Former SM City Manager Takes Helm in Compton

The Los Angeles Times reports that “Amid financial turmoil and changing political tides, the Compton City Council has voted to fire its third city manager in five years.

“The council voted to bring in Lamont Ewell, a former Compton firefighter who went on to serve as city manager for cities including San Diego and Santa Monica before retiring in 2009, as Norfleet’s replacement. Ewell’s contract is slated to be approved next week.

“Ewell, who grew up in Compton, said taking the helm during a troubled time is a way for him to pay back a debt to the city.

“’Given the fact that, in my view, the city has actually been responsible for the career I enjoyed for 34 years before retiring, I felt it was the least I could do to help in any way I can,’ he said.

“The appointment will bring Ewell out of retirement on a temporary basis in hopes he’ll spark a turnaround in the troubled city. Under law, Ewell may only work full time for up to a year without sacrificing his pension benefits. The listed pay for the city manager’s post is $185,000 a year.

“Councilwoman Yvonne Arceneaux, who voted to fire Norfleet, said the council majority was unhappy with the way he handled the budget, and particularly with his lack of communication with some council members during the process…

“Reached by phone, Norfleet said he had done his best in a tough situation and thought he was targeted partly because he pushed the council to make tough fiscal choices.”

TO SANTA MONICA URBAN FOREST TASK FORCE

Copies to: Santa Monica City Council, City Manager, Planning Commission, Task Force on the Environment, Recreation and Parks Commission, city staff, interested citizens, media representatives

We are writing to express concern about recent events that are having the unfortunate effect of discouraging public participation in the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force’s process and inciting public mistrust of the Task Force.

1. When completed, the Urban Forest Master Plan will affect residents, voters, taxpayers, businesses and visitors in the city for the next 50-100 years. As a result, many members of our community are intensely interested in the work of the Task Force.

2. The Task Force’s original agenda called for completion of its work in June 2011. The group’s recommendations were to be forwarded to the City Council via three city entities: the Environmental Task Force, the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Planning Commission. The Task Force’s original agenda called for the presentation of its Master Plan to City Council on October 20, 2011.

3. In response to complaints about lack of public notice and transparency this past summer, the city sent notices to city residents in August advising them of the work of the Task Force and offering opportunities for public input.

4. The Task Force assured citizens that public input would be taken into account as the Task Force worked toward developing a Master Plan. It further assured citizens that the Task Force’s process would be open and transparent.

5. All told, hundreds of community members have offered public input and testimony, and have signed petitions to the Task Force. This demonstrates that many people in our community have deeply held opinions and concerns about the trees that frame our homes, define our neighborhoods and grace our city. Yet even now, more people are just beginning to hear about the work of the Task Force and are desiring to get involved in the selection of street trees for their areas.

6. Specific recommendations for replacement trees have been prepared for the Task Force by its Species Selection Subcommittee. This subcommittee has deliberated in sessions that were closed to the public.

7. Two public input sessions were held in September in response to public complaints about lack of transparency, and were promoted as efforts to gather public advice on street tree selection. Two of the three Task Force members who serve on the crucial Tree Selection Subcommittee did not attend the second of these sessions.

8. Through Task Force sign-in sheets, many citizens shared their email addresses with the city in the expectation that they would receive timely information about upcoming meetings of the Task Force as well as about potential revisions in the city’s Draft Urban Forest Master Plan that might affect their homes, neighborhoods, businesses and personal well-being.

9. Through testimony, petitions and other input, members of the public have spoken consistently and eloquently about desires to maintain and preserve the city’s beautiful, historic and iconic allees of palm trees; to replace palms with other palms when replacement is necessary; and to keep historic allees free of interplanting with other, non-palm species. The city’s Land Use & Circulation Element also calls for maintaining and preserving the unique and historic streetscapes of the city’s diverse neighborhoods.

10. At its meeting on Sept. 26, 2011, the Task Force unveiled the recommendations of the Species Selection Subcommittee.

11. The Species Selection Subcommittee’s report and accompanying draft Master Plan were the culmination of months of work, and will form the backbone of the Task Force’s plan for the future of the city’s street trees. The two lengthy documents that were discussed at the Sept. 26th meeting contain detailed and intricate street-by-street and block-by-block descriptions of the subcommittee’s vision of the trees to be planted in the city’s parkways for the next 50 to 100 years.

12. Members of the Urban Forest Master Plan Task Force received two reports (the subcommittee’s report and an appendix that included the street-by-street tree recommendations) by email in advance of the Sept. 26 meeting. Members of the public did not receive either report before the meeting.

13. Because members of the public did not receive the reports in advance of the meeting, they were precluded from organizing neighborhood attendance at the meeting or gathering neighborhood responses to the subcommittee’s recommendations.

14. Members of the public who did attend the Sept. 26th meeting were told they had just 48 hours to provide written responses to the recommendations.

15. Some members of the public who attended the Sept. 26th meeting were clearly unhappy that they had not been notified in advance of the subcommittee’s recommendations. They heckled the Task Force loudly midway through the meeting, demanding the right to speak, and were told by the Task Force chair that they were out oforder.

16. Despite the public’s well-articulated desire to maintain and preserve the city’s historic palm allees, the subcommittee’s recommendations designate non-palm species for replacement or interplantings on palm-dominated streets in at least six neighborhoods.

17. The Task Force also appears to have eliminated all language regarding protection of “significant trees, allees and groupings that are iconic or historic in nature” from its working draft.

18. Despite repeated requests from the public throughout the Task Force’s deliberations, the current draft of the Urban Forest Master Plan does not provide for an appeals process or public collaboration in matters relating to street trees.

19. The Draft Master Plan also contains no mechanism for fine-tuning tree planting plans on street segments, particularly in the palm districts, where there is a high level of neighborhood interest, and where planting and placement decisions may be complex and will have consequences for decades to come.

20. Members of the public were told that the Task Force must complete its work by October 5, 2011, with presentation to City Council promised for December 2011. Thisleaves just one more Task Force meeting for discussion of countless intricate details involving recommendations for street trees on all of the city’s many streets.

21. The Task Force has no articulated process for next steps that affected citizens can discern. It is not clear when the city’s boards and commissions will consider the Task Force’s finished product, how citizens may provide input to those groups, or how differing revisions of the Task Force’s report might be reconciled. A work agenda currently displayed on the Task Force’s website is out of date and inaccurate.

22. The foregoing creates the distinct impression that the Task Force is being rushed to meet an arbitrary deadline at the expense of the integrity of its process. Creating a master plan for the city’s street trees is a massive project. Neither Task Force members nor members of the public can responsibly analyze the enormous amounts of data necessary for reasoned decision-making in the time allotted.

23. The foregoing creates the further impression that the city is not being candid when it claims that it values public input in the tree selection process. Public input in the development of Santa Monica’s Urban Forest Master Plan seems to be neither desired nor heeded, but seems rather to be at best window dressing for an extraordinarily rushed and flawed process. There is a widely held perception among members of the public that the next hundred years of the city’s urban forest are being shaped by a Task Force that discounts and disregards the wishes and judgments of citizens.

24. We urge the Task Force to pull back, extend its deadlines, and seek to engage with the public in a comprehensive, collaborative and genuine fashion. Railroading this Master Plan through to meet an arbitrary, pre-arranged deadline will only stoke further public distrust of the Task Force and its process.

Sincerely,

Patricia E. Bauer
502 20th Street

Caryn Marshall
609 21st Street

To Friends of St. John’s Nurses

Since you have been with us through the long struggle for union recognition at Saint John’s, we thought you would appreciate an update on the progress we’ve made and the challenges we’ve faced recently.

In late July, we notified management that we would be ready to begin negotiations in August. Management responded with a single date in September. That kind of set the tone for management’s approach to scheduling dates.

But we did meet for the first time on September 8. The RNs on the bargaining team gave impassioned opening statements about their 10-year effort to win a voice since losing their first union election in 2001. It was clear that patient safety and is these nurses’ first concern. There were even tears in the eyes of some of the 30 or so Saint John’s RNs who showed up to observe the start of bargaining and to support the team.

We presented our non-economic proposals to management, mainly dealing with rights: RNs’ right to fair treatment, right to be patient advocates.

Interestingly, management also presented non-economic proposals.

After some deliberation and discussion, the union agreed to a few of management’s proposals, though they did not agree to any of ours yet. We hope that they follow our lead and show a similar reasonableness and willingness to agree to our proposals.

The next bargaining date is October 25, with a few more dates in early November. Although we have proposed roughly 100 possible bargaining dates, only 4 (plus one tentatively) have been agreed to so far.

Thank you for your support. We’ve accomplished much with your support, but the movement never stops!

Autism Reauthorization Bill Passes Senate, Goes to Obama

Autism Speaks hailed the passage of the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act of 2011 by unanimous consent in the United States Senate earlier today. The bill now goes to President Obama for signature and enactment.

The bill allocates $693 million in new dedicated funding to the autism community for research and treatment for the next three years.

Autism Votes is an initiative of Autism Speaks.

For more information on Autism Votes, please visit www.autismvotes.org.

Hines Project Must Be Put On Hold

To the City Council of Santa Monica
September 26, 2011

RE: Agenda Consent Item 3-R: Planning Services Related to the Bergamot Area Plan

This report to the City Council from the Planning Director, recommending the hiring of a professional design firm to “develop and complete” the Bergamot Area Plan confirms that no developments currently proposed within the 140 acres under the Plan legally can or should be negotiated or approved until the Plan is completed. To do otherwise, would constitute poor planning policy and piecemeal planning in violation of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) and our local Land-Use and Circulation Element known as LUCE. SMCLC and other community groups within and outside of Santa Monica first raised these objections in December 2010 in connection with the scoping meeting for a draft environmental impact report for the Hines/Bergamot project on the Papermate site. SMCLC reasserts these objections now based on this report.

This Report Confirms That This Area Plan Design Is a Regional Planning Issue.

This entire area is one mega development project and the City is treating it as such. Last year, the City was awarded a HUD grant of $652,500 to develop an Area Plan in order “to transform the 140 acres of industrial land into a transit-oriented, mixed use neighborhood.” According to the City, this entire 140 acres is the “project.” The project includes 35 acres of the Bergamot Transit Village District and within that, the central 7-acre Hines/Papermate property), 19 acres of the Bergamot Station Arts Center across the street from the Hines project, and 86 acres of the Mixed Use Creative District, which together encompass a huge area from Cloverfield Boulevard on the west to Centinela Boulevard on the east and Colorado Avenue on the north and Exposition Boulevard on the south.
(See Map, Exhibit “1”)

Under the HUD grant, residential housing, including affordable, workforce and market-rate housing, is key to creating this transformation in order to promote transit ridership and reduce auto traffic. Indeed, the residential goal to be achieved under the HUD grant is “a 40/60 commercial/residential ratio in one sub-area and a 50/50 ratio in another.” (See City’s Summary of HUD Grant, Exhibit “2”)

This is just another way of saying that under the grant the City has committed itself to plan and approve projects that will not worsen the jobs/housing imbalance in our community. The HUD planning grant summary does not even mention the development of commercial office space. This is not surprising given that a major source of the daily gridlock that residents and visitors alike confront in this very area is the result of the overbuilding of commercial office space in the 1980s.

Now, the City is being asked to commit the bulk of the HUD grant funds to generate this Area Plan to create this new “transit oriented” city within Santa Monica. What this confirms is that fundamental planning for this new city has barely begun. There has been no determination by neutral professional planners as to the cumulative amount and mix of residential and commercial or even where it should be located within the project area.

The report further affirms that LUCE requires detailed planning for this area and coordinating residential and commercial land uses to achieve a “complete neighborhood.”

Until this Area Plan is completed and it includes the designated residential and other uses, and the infrastructure to support a complete neighborhood, no development agreement for any individual project that is currently in the pipeline should be negotiated. Otherwise, each developer will propose far too much commercial development because it’s much more profitable than residential. This is, of course, exactly what Hines is proposing. Further, there will be no Area Plan to control it and create a real neighborhood.
The notion of a “transit-oriented neighborhood” will be in name only.

The Hines Project Must Be Put On Hold Until The Area Plan Is Done.

Postponement is especially critical as to the Hines site because it is by far the largest parcel in the Transit District, it is the closest to the Expo stop, it is proposing a massive commercial project with less than 30% residential housing and several other nearby properties in the District have already been approved with little or no residential mix. That’s not acceptable under the HUD grant, or under LUCE.

In addition, this entire project area abuts existing thoroughfares in all directions which are already at failing capacity much of the day and evening. These roads, both new and existing, would have to be shared by all of the new development that would be built in a compact area that everyone traveling into or out of Santa Monica must traverse to get on or off the highly used 10 Freeway and through much of the City. The Cloverfield/26th Street off-ramp on the 10 freeway is at functional collapse now, as commuters back up past the 405 Freeway every weekday morning. Most of Santa Monica’s commuter traffic, as well as resident-generated traffic, would be significantly affected by development in the project area, as would the entire Westside region of Los Angeles.

CEQA Outlaws Piecemeal Projects, Where, as Here, the Project Area Includes Multiple Projects Which Cumulatively Would Have Far Greater Environmental Impacts

The requirements of CEQA cannot be avoided by piecemeal review. Otherwise, CEQA’s mandate to review the actual effect of the project upon the environment would be defeated if a large project could be divided into many smaller ones – each claiming a minimal impact on the environment – which cumulatively could have disastrous consequences.

Here, piecemeal planning would result from breaking the entire project area into separate projects, and thereby failing to appropriately address the cumulative impacts of all of the reasonably foreseeable future development of the project area that is the subject of the Area Plan for which the city received the federal funding. (See Exhibit “3,” map of the pending projects in this Area)

A review of the City’s website, which lists pending environmental reviews, reveals that there are at least two other projects in this area for which EIRs are being prepared – Roberts Business Center and the Village Trailer Park. We believe that neither will withstand judicial scrutiny under CEQA for the same reason that any EIR prepared for the Hines project would be deficient.

For all of these reasons, SMCLC urges the Council to reconsider its “float up” approval for the Hines project on August 23, 2011, and to publicly affirm that it will not negotiate or approve any development agreement for any project in the Area Plan until the Area Plan is completed for this critical transit city within our city.

SANTA MONICA COALITION FOR A LIVABLE CITY.