The most remarkable thing about Santa Monica Forward’s introduction to itself this week is its absolute misunderstanding of Santa Monica and its residents.
SMF has come very late to the conversation, which began some years ago informally, spontaneously among residents who love this gloriously idiosyncratic beach town and were not pleased with the City’s increasingly aggressive efforts to turn it into a business. Residents’ rising dissatisfaction with City Hall’s rush to commercialize their town led to the transformation of the neighborhood organizations into active, smart, dedicated advocates for our town, our way of life and our grand mix of people.
The neighborhood groups have written and circulated definitive position papers on virtually all the issues that currently dominate the community.
For the first time in years, in the November election, residents elected a new majority of four, none of whom, in contrast to their predecessors, takes campaign contributions from developers or automatically approves their projects. The new majority of four includes Mayor Kevin McKeown, Mayor Pro Temp Tony Vazquez, and former Planning Commissioners Sue Himmelrich, and Ted Winterer.
Not incidentally, three of the former majority of four – Pam O’Connor, Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day who took and may still take money from developers — are members of Santa Monica Forward. The fourth, Bob Holbrook, retired.
Santa Monica Forward swears its allegiance to the LUCE — as a perfect expression of its philosophy, but architect Ron Goldman, founder of SMa*r*t (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow), his colleagues and members of the neighborhood groups have issued long and accurate condemnations of portions of the LUCE, and the proposed new zoning code — as rigged by City staff, some rogue architects, developers and their lawyers, even as residents have spent hours attempt-
ing to undo the City staff’s long-winded, wrong-headed additions, which inevitably tilted the code toward developers, and thus made it unacceptable to residents,
The Santa Monica Forward announcement says, “Progressive Change Begins With All of Us.” In fact, Armen Melkonian’s Residocracy is far more progressive than SMF. Residents’ action in rescinding the Council’s approval of the Hines Project was not a mere “progressive change,” it was a pluperfect demonstration of the democratic process. The law required residents to collect about 6500 signatures (10% of all registered voters in Santa Monica) in 30 days. Residents collected over 1100 signatures in 28 days.
Clearly, Santa Monica Forward is delusional. For years, they smoothed the way for assorted developers and their thoroughly wrong projects, but ultimately were done in by their own hubris. They began to believe their own propaganda. Apparently, they still do. In the fall election, funded, as ever, by developers and major business interests, they backed O’Connor and Frank Gruber as “Responsible Leaders for a Better Future.” but their candidates ran thousands of votes behind Himmelrich and McKeown.
Now they seem to be trying to catch up – though with whom or what isn’t entirely clear. Their “mission statement and guiding principles” claim, “We are working for a diverse, progressive, sustainable and equitable Santa Monica.” No. they aren’t. They’re scrambling for power.
Though they have repeatedly betrayed Santa Monica and its residents, they continue to present themselves as leaders. In this latest iteration, they praise the LUCE, as our blueprint, our bible. But, in fact, though it began sensibly and simply, these self-anointed leaders, in concert with developers and their allies, have produced a monstrous 500-page formula for disaster.
They claim to “stand for fact-based, inclusive and public discourse that respects the many viewpoints of our residents,” but the statement itself is suspect, especially the paternalistic reference to “our residents.”
It gets worse. SMF organizers say “its goal is to provide a place where residents
of all viewpoints can engage without the vitriol that has colored recent debates.
The “partial list” of founders names 45 politicians – would-be and actual, current Council members, local “activists” and members of the business community. On the list are Judy Abdo, Assemblyman Richard Bloom and his wife, the new Council minority of three, O’Day, O’Connor and Gleam Davis, Chamber flack Carl Hansen, Planning Commissioner Amy Anderson, youngest candidate for Council in 2014 Nick Boles, Frank Gruber, wheeler-dealer and two-time Council race loser, Jason Islas, pseudo-journalist, Juan Matute, Cynthia Rose and SMC trustee Barry Snell.
According to Abdo, Forward “isn’t coming together as anti-this or anti-that,” she said. “It’s more about how can we help people feel comfortable expressing their opinions. People are feeling like their voices aren’t being heard and they didn’t have a place to have their voices heard,” she said. “It’s multi-generational and with growing diversity in the group of people,” she said. “We’re trying to bring together different generational thinking so that we understand each other better.
We think that that’s really important.”
So, in fact, Santa Monica Forward is not a political outfit at all, but a public service, offering help to the afflicted…the shy…the beset…victims of the generation gap.