Local Dems Win Seats on Central Committee

Three Santa Monica political activists are among a group of 12 delegates elected to represent the 41st Assembly District at the California Democratic Party (CDP).

Winning seats on the state party’s central committee were Santa Monicans Ben Allen, a local attorney recently elected to the SMMUSD Board of Education, Jonathan Troen, a member of the Executive Board of the Santa Monica Democratic Club, and Aparna Sridhar, a Santa Monica attorney who was a volunteer with the Obama campaign whose work focuses on election, education and policy matters.

Democrats from Oxnard to Santa Monica gathered in Topanga Saturday, January 10, to elect the 12 delegates to the state party’s central committee, a body of 3000 delegates who endorse candidates and pass resolutions at the party’s annual convention. 147 people cast votes to give the progressive slate a resounding victory. Elected from a field of 26 candidates, the group was aided by the turnout, including many members of the Santa Monica Democratic Club.

Maureen Cruise of Pacific Palisades was elected to serve as representative to the CDP Executive Board, a body of 300 elected and appointed officials involved in policy decisions.

The delegation is aligned with Progressive Democrats of America and the CDP’s Progressive Caucus, whose issues focus on Out of Iraq, Universal Single Payer Healthcare, Election Integrity, and Eliminating the Causes and Effects of Poverty. Restoring Constitutional Rights, Climate Change/Environmental Concerns, and Quality Public Education continue a longer list of progressive issues.

Assembly member Julia Brownley addressed the crowd about the state budget, strongly emphasizing the need to pressure Governor Schwarzenegger to sign a budget before the state runs out of money and pays workers and contractors in IOU’s.

The new delegates will join those from Los Angeles County Democratic Central Committee and those appointed by Assembly member Brownley and State Senator Fran Pavley at the State Democratic Convention April 24-26 in Sacramento.

SMMUSD Vs. Student

By Debra Shepherd

Good evening Council members. I am the parent of a child in general education and a child who requires special education services. I am also a member of the Working Group.

Although the non-disclosure agreements are no longer being used to my knowledge, the environment that brought about the use of those agreements still exists.

When a problem arises, there does not seem to be an ability to resolve the problem without input from the attorneys. Since November of 2008, the District has been more adversarial toward my family by threatening me with due process litigation at tax payers’ expense. The SMMUSD refuses to even acknowledge that my daughter has an autism spectrum disorder despite multiple pages of detailed assessments from UCLA in a school setting that have been a part of my child’s records for the last 4 years.

The District is also attempting to take needed services and accommodations out of my child’s educational program. I had to fight for two years for my daughter to receive occupational therapy services.

My extended family has also traveled thousands of miles to help me with these issues. The SMMUSD would rather spend thousands of tax payer dollars suing me than pay for a needed assessment for my child or provide her with a free and appropriate education as mandated by law.

I thought that we had reached our lowest point in the journey when school staff filed a false report against me with child services in retaliation against me for hiring an attorney. My youngest child is still not recovered from the trauma of that incident. I am also disturbed by the number of families of color that have left the district. When families of color complain about how they are treated by the district, their address is verified. This whole situation has taken a toll on my health and the well-being of my family.

Note: Ms. Shepherd made this statement to the City Council
Tuesday night, January 13.

Developer Targets 301 Ocean

To the Editor:

There is a controversy brewing that may be illuminated at the Landmark Commission meeting at 7:00 PM Monday January 12 at City Hall. The Commission will decide whether to designate the 47 unit apartment complex at 301 Ocean Avenue as a city landmark amid complaints of abusive and possibly illegal gag orders on the part of a developer that wants to demolish the structure that was the home of Clo Hoover, Santa Monica’s first woman mayor, and replace it with 29 luxury condominiums. A larger question that may come to light is whether Santa Monica is now going to shift directions because of the monetary influence of well-financed out-of-state developers and become the West Coast version of Miami Beach as is envisioned by some developers, and whether they can block the transparency of public affairs by deterring public participation in meetings and hearings.

The Commission initiated the landmark application in June 2008. The structure was built in 1952 by Clo Hoover who became Santa Monica’s first woman mayor and second woman councilperson and was her residence from 1952 until her death in 1997. The application first became controversial with many residents of the North of Montana neighborhood who believe that the new development will be out of scale and out of character with the rest of the neighborhood. Texas-based developer Trammel-Crow has verbally announced their plan to build 29 luxury condominiums in the $5 Million to $7 Million price range but has not yet filed any actual plans with Planning Commission.

Trammel-Crow is evicting tenants using the California Ellis Act with the justification that the landlord is removing the units from the rental market. Trammel-Crow became involved in April 2007 when a Delaware corporation named 301 Ocean Development, LLC bought the property from San Vicente LLP who had purchased it from the Hoover’s 301 Ocean Avenue Corporation in 2002. The details of ownership in 301 Ocean Development, LLC are murky. Trammel-Crow is fighting the landmark designation and has employed tactics that outraged much of the community. In January of 2008, they and the Planning Commission co-hosted a “design review” meeting at the Ken Edwards Senior Center. The location of that meeting is ironic because the tenants suffering the most hardship in the evictions are seniors. Community members in attendance report that Trammel-Crow representatives arrogantly asserted that the project was going ahead and that opposition was futile. They circulated “enhanced move-out” offers with a clause preventing the tenant from participating in any public hearings or engaging in any activities in opposition of the development at 301 Ocean Avenue or any other development the owner has in the city. Deputy City Attorney Gary Rhoades has reviewed the document and in December 2008 wrote to Trammel-Crow that the gag order may be in violation of the Civil Code and the Business and Professions Code and expressed other concerns about the developer’s activities to discourage public participation in city meetings and hearings.

Grassroots sentiment in favor the landmark designation has grown throughout the neighborhood with residents of the apartments on San Vicente Boulevard from Ocean Avenue and Seventh Street being especially active. They are concerned that if developers get their way San Vicente Boulevard will be developed with a series of high rise apartments similar to Wilshire Boulevard in Westwood.

Clo Hoover became prominent in Santa Monica politics in the early 1950’s when she used her popularity as a volunteer in numerous health and welfare oriented causes including Red Cross, American Hospital Association Council, Cancer Society, Heart Association and March of Dimes to vocally oppose plans to drill for oil in Santa Monica Bay and in the City of Santa Monica. That platform got her elected to Santa Monica City Council in 1961 becoming the second woman to serve in that capacity. During the 1960’s and 1970’s there were a series of circumstances that have been the foundation of modern Santa Monica history and Clo Hoover was the public guardian widely credited with preventing some man-made ecological and environmental tragedies. For example, she began as the sole opposition to the destruction of Santa Monica’s iconic piers and the construction of a 16 acre island in the bay and was in the minority opposing the construction of an eight mile long causeway from the Santa Monica Freeway to Malibu. If any one of these plans had materialized we would be living in a totally different city. Academic historians at several major universities have agreed that there is no doubt that Clo Hoover is an historic personage who made significant contributions to Santa Monica history and to the history of the region.

/s/ Dish Taylor
/s/ Ty Wapato

Whither the Santa Anas

By Ava Tramer

Warm and sunny
Highs: 67-75; Lows: 49-53

Hot and windy
Highs: 76-81; Lows: 41-46

Clear and warm
Highs: 76-77; Lows: 46-52

And Santa Monica…
For those of you who aren’t exactly fond of the recent holiday gifts you received, I have a present for you that you’ll definitely enjoy. This week, Mother Nature is giving you temperatures in the mid seventies and sunny, clear skies. So while you’re busy running errands around town returning all those useless, tasteless holiday gifts, at least you’ll have some lovely weather to appreciate! Enjoy!

Honoring Katz, Helping the Children

Councilman Herb Katz’s untimely death Wednesday left a problem he cared deeply about – the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s foundering special education program – unsolved.

Years ago, Katz’s two young blind sons were ill-served by the District’s special ed program. The boys subsequently died of cancer, but, Katz said, the District’s treatment of them had made “activists” of him and his wife.

At a Council meeting 18 months ago, several parents of children with special needs described the long-running problems that beset the program, as well as the intimidating tactics, including gag orders, that the District employed to keep them quiet and in line.

Katz and his Council colleagues, Bob Holbrook and Bobby Shriver, were clearly moved by the parents’ statements.

There were tears in Katz’s eyes and his voice broke as he spoke of his sons and his determination that the current generation of students with special needs not suffer as his sons had.

The three then did immediately what the School Board had never done, in spite of years of parents’ protests. They outlined a series of steps that the District should take to reform the program, and proposed that the City withhold $520,000 of its annual allocation to the District until an independent study of the special education program was done and the recommended reforms were made.

It was an unprecedented and controversial move, but the study was done and some changes have been made in the process and the chain of command, but the program itself remains flawed.

At Tuesday night’s Council meeting, interim superintendent Tim Cuneo will formally request that the City release the money.

We are offended by the very idea that an issue that Katz cared so deeply about will be discussed, and possibly resolved, the day following Katz’s funeral. Out of simple respect, it should be postponed.

But, whether or not it remains on the Tuesday agenda, the Council would dishonor Katz’s memory, and betray the students he wanted so much to help, if it were to grant the District’s request.

According to Cuneo’s letter, the District bureaucracy has been reconfigured, “facilitators” have been employed, a handbook has been produced, a forum has been held, but the program itself is still troubled, and, after 18 months, people in key positions seem more interested in defending themselves than in solving the problems.

Earlier this week, Ralph Mechur, president of the School Board, told the Daily Press that the board was trying hard to understand the issues. It took Katz, Holbrook and Shriver about ten minutes to understand the issues and act to solve them. The board’s had five years,

Worse, a senior special ed staff member regularly blames a small group of hysterical parents of children with special needs for causing all the commotion.

And now some District employees allege that the independent study was “biased.”

Given all this, Katz wouldn’t release the money now, nor play politics. Neither should his colleagues.