KAREN GINSBERG HEADS COMMUNITY AND CULTURAL SERVICES

Assistant Director of Santa Monica’s Community and Cultural Services for 12 years. Karen Ginsberg has been named to succeed her boss, Barbara Stinchfield, who is retiring after 31 years with the City and 14 years as head of one of the City’s largest and most diverse departments.

With an operating budget of $47 million and 400 employees, the Department oversees everything from the arts to parks to services for homeless people.

Ginsberg, whose salary will be $186,300, will take the reins at the beginning of 2012, and will immediately assume responsibility for the construction the two new parks that are budgeted at $47 million and will be located at the northern end of the Civic Center – Palisades Garden Walk and the Town Square. She’s very familiar with the two projects as she was instrumental in gaining approvals for them .

She has also played a major role in managing the department’s budget and capital improvement program.

“Karen has a proven track record in overseeing community services and in realizing improvements to the city’s parks, open spaces and public facilities,” said City Manager Rod Gould. “Her clear, strategic thinking has served the department well in budget matters, team management and creative problem-solving.
Under Karen’s steady hand, the strength and competence of the current CCS management team will ensure a continued excellence in service to the community.”

As assistant director, Ginsberg also oversaw the expansion of Virginia Avenue Park and the development of Euclid and Airport Parks, the city’s first new parks in 24 years, and was charged with overseeing the state and local regulatory review process to transform what remained of the Marion Davies estate into the Annenberg Community Beach House at 415 PCH.

In addition, Ginsberg worked on an agreement with the School District to provide $56 million for recreational improvements on the Santa Monica High School campus that will make the facilities available to the public after school hours.

Before becoming assistant director, Ginsberg was Planning Manager for the City’s Planning Department for five years. She also worked for the Los Angeles City Community Redevelopment Agency as a planner.

With a BA in Art History from Skidmore College, Ginsberg received a Masters of Science in Historic Preservation from Columbia University.

“It is an honor to lead CCS and continue its tradition of excellent service to City residents and the broader public. I am grateful for this opportunity to serve in this capacity, with the exceptionally talented staff of the department,” said Ginsberg.

2011 — NOT A VERY GOOD YEAR

2011 has been principally notable for City Hall and the City Council’s consistent lack of interest in residents’ wishes and concerns.

The failure of the residents’ campaign to limit commercial growth, Prop T, in 2008 unleashed the City’s long-held belief that it knew better than we did, and that unfortunate belief reached a sort of climax this year.

Prop T failed, not because it was a bad measure, but because it was swamped by the developers’ investment of an estimated $730,000 in an ugly assault on Prop T. Ugly as it was, it sealed the City-developer partnership, and enlarged the division between the City and the people.

Highlights of the new partnership have included the City allowing St. John’s Hospital to continue to ignore its 1998 obligation to build a $40 million underground parking structure, going along with the Yahoo parking jamboree, its refusal to proceed with a federally funded Bergamont area plan preceding approval of any of the approximately two million square feet of proposed new commercial developments in that area, its premature approval of two such developments, the Lionsgate project at Stewart and Colorado, and the Agensys building now rising further south on Stewart.

As 2011 wound down, the City picked up the pace. The Council refused to order staff to explore all possible options to save the Village Trailer Park from demolition, and ensure the well-being of its residents, limiting staff to investigating the possibility of purchasing the property from the developer. City Manager Rob Gould estimated the purchase price at $30 million, but lawyer Rosario Perry, who probably knows as much or more than anyone in City Hall about real estate prices, put it at $8 million.

City Hall’s principal flack, Frank Gruber summed up the City’s position neatly. “From a public policy perspective, there is no way that the City of Santa Monica should put the interests, regardless how valid, of the 50 or so remaining households in the trailer park ahead of the benefit of a private developer creating so much housing in their place.”

At its last meeting, the Council approved the Urban Forest Master Plan, and re-upped the Urban Forest Task Force, but refused to give it any authority over City staff. Though the development of the master plan was punctuated by residents’ objections to portions of the plan, the Council apparently bought Public Landscape Manager Randy Little’s claim that residents didn’t know anything about tree biology. In fact, based on the statements made by residents at this and other meetings, they not only know a great deal about trees and species, they clearly know more than Little and chief logger Walt Warriner about Santa Monica, aesthetics and preservation of unique streetscapes.

At the same meeting, the Council approved the thoroughly ludicrous “civility principle.” And Mayor Richard Bloom immediately violated it by ordering the woman who owns and has faithfully preserved two of the landmark apartment buildings in Santa Monica – the Charmont and Sovereign — to stop her presentation of photos of her buildings and the totally unsuitable trees the City had planted around them, because she had violated the two-minute limit. His joy in imposing the limit has long been as visible as it is uncivil, but to cut off a demonstration of the staff’s carelessness, underscoring points that other speakers had made, was beyond uncivil, it was dumb. We needed to see the photos and renderings she had had made, for they were proof of the necessity of giving the Task Force authority to veto staff decisions.

At the same meeting, the Council approved a measure that will make it harder for political candidates to get on the ballot, though no one on the Council was able to explain why it was desirable, much less democratic.

In a first, the Council approved a Development Agreement for an apartment building at Fourth and Broadway in downtown Santa Monica, that has no on-site parking. In addition, the majority of its apartments are, in fact, 360 square feet “studios” that will rent for $1750 a month. The owners will be required to make a $125,000 payment to the City for “transit improvements.”

In another first, the Council moved a quarter of a billion dollars from the Redevelopment Agency into the General Fund. We were told it was simply an “accounting” move, but the City has been playing hide-and-seek with the cash ever since the Governor announced plans to shut down all the Redevelopment Agencies and seize their funds, as they are not being used to eliminate “blight,” as they were created to do, but financing “improvements.”

At the last meeting, the Council also discussed a staff proposal that would further limit smoking in Santa Monica. It would require that new hotels be smoke-free, and that apartment buildings owners designate apartments as non-smoking and smoking, based on the habits of existing tenants. When a smoker moved out, his or her apartment would be re-designated as non-smoking. In this way, eventually all apartments would be smoke-free.

Several Council members and a number of speakers dreamt out loud of a smoke-free town, but other people saw the dream as a nightmare. Among them was former Councilwoman Dolores Press who has long been profoundly concerned about the preservation of people’s rights. Buying, selling and smoking cigarettes is legal, after all, and both state and federal governments collect taxes that far exceed the actual retail price of a pack of cigarettes.

Executive Director Sarah Letts of the Community Corp. said that the staff proposal raised all sorts of questions for Community Corp. The fact that City staff had not consulted Letts in drafting the proposed ordinance suggested that it had been cobbled carelessly or in great haste or by zealots of some sort. Community Corp. builds and rents new apartment buildings and rehabs older buildings and its tenants include low income families and individuals and older people on fixed incomes. Not to involve it in the drafting of such an ordinance is as daft as attempting to make bread without consulting a baker, or even a recipe.
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Among the general questions raised by the measure are individual rights, privacy, discrimination, prejudice, landlords’ using the measure to clear longtime tenants out so they can raise rents to market rate, longtime residents being forced to move out of Santa Monica because they can’t find apartments they can afford in which smoking is permitted. In addition, it favors the owners and renters of houses, and, probably, condo dwellers, over people who rent apartments,

Ultimately, the Council voted to require new hotels to be “smoke-free,” with member Kevin McKeown voting against it as the staff had not consulted the Convention and Visitors Bureau about the impacts of such a measure on Santa Monica’s flourishing tourist industry, but sent the rest of the measure back for a rewrite. Presumably, it will consult Community Corp. this time.

We look forward to 2012, not because we expect the Council to suddenly begin listening to and heeding residents. As the Transparency Project research shows, only two of the seven Council members – McKeown and Shriver – have not taken campaign donations from developers, but 2012 is an election year, and it’s possible the residents will win this time.

BROAD “TWIN” HONORED FOR “DESIGN EXCELLENCE”

Representatives from a local architecture firm, DLR Group WWCOT, and Santa Monica College received a design award from the Southern California Development Forum (SCDF) for the Santa Monica College Performing Arts Campus East Wing facility. The $12.5 million project, which has not been built yet, was honored for design excellence in the “Un-built Concepts” category.

“This addition is a high quality building with great interior space which utilizes natural light in public spaces to help connect it to the adjacent plaza,” according to the jury. “Its use of high quality materials and planar surface detailing connects it nicely to the existing main theater.”

Part of SMC’s recent round of performing arts “improvements,” which has included the the Broad Stage and Edye Second Space, the 12,000-square-foot building will provide the college with “state-of-the-art performance and rehearsal studios, a multi-purpose room, offices, and music classrooms.”

The new building will rise immediately south of the $40 million Broad Stage on Santa Monica Boulevard at 11th Street. Construction is scheduled to begin in November, 2012 and be completed in December, 2013. It will be funded by Measure AA, a bond that was passed by Santa Monica and Malibu voters in 2008.

The SCDF is “dedicated to providing continuing education opportunities for real estate and design professionals in Southern California. Each year, the organization sponsors an awards program to recognize local charities, and to honor the contributions and creative work of architects, engineers, and contractors. Jury members for the design awards this year were Jeffrey Averill, AIA, Campus Architect at UCLA; Gregory B. Ames of Trammell Crow Company, a Texas developer with an enlarging portfolio of Santa Monica commercial developments, and William Robertson of Cushman & Wakefield.

DLR Group WWCOT is an interdisciplinary design firm providing architecture, engineering, planning, and interior design from offices coast-to-coast and in China. “Our promise is to elevate the human experience through design. This promise inspires sustainable design for a diverse group of public and private sector clients. local communities; and our planet. The Group fully supports the initiatives and goals of the 2030 Challenge and is an initial signatory to the AIA 2030 Commitment. Check it out at dlrgroup.com and Facebook and Twitter.

CANDLELIGHT VIGIL MONDAY AT ST. JOHN’S

While some progress has been made, it’s been six months since nurses at St. John’s hospital won representation, and they and the hospital remain far apart on crucial safety issues.

Bargaining began September 8, and the struggle over patient safety issues has dominated the discussions, delaying talks on other issues, such as pay raises for nurses (many of whom have not had raises in two years).

A new California Nurses Association law to protect RNs from injuring themselves lifting patients will take effect January 1, 2012, but St. John’s management refuses to include the text of the new law in the contract.

The nurses continue to fight for safe RN-to-patient ratios in the contract, but management has proposed language that could allow non-RNs to be used to subvert the spirit of the ratio law. No other hospital in Southern California includes non-RNs in the count for determining nurse to patient ratio.

Such “subcontractors” or “travelers” not only lack nurses’ training, but aren’t familiar with the hospital’s procedures and facilities.

Related to the use of outsiders are limits on when and how RNs can be cancelled or “flexed” – sent home before their shift ends, or told to stay home. Excessive cancellation and flexing frequently results in the hospital being understaffed with RNs, which is unfair to the nurses and unsafe for patients.

Most CNA hospitals have union-negotiated competency “clusters” that ensure that RNs “floating” to a different unit have the necessary capabilities and experience and orientation to work safely in that unit. St. John’s doesn’t.

RNs in some units, particularly OR and perioperative units, currently suffer from lack of sufficient rest time between shifts, as they are frequently required to come back to work four or six hours after the end of a previous twelve-hour shift, because the hospital does not have enough RNs in those units, and because there are no rules on turnaround and rest time. CNA planned to propose such rules on December 15.

“Patient Staffing Systems” includes, but is not limited to, the nurse to patient ratio question. It also includes respecting the RN’s decision at the point of care as to the patient’s acuity level. The RN must be the person who decides what a patient’s ratio should be.

According to CNA spokesman Joe Newlin, the Santa Monica community “has been such an important part of the nurses’ struggle that management has even proposed to shut residents out through a proposed contractual prohibition on informing the community of issues through informational pickets and rallies, print media and websites. Management’s positions on these issues is unacceptable to both nurses and patients.

Residents are invited to join the nurses in Monday’s candlelight vigil at 6 p.m. on Santa Monica Blvd. in front of St John’s the main entrance.

RUTH MOUNT DIES AT 84

Ruth Mount, one of Santa Monica’s most accomplished and beloved residents, died on December 6, at the age of 84.

With her husband, James Mount, she built one of the city’s more successful small architectural firms, raised her four children and five grandchildren on Santa Monica’s beaches, gave freely of her time and talent to the town she loved and enterprises she valued, and, with Jim, gave invaluable help and counsel to City staff.

Born in Marshall, Texas, Ruth came to Southern California as a baby with her parents, John Edward and Ethel Frazer Daugherty, and her older sister Jean. The family settled in Santa Monica, then a small bohemian beach town at the end of the rail car line. She graduated from Santa Monica High School.

At UCLA she met, fell in love with and married Jim Mount, a young Marine just back from the war. Together, they and their architectural practice became part of the fabric of Santa Monica.

This extraordinary woman has been described as “smart, strong, full of energy and blessed with a notoriously refined sense of humor. But most importantly, she had an extraordinary gift, an infinite capacity for love — love for her family, her friends, and the many people she helped through her volunteer work.”

Mrs. Mount died at home, surrounded by the people she loved. In addition to her husband of 64 years, she is survived by her four children and their spouses: Debbie and Jim Osterholt, Steven and Pam Mount, Jeffrey Mount and Barbara Evoy, and Lisa Mount & MK Wegmann. She was the proud grandmother of Katie Osterholt Ehret, Austin Mount, Dane Mount, Matilda Evoy-Mount, and Max Evoy-Mount. The family will hold a private service. In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the YWCA Santa Monica/Westside. www.smywca.org