allowing the destruction of the Village Trailer Park neighborhood to take place.

Is there a way for the City of Santa Monica to delay to demolition of these trailers, especially the one that’s in probate?

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WHO’S PLANNING THE PLANNING PROCESS

The City Planning Department is currently planning: (1) the proposed EXPO Light rail line — its maintenance yard, the route through the city, three stations, the areas adjacent to the stations and the “gateway to Santa Monica” at the end of the line; (2) the construction of over two million square feet of new commercial projects in the Bergamont station area; (3) major additions to the Civic Center – the mega-housing project that is called “The Village” and combines $2 milllion “luxury condos” with affordable housing units and some retail, the $47 million six-acre “Palisades Garden Walk” park, the adjacent $25 million “Town Square” in front of City Hall, the $45 million rehab of the Civic Auditorium; (4) the next “new downtown,” which includes a mammoth parking structure on Second Street, a new AMC movie complex that replaces a parking structure but has no parking of its own, “something exciting” at Fifth and Arizona, a massive remake and expansion of the historic Miramar hotel, the reduction of the grand old office building at Seventh and Wilshire to a hotel, with a wholly undistinguished addition; and (5) the replacement of the California Incline. Etcetera!

On being named Deputy Mayor for Special Projects, Kate Vernez said she was thrilled to play a role in ”this unprecedented era of civic improvements.”

We’re more wary than thrilled. The number and size of the projects is “unprecedented,” but there’s virtually no evidence to date that these projects – singly or as a group – will “improve” this gloriously idiosyncratic beach town.

At the beginning of the LUCE process, residents’ surveys and questionnaires indicated that we wanted to restore and repair the small scale beach town, which had been fractured by a two-decade commercial development binge. .

City Hall disagreed, and spent seven years revising the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan (LUCE). Literally at the last minute, architects Gwynne Pugh and Hank Koning, who were then members of the Planning Commission, but have since resigned owing to possible conflicts of interest, persuaded the Council to increase mandated height and mass limits for commercial buildings – thus blowing seven years’ work on a very controversial question in ten minutes.

That was more than a year ago.

Since then, the Planners refer frequently to the LUCE when presenting a new project, but the zoning code, the official, working version of the often lofty LUCE, has yet to be written. Earlier this week, we were told that it wouldn’t be ready until sometime next year, June perhaps, which, by the City clock, probably means December, 2012, or some time in 2013,

The City has been awarded a federal grant to do a Bergamot area plan, which would show us where all the proposed new buildings are slated to go and what their impacts – as a whole and individually — on the area and the adjacent residential neighborhoods would be. Obviously, the plan should precede the approval of any of the projects, but the planners apparently disagree. Construction of the very large Agensys building on Stewart, south of Olympic, is already underway, and the Lionsgate HQ, at Colorado and Stewart, has been approved.

When residents ask about the state of the area plan, as they are wont to do, the planners tend to change the subject. By now, it seems to be a point of honor that they neither talk about, nor acknowledge that the area plan should precede individual project approvals.

Residents have asked repeatedly that the Bergamot area plan be given top priority, but the requests has been ignored, as have critiques of individual projects. Five of the seven Council members — Mayor Richard Bloom, Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis, Bob Holbrook, Terry O’Day and Pam O’Connor — have taken campaign contributions from developers, and they stopped pretending to listen to residents’ ideas or demands some time ago.

There are more planners than ever, and they all have impressive, if incomprehensible titles, but apparently no one is in charge of planning the planning process, much less establishing priorities.

It’s as if a tornado were gathering size and speed and heading this way, and the professionals are too busy creating lovely power-point presentations to notice the rising commotion.

If you don’t believe it, check out the comments of residents of Santa Monica Canyon and Pacific Palisades on the draft-EIR for the California Incline reconstruction, which we’ve posted.

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