The Chamber of Commerce’s formal entrance into
local politics has revived the perennial Santa
Monica question – who’s running the city?

Some Chamber members, as well as some residents,
believe that City Hall rules, and rules badly.
Other Chamber people resent what they see as the
domination of the town by its residents, while
some residents object to the Chamber’s efforts to
dictate city policy.

To put it more simply, almost everyone thinks
that someone else has the power and that the peo-
ple with the power are doing a poor job.

In fact, City Hall rules, but its power is un-
equally divided between the staff and the City
Council, with the staff generally having the fi-
nal say, because the Council strives to please
both the staff and the residents, and seldom

Anyone who watches City Council meetings, as we
are obliged to do, has witnessed these awkward-
rituals, in which members of Council listen ear-
nestly, first to staff members and, then, to res-
idents, after which they speak at length of their
wish to serve residents. But, almost always,when
the staff and residents disagree, the Council
sides with the staff.

Contrary to the myth that the business community
built this boomtown on the beach and City Hall
is intent on tearing it down, City Hall designed
it, set it in motion, built it and has nourished
it. Since they took power in 1982, those alleged
radicals, the Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights’
(SMRR) members of the City Council and City staff,
have been the best friends the business community
has ever had.

Curiously, just as the business community refuses
to credit City Hall with its success, City Hall
refuses to take credit for it – because it not on-
ly contradicts its carefully cultivated image as
progressive and innovative, it would undoubtedly
alienate a great many residents.

In setting the stage for the boom, City Hall didn’t
do anything original, it simply did the things its
predecessors neglected to do, and, for all its much-
vaunted devotion to “the process,” it did it without
consulting residents. There were no workshops, no
discussions, no initiatives asking residents to sup-
port or reject the transformation of the old beach
town into a glossy pleasure dome.

Chances are, if they had been asked, residents would
have said no. At the time, according to a City sur-
vey, 69% of the residents who worked did not work in
Santa Monica. They did not need nor would they bene-
fit from a burgeoning tourist-oriented economy. Iron-
ically, many local businesses — hit by skyrocket-
ing rents, competition from chain stores for space,
attention and customers and rising chic — were dri-
ven out of business. The boom’s principal benefic-
iaries were the big absentee corporations that owned
the hotels and chain stores and City Hall—which had
more and more revenue and more and more things to do
with it.

The population of Santa Monica has held at about
85,000 for two decades, and the city still measures
only eight square miles, but the daytime population
is now estimated at 135,000 with the weekend popula-
tion rising to 250,000.

Having designed and orchestrated the boom, City Hall
remained restless and, since the city had long since
been built out, and couldn’t expand, it set about
to replace or tart up what was here. The Santa Mon-
ica Pier, Third Street, the parks, the boulevards,
the beach front, all got multi-million-dollar face–
lifts. A $60 million public safety building is under construction, and on the drawing boards are a new
main library, a “new” Civic Center, a “new” City
Hall, new bus yards, new City Yards, a new down-
town “parking strategy” – with price tags ranging
from $35 million to $120 million.

As City Hall has conjured more and more elaborate
and expensive plans, it has harvested a bushel
of problems that cannot be eradicated, but can on-
ly be “mitigated,” in City staff lingo, by the
expenditure of many more millions

The boom, which lost some steam in the wake of 9/11,
is the basis for the city’s problems as well as its
prosperity, and the primary cause of the conflicts
between residents and the business community.

Naturally, the business community wants crowds of
people – more visitors spending more money,and, as
naturally, residents want fewer people, fewer cars,
less commotion.

In one sense, the recent budget crunch may be the
the proverbial blessing in disguise – because it
has forced the City to slow down. Perhaps it will
also force it to finally think about what it has
done and is doing and what it needs to do — to
revive the idiosyncratic beach town that drew eve-
ryone here in the first place and has somehow been
lost in the bigtime, high stakes shuffle.
–Editorial, MY Santa Monica Mirror, 1/1/2003

Ten years earlier, in 1993, City Hall began to
refer to itself in documents as “The City,” and
to residents as “the city.” We’ve been engaged
in a struggle for the soul of this gloriously
idiosyncratic beach town for 20 years, and, in
2013, the long-running struggle escalated into
a battle.

Four of the seven current City Council members
take campaign contributions from developers.

Traffic has grown to nightmare proportions.

The City’s new area plan for Bergamot, as resi-
dents have repeatedly said, is too big, too com-
mercial, too cluttered and too intrusive in what
has been a serene residential neighborhood.

There are 30-plus major new projects in the pipe-

On its own authority, City staff designated
seven “opportunity sites,” on which the usual
limits – height, mass, and so on – will not

Despite residents’ previous wholesale rejection
of towers on Ocean Avenue, three towers have
been proposed: the 370-foot Miramar tower, the
200-foot-plus Frank Gehry tower at Santa Monica
Boulevard, and the 175-foot Wyndham tower at Col-
orado and Ocean.

The City treated developers to a bus tour of Santa
Monica to point out likely sites for new projects.

When the LUCE was okayed by the Council in 2010,
it was six years behind schedule, and, in the
three years since its approval, the downtown spe-
cific plan, the revised zoning code and other app-
lications of LUCE principles haven’t been comp-
leted, much less approved.

City officials have said repeatedly that the 96
percent of the town that is comprised of resident-
ial neighborhoods would not be sullied by new
zoning and land use regulations. but, as with the
Bergamot area plan and the surprise rezoning of
residential land to commercial land in the north-
east section of the city, residential neighbor-
hoods are in the planners’ lines of fire.

The City’s callous and possibly illegal treatment
of the residents of the Village Trailer Park, most
of whom are home owners, has outraged many resi-

Three new hotel projects have been approved, though
all three are architecturally mediocre.

Brad Cox, head of L.A. operations for Texas-based
Trammell Crowe, a major developer, is the current
chair of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce and
one of four members of the Alliance, a City-Chamber
partnership that quietly oversees and promotes the
City’s economic development. His firm, with the
full approval of the Council, evicted the resid-
ents of an apartment complex at 301 Ocean three
years ago, but did not proceed with its project –
a condominium complex – and recently sold the site
and its plans to another developer.

On several occasions, over 100 people have turn-
ed up at Council meetings and so-called “workshops”
to protest City actions and decisions.

The neighborhood organizations and the Neighbor-
hood Council have been galvanized. Mid-City Nei-
ghbors, which had been dormant, reorganized. Wil-
mont cleaned house. After a period of inactivity,
NOMA re-entered the arena.

Friends of Sunset Park, the Pico Neighborhood
and the Northeast Neighbors have documented and
eloquently expressed their opposition to all
manner of cockeyed and ill-conceived City ini-
tiatives, while taking strong positions on a
variety of questions. The Ocean Park Association
is working on its own plans for the preservation
of Main Street and its unique residential neigh-

At the behest of Santa Monica hotels, the Coun-
cil voted to declare all of Santa Monica “a mar-
keting and promotion district,” and City funds
were combined with hotel funds in a record $5
million annual promotion budget.

The transient daily population rose to 300,000,
and more on weekends.

The City declared war on Paul Conrad’s brill-
iant “Chain Reaction” sculpture for reasons
known only to itself.

Surveys show that Santa Monica has much less
open space per capita than other Southern Calif-
ornia towns.

This avalanche of bad calls by the City staff
and City Council has led to an impressive disp-
lay of community opposition, rivaled only by the
residents’ successful 1973 campaign to prevent
the City from demolishing the Santa Monica Pier
and replacing it with an artificial island and
a convention center.

Regularly now, 20 or 30 or 40 people appear at
meetings to protest ill-conceived proposals.
Santa Monica residents are very bright and know-
ledgable, and they invariably speak in comp-
lete sentences, but they are limited to two
minutes each. No such limits have been imposed
on City staff and Council members.

The City launched a very elaborate “civility” cam-
paign, though, in the last ten years, we can re-
member only two instances of uncivil behavior at
the podium, but dozens from the dias. Indeed, the
“civility” campaign is itself uncivil, imposing
far too many rules on residents who should have
at least as much opportunity to speak as their
elected representatives do.

Looking forward to the 2014 election, residents
talk now about referendums on a variety of City
proposals, and of likely candidates for the open
seats on the Council.

The City is Santa Monica’s largest employer – with
2,528 employees. They don’t all live and vote here
but they all campaign here. There are about 56,000
voters in Santa Monica, and they all live, vote
and campaign here.

Happy 2014!


A headline on the front page of today’s Los An-
geles Times alleges “Buildings may sit atop
known earthquake faults.”

A subhead elaborates, “L.A., Santa Monica OKd
projects without requiring certain seismic stu-

The Times goes on to say, “The cities of Los
Angeles and Santa Monica in the last decade
haveapproved more than a dozen construction
projects on or near two well-known faults with-
out requiring seismic studies to determine if
the buildings would be destroyed in an earth-
quake, according to a Times analysis.

“Los Angeles building records show that when
officials approved projects they used outdated
information that placed the Santa Monica and
Hollywood faults much further away from the

“State law prohibits construction on top of
faults and requires extensive studies before
approval of any building within about 500
feet of faults zoned by the state. But the
state has not created fault zones for the
neighborhoods around the Hollywood or Santa
Monica Faults, so the cities are not required
to enforce the law there.

“Cities could have demanded extensive under-
ground digging to determine whether a fault
lies under a development before allowing the
projects. Instead, they accepted the develo-
pers’ geology reports and concluded that fault
studies were not needed.

“The Hollywood and Santa Monica faults pass
through some of the priciest real estate in
Southern California, running from central Hol-
lywood, through West Hollywood and Beverly
Hills, and into Westwood and Santa Monica…

“A Times analysis estimated that there are
roughly 1,400 buildings on or next to the Hol-
lywood and Santa Monica faults…

“The reporters’ survey found that, in the last
decade, 18 buildings had been built along the
faults – 14 in Los Angeles and four in Santa

The Whole Foods store on Wilshire is one of the
four. Both a store spokesperson and the building
owner said they were unconcerned about its proxi-
mity to the fault.

“Ron Takiguchi, Santa Monica’s top building off-
icial, said the City did not order fault investi-
gation for any of the four buildings identified
by the Times. “The City is diligent about examin-
ing earthquake risks, he said, and relies on
experts in making its decisions.”

As you may recall, Takiguchi triggered a minor
firestorm when he claimed Paul Conrad’s sculp-
ture, “Chain Reaction,” was “dangerous” and
would cost over $400,000 to repair, though there
was no basis in fact for his claim. Actual ex-
perts, including a man who had worked with
Conrad on the sculpture, put the cost at about

During the City hearings on the controversial
Village Trailer Park development, Peter Naughton,
who has a planning degree from Cambridge Univer-
sity and is a longtime resident of the actual
Trailer Park, found material in City files about
the Santa Monica fault, and repeatedly asked
City officials whether appropriate studies had
been made of the fault, but never got an answer.


The Santa Monica Conservancy is one of Santa
Monica’s most valuable assets. Founded and
run by some of our brightest and most dedi-
cated residents, its primary reason for be-
ing is to preserve and protect our historic
places, our long, complex and unique history
and, in the doing, maintain the priceless
character of this gloriously idiosyncratic
beach town.

It’s an enormous, endless and complex under-
taking. Its volunteers maintain the inventory
– of existing and potential landmarks, give
tours, advise owners of landmarks, and are
the principal defenders of our common heri-
tage. It’s a non-profit, dependent on memb-
erships and contributions.


As 2013 draws to a close, I want to thank you
for your generous support. We are a strong
voice for preserving Santa Monica’s historic
places today because you make that possible –
with your donations, with your volunteer ef-
forts, with your support of our entertaining
and educational programs and events.

Yet as you know so well, these special places
are threatened every day. You can help us
build support for preserving our architectural
heritage and demonstrating its relevance to con-
temporary Santa Monica by making a tax-deduct-
ible donation to the Conservancy today – by
joining or renewing your membership, or by
donating to rehabilitate the Shotgun House
as our Preservation Resource Center and help
us establish new programs like our Building
a Neighborhood curriculum for elementary
school students.

Since our founding more than 10 years ago,
we have dreamed of establishing a Preserva-
tion Resource Center, a place where property
owners and other community members can go
for practical, user-friendly information
about Santa Monica’s historic places and
the methods and benefits of preserving old-
er buildings. Prestigious foundations, lo-
cal businesses and many generous indivi-
duals have stepped forward to support the
Conservancy. Your donations are helping
to make these dreams a reality!

Early next year, the landmark Shotgun House
will be moved to a parking lot next to the
Ocean Park Library, demonstrating how even
the simplest structure can be repurposed to
meet contemporary needs.

Please make as generous a donation as you can
to the Conservancy today!

Thank you for your support! Your Conservancy
Board of Directors joins me in wishing you all
the best in 2014.


Carol Lemlein
President, Board of Directors

The Santa Monica Conservancy is a 501(c)(3),
Federal ID #75-3079169.


LA Observed story

The shuttering of bookstores has been a per-
petual story for the entire time I have been
doing LA Observed. At any given time, the
site’s Books and Author’s page has at least
one post about another store stumbling or
going down. At least it seems that way. Read-
ers of the site used to get suitably upset
by each new disappearance of a popular com-
munity bookseller. Now they just seem re-

Here’s a listing of all the bookstore clos-
ings in the Los Angeles area that we have
covered at LA Observed. A shrine of sorts.
I really hope this particular list will stop
growing. Note that we may have missed some,
and this doesn’t include old favorites (Pick-
wick Bookshop! Hunter’s Books!) that vanished
before LA Observed came on the scene.

All of our posts about book publishing and
writers are featured on the Books and Authors
page. There’s also a link there to the entire
archive on the subject going back ten years.
Closed stores (in alphabetical order.)
Acres of Books,

Barnes & Noble Westside,

& Noble Encino,

Barnes & Noble Woodland Hills,

Bodhi Tree,

Bookie Joint,

Borders Books,


Cook’s Library,

Dawson’s Books,

A Diffe-
rent Light,

Dutton’s Beverly Hills,

Brentwood Books,

Dutton’s North Hollywood,

tor Books,

Heritage Book Shop,

Latitude 33,

ropolis Books,

Midnight Special,

Mystery Book-

Mysteries to Die For,

Portrait of a Book-

Samuel French (Valley),

Village Books,

Williams’ Book Store, 

Wilshire Books
, and
Barnes & Noble Pasadena will close on New
Year’s Eve.


100 years after its founding, the American In-
stitute of Architects, posthumously awarded its
2014 AIA Gold Medal to Julia Morgan, the first
woman to receive what is considered in some
circles as the highest award an architect can

Morgan retired in 1951 and died in 1957.

During her long and distinguished career, she
designed over 700 houses, as well as churches,
hotels, museums, civic and commercial buildings
Perhaps the best-known of her works is the
Hearst Castle, an elaborate and unique estate
at San Simeon on the central California coast,
one of several works she designed for publisher
William Randolph Hearst. Among the others were
the Los Angeles Herald Examiner building in
downtown L.A. and the estate he commissioned
in 1929 on Santa Monica’s “Gold Coast” for his
longtime mistress, actress and philanthropist
Marion Davies.

Morgan was a Fellow of the AIA and, according
to an AIA press release, her “extensive body
of work has served as an inspiration to several
generations of architects…The Gold Medal honors
an individual whose significant body of work
has had a lasting influence on the theory and
practice of architecture. Morgan’s legacy will
be honored at the AIA 2014 National Convention
and Design Exposition in Chicago.

“Morgan…won a litany of firsts she used to es-
tablish a new precedent for greatness. A build-
ing technology expert that was professionally
adopted by some of the most powerful post-Gild-
ed age patrons imaginable, Morgan practiced for
nearly 50 years…The first woman admitted to the
prestigious architecture school at the Ecoles
des Beaux-Arts in Paris, Morgan designed com-
fortably in a wide range of historic styles.”

“’Julia Morgan is unquestionably among the
greatest American architects of all time and
a true California gem,’ said Senator Dianne
Feinstein (D-CA) in her recommendation letter
‘Morgan’s legacy has only grown over the years.
She was an architect of remarkable breadth,
depth, and consistency of exceptional work,
and she is widely known by the quality of her
work by those who practice, teach, and appre-
ciate architecture.’

“Born in 1872, Morgan grew up in Oakland. Ex-
ceptionally bright from a young age, she was
one of the first women to study civil engin-
eering at the University of California-Berke-
ley, where she caught the eye of AIA Gold
Medalist Bernard Maybeck, who taught there.
He gave Morgan what he would give the best and
brightest of any gender: a recommendation to
apply for the Ecoles des Beaux-Arts, the most
prominent architecture school of its day. But
there were two problems: She was a foreigner,
and subject to unstated, but strict quotas,
and a woman. No female had ever been admitted.
She failed the first entrance exam; her second
exam was discounted for no other reason than
her gender. She was finally admitted after her
third try. She completed the entire program
in 1902.

Back in Berkeley, Morgan went to work
for architect John Galen Howard, designing buil-
dings for her undergraduate alma mater. In 1904,
she became the first women licensed to practice
architecture in California, and opened her own

An early project was an open air Classical
Greek theater; the first such structure in the
nation. After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake,
much of the city was leveled, but her Greek
theater survived, providing her with a level of
unprecedented credibility. In addition to this
project solidifying her reputation, the project
also brought her closer into the orbit of Phoebe
Apperson Hearst, a university booster and mother
to publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst.
Word of Morgan’s skill with reinforced concrete
spread across California. She began to take ad-
vantage of the material’s groundbreaking plas-
ticity and flexibility in imaginative, new ways,
savoring opportunities to clamber through scaf-
folding at buildings sites to inspect the work.

What stands out most is the vast array of arch-
tectural styles she employed: Tudor and Georg-
ian houses, Romanesque Revival churches, and
Spanish Colonial country estates with an Isla-
mic tinge. Her late-period Beaux-Arts educa-
tion gave her the ability to design in these
historicist styles, gathering up motifs and me-
thods from all of Western architectural history
to select the approach most appropriate for
each unique site and context. 

’She designed
buildings to fit her clients, blending design
strategy with structural articulation in a way
that was expressive and contextual, leaving us
a legacy of treasures that were as revered
when she created them as they are cherished to-
day,’ wrote AIA Gold Medalist Michael Graves,
FAIA, in a recommendation letter. Frank Gehry
and Thom Mayne, Santa Monica’s two Pritzker
Prize and AIA Gold Medal winners, both suppor-
ted Morgan’s Gold Medal nomination.

“Some of Morgan’s most notable projects include:

St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, an
excellent example of First Bay architecture.
An intimately scaled church, its interior is
entirely clad in redwood, including open cross-
-strut beams that create a sense of humble grace
and wonderment. 

Asilomar YWCA in Pacific Grove,
Calif., this YWCA conference center (Morgan de-
signed approximately 30 YWCAs) is perhaps the
largest Arts and Crafts campus complex anywhere,
according to Sara Holmes Boutelle’s book, “Julia
Morgan Architect.” Its palette of rich natural
materials and fluid mix of indoor and outdoor
spaces suits its pleasant Northern California

Hearst Castle, a seaside retreat, 165
rooms across 250,000 acres, all dripping with
detailing that’s opulent bordering on delirious.
The style is generally Spanish Colonial, but
the estate seems to compress Morgan’s skill at
operating in different design languages: Gothic,
Neoclassical, as well as Spanish Colonial, all
into one commission.

Morgan joined the AIA in
1921 as only the seventh female member. She
is the 70th AIA Gold Medalist and joins the
ranks of such visionaries as Thomas Jefferson
(1993), Frank Lloyd Wright (1949), Louis Sull-
ivan (1944), Le Corbusier (1961), Louis I. Kahn
(1971), I.M. Pei (1979), Santiago Calatrava
(2005), Glenn Murcutt (2009), and Mayne (2013).
In recognition of her legacy to architecture,
her name will be chiseled into the granite Wall
of Honor in the lobby of the AIA headquarters
in Washington, D.C.”

Davies’ estate was the largest ever built on
the storied Southern California coast. The
three-story main house and three guest houses
had 118 rooms, and 58 bathrooms. It also had
two Italian marble swimming pools, tennis
courts, a dog kennel and garages. Davies’ Gold
Coast neighbors included the heads of four
of the five Hollywood studios, Douglas Fair-
banks and Mary Pickford, the Talmadge sisters,
one of whom was married to Buster Keaton, Irv-
ing Thalberg, MGM’s “boy wonder,” and his wife
Norma Shearer, the studio’s leading leading
lady, Cary Grant, Carole Lombard, etcetera.
Garbo was often there, and Will Rogers’s sta-
bles and polo field were just up the road.
Davies was among the stars who made the leap
from silent pictures to talkies successfully,
and she gave extraordinary parties. World
leaders, like Churchill and eminences, inc-
luding George Bernard Shaw, came for lunch,
the stars came out at night.

Davies sold the estate in 1947. It became a
hotel briefly. By then, the state owned the
beach and the City managed it. It rented
the former estate to Doug Badt, who turned it
into the Sand and Sea Club, the only beach
club in Santa Monica that wasn’t “restricted.”
In mid-1980s, Michael Macarty, owner of Santa
Monica’s first posh restaurant, proposed tur-
ning the former estate into a “luxury hotel,”
on the beach, but residents approved a ballot
measure that banned any more hotels on the
beach, and it passed.

Angered by Badt’s support for the ballot meas-
ure, the City canceled his lease, closed the
Sand and Sea Club, leaving the property in limbo.
Claiming the 1994 Northridge earthquake did irr-
eparable damage to the structure, the City red-
red-tagged it, and wrapped it in chainlink fence.
The City sought a private lessee, over the wishes
of residents. But, at the last minute, philan-
thropist Wallis Annenberg came to the rescue,
and gave the $28 million grant to the City for
the resurrection of the estate.

She told me that she’d made the grant because
she remembered her happy times at the Sand and
Sea Club when she was a teenager, and was int-
erested in exploring the Santa Monica-Hollywood
connection during what is generally known as
“The Golden Age of Hollywood.”

The Annenberg Community Beach House combines
portions of the Davies estate — including a
fully restored guest house and one of the
Italian marble swimming pools — with some
complementary new structures, designed by
architect Frederick Fisher. Well-informed
Santa Monica Conservancy docents give tours
of the unique Beach House.

It took 100 years for the AIA to remember and
honor Julia Morgan. Santa Monica never forgot
her, or Marion Davies, one of Hollywood’s
most esteemed funny ladies and most generous
philanthropists, who, at least once, bailed
magnate Hearst himself out of a money crunch.