WARRIORS, GHOSTS AND ANCIENT GODS OF THE PACIFIC

Don’t miss the final week of Gajin Fujita’s stunning solo exhibition. WARRIORS, GHOSTS AND ANCIENT GODS OF THE PACIFIC, featuring paintings produced over the last four years.

ON VIEW THROUGH THURSDAY, JULY 2

PLEASE NOTE: The Gallery will be closed July 3 and through the July Fourth 4 weekend.

L.A. Louver · 45 N. Venice Blvd. · Venice, CA 90291 · USA

SMC’S HALLMARK BLACK COLLEGIANS CELEBRATE 25th ANNIVERSARY

1989 marked the beginning of the end of apartheid in South Africa, and at Santa Monica College.

The idea of a special program that would provide smaller classes taught by instructors with a focus on African-American culture where possible was revolutinary. It would be backed up by a “tough love” support system to empower students while pushing them to grow. That program – Black Collegians – was 25 this year.

Haley Coleman moved from Temecula to attend SMC two years ago. The self-confessed “shy, small-town girl” has morphed into a confident student leader who organizes campus events as president of the Black Collegians
student club, and has attended intense summer research residencies at Loyola Marymount University and UCLA
with other SMC students. She plans on a career in film and television, and will transfer from SMC to USC this
fall as a communication major.

“I don’t know where I would be without Black Collegians,” says Coleman, recalling how counselors would push her “just at the right time,” seeing her as a leader when she herself did not, and how Black Collegians faculty leader Sherri Bradford became “Mama B”: a mom away from home.

“We are the second family, the mentors, the mothers, the fathers, the sisters,” Bradford said. “There is a support system waiting for you when you get here.”

English professor Wilfred Doucet echoed Bradford’s sentiment.

“I know it’s true here at SMC from direct experience,” says Doucet who teaches English classes set aside for students enrolled in the Black Collegians program. What he does in these classes is the same thing he does in all his classes: prepare his students so that they will not be overwhelmed when they transfer to a four-year college or university.

The only difference is something he calls “cultural familiarity,” ensuring that the students in the program – who are largely African-American – find themselves represented in the material.

Muriel Walker Waugh is a chemistry professor at SMC who teaches Black Collegians classes and also for the SMC Science and Research Initiative’s STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) program. This spring, she helped organize a number of weekend “boot camps” where Black Collegians and other students spend all day going over math and chemistry skills so that they can have a higher chance of succeeding in her introductory general chemistry class.

“I’m an African-American female from Southern Shreveport, Louisiana… I had to teach myself,” says Waugh. “If I can do it, you can do it.”

Aurelia Rhymer is a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) major at SMC majoring in biology – she wants to be a pediatrician.

“This is where I grew up,” says Rhymer. Growing up meant starting over with prerequisites like precalculus and getting a “reality check” from professors who reminded her that she was now a college student who needed to be an adult and ask for help if it was needed.

“I grew emotionally and personally,” Rhymer adds. “I was too proud to ask for help but I knew that I needed to find a program to help me succeed.” That’s why she joined Black Collegians, which led her to join the STEM program and become a leader in the Black Collegians club.

Rhymer was recently selected by the SMC Foundation to serve an eight-week Dale Ride Internship in Washington, D.C. this summer at the office of Congresswoman Janice Hahn, U.S. Representative from California’s 44th congressional district, and also at international humanitarian agency CARE (Cooperative for Assistance and Relief Everywhere) USA.

Rhymer has some advice for fellow students who may think themselves incapable of fulfilling their dreams.

“First, don’t give up. Just because you suck at certain things doesn’t mean you can’t do whatever it is,” she says, offering her struggle with and conquest of math as an example. “Everyone struggles…work harder and build a community for yourself.”

To find out more about the Black Collegians program at SMC, contact Sherri Bradford at Bradford_Sherri@smc.edu or call (310) 434-3635. Details are also available at www.smc.edu/studentservices/blackcollegians.

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NAMES DON’T MAKE TOWNS, PEOPLE DO

If names make the place, Santa Monica, which was founded in 1875, would still be struggling for recognition.
It was named “Santa Monica” by a priest who was on his way, on foot, to a new town on the coast, when he
crossed a spring, which reminded him of Saint Monica’s tears, He told everyone about the tears of Saint
Monica, and the new town on the beach became Santa Monica.

A nun, she was made a saint by the church, because she wept fulsomely and constantly about her son, Augustine.
He was constantly in trouble, and his mother was sure it would end badly, and so she cried and cried and cried, and so the church made her a saint, and the town’s residents named their new town for a Saint they’d never
heard of.

Of course, Augustine became a saint, too, and he was far more renowned than his mother – to the surprise of no one but his mother. We were reminded of all this, because the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau has
been playing name games recently,

Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau (SMCVB), ”the private, non-profit organization responsible for the promotion of Santa Monica as a conference, business and leisure travel destination has just its long-running tourist bureau to Santa Monica Travel & Tourism (SMTT). It looks like a monogram and sounds like a metal alloy.
Or nasal spray.

According to SMTT CEO/President Misti Kerns, “The general consensus was that our former name confused visitors
and clients…” But at least it said something, however vague. SMTT says nothing,

Ellis O’Connor, MSD Hospitality and chairman of the SMTT Board of Directors, said, “The intensively competitive landscape of travel and tourism continues to grow both domestically and internationally, forcing us to look deeper into the positioning of Santa Monica as a destination. We have responded accordingly, coining a new name that better reflects our destination and clarifies the efforts and objectives of the organization to consumers and professional buyers.”

Clearly, it’s no longer a place. It’s a product, a product called SMTT.

COMMUNITIES STATEWIDE DEMAND NO MORE JAILS

Community advocates from Sacramento, Los Angeles, Riverside, Alameda, Fresno, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Monterey and other towns gathered in Sacramento yesterday at the Board of Community Corrections (BSCC)
“Bidders’ Conference” to oppose more state funds going to counties for jail construction. Sheriffs from all
over the state were in attendance to scramble for the competitive SB 863 funds to expand their jail systems, despite increased calls from California voters for decarceration.

The BSCC was created under Realignment to help reduce the prison population, yet advocates argue that by encouraging jail construction, it is simply shifting the burden from the state to county level. California has
yet to see the full effects of Prop 47 implementation; its passage has already resulted in a decline of both prison and jail populations, and many argue that it will continue to make jail construction completely unnecessary. Further, communities from Los Angeles to the Bay Area are demanding investment in real solutions
like healthcare, education, housing, and alternatives to imprisonment, rather than wasting much needed re
sources on more jails.

More jails are the problem, not the solution for California

A TRAVESTY OF PLANNING PROPORTIONS

SM*a*r*t SANTA MONICA ARCHITECTS FOR A RESPONSIBLE TOMORROW

Philosopher Alain de Botton wrote that “bad architecture is a frozen mistake writ large. We owe it to the fields and trees that buildings we cover them with will stand as promises of the highest and most intelligent kinds of happiness.”

But the Village Trailer Park is a sad story of 99 low income mobile park residents — city employees, nurses, mailmen, teachers, elderly, some disabled — living quietly, and happily, in a park-like setting amid a grove of mature trees and now being uprooted from their homes. Forever.

Unfortunately the Village Trailer Park, a 65-year-old community that few people even realized was there, is being displaced by the Millennium East Village, a 4-acre, 5-story behemoth of a project. In 52 years of professional practice, I have never witnessed a failure in a city planning process as egregious as that which has destroyed the VTP community and will cause enormous negative impact on the adjoining residential neighborhood.

In 2005, Mark Luzzatto, a Santa Monica resident, purchased the VTP for $4.5-5 million and set about lobbying the City to change “residential mobile home park” zoning to “mixed use creative.” Early in the design process, both Planning Commission and City Council asked to see a Tier 2 reduced density alternative. What was approved instead was a project with substantially greater density — 377 units and a height of 5 stories. Instead of rejecting this greater density, planning staff produced a 290-page document justifying the developer’s design over that requested by the City Council.

So our city, which prides itself on social justice, approved a Development Agreement (DA), which allows building in excess of permitted zoning, evicting 99 very low-income tenants. The developer was then allowed to double height and density, creating more traffic in trade for 38 low-income units while the city collected 5 cents on the dollar in community benefits.

Adding insult to injury, in 2013, the owner sold his approved Development Agreement (without even a shovel in the ground) for a modest profit of nearly $60 million! The new owners (the Dinerstein Company), made aware of major problems in the approved design, hired a local architect to correct the flaws, and instead he completely redesigned the project — but the new design was even worse.

It was at this point in witnessing this surreal process that I took on what the city refused to do and appealed the DA approval. For the new design not to go back to the Planning Commission for review, the changes had to be deemed “minor modifications.”

There were four specific issues that are anything but “minor” and I felt needed to be addressed:
1. “reduction of any setback” — 63 percent of building frontage along Colorado Avenue violated setback requirements.

2. “any variation in design, massing or building configuration including building height” — a 4-story building 170 feet in length has ballooned to 5 stories and 400 feet in length!

3. “any change that would materially reduce community benefits” — open space was reduced 29 percent, courtyards and children’s play areas were narrowed and are in shadow most if not all day, and public outdoor space specifically added by the Planning Commission was now covered!

4. “any reduction in affordable units” — the rent control board, whose approval was required, under threat of a $50-million lawsuit, approved the DA but increased the number of affordable units from 38 to 51, a change that has not been incorporated!

Unbelievably, none of these four significant changes were considered “major” enough to warrant a new approval process — even though the planning director recently described “minor modifications” as “a procedure used to avoid unnecessary processing when modifications on the order of 6-12 inches and affecting only a neighbor and not a neighborhood.”

This is an inexcusable abuse of power and a blatant slap in the face to the community. The Dinersteins were still concerned that I could appeal this decision in court. A series of five or six meetings and numerous phone calls ensued over four months and resulted in my withdrawing the appeal based on the following revisions:

— increased 2-bedroom family units by 40 percent with 15 percent fewer studios
— reduced unit count to 356 units
— recessed the Colorado façade 20 feet and terraced two of four vertical structures
— breaking the massive east and west building elevations above first and second floors into smaller segments
— reduced height of a third building by removing three upper level units
— increased public open space by omitting three units
— added a community room available to the neighborhood
— added a shuttle van available to the neighborhood for hourly round trips to Expo light rail and other locations
— added short-term parking for drop-off and pick-up
— enhanced sustainability from LEED Silver to LEED Gold

Do these changes help? Yes! Do these changes make for a successful design? Unfortunately, far from it. Although I reached an agreement with the new project owners, this settlement provides nothing more than a Band-Aid on a massive project far in excess of what’s appropriate for this site and has no place in our city.

The real tragedy, however, is the process that allowed this to happen. There’s no reason I was able to bring about these improvements when the City should have done even more. This is the City’s job! But this has been an unbelievable failure on the part of City Council, Planning Commission, Architectural Review Board, the project’s new architect (incidentally, a former chair of the ARB) as well as the city’s planning, legal and administrative staffs.

In hindsight, here are three conclusions that can be drawn from this travesty — a complete failure of the planning process and one of huge proportion in our pocket-sized city of 8.3 square miles and 92,000 residents:

1. Staff needs to realize that density is not good design and that quality is more important than quantity. No amount of community benefits can make a poor project a good project.

2. City Council needs to ask whether a rush for tax revenues is worth architectural and environmental mediocrity.

3. By the Planning Director approving a totally redesigned project as a “minor modification” to avoid Planning Commission review of the new design, he made a mockery of the approval process and should not be given one ounce of discretionary power without absolute clarity in the code as to what those issues and limits are! To avoid any recurrence where citizens must threaten suit against those who are there to protect them.

If our City is unable to do a better job representing its citizens, perhaps it is time for residents to enact initiatives ensuring that our codes and powers are not so easily abused, or as in this case, neglected.

Ron Goldman, FAIA, for SMa.r.t. (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)
Robert H. Taylor AIA, Thane Roberts AIA, Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Daniel Jansenson Architect, Samuel Tolkin, Armen Melkonians Civil & Environmental Engineer, Phil Brock Chair, Parks & Recreation Commission. For previous articles, see www.santamonicaarch.wordpress.com/writings.