BIGGER IS NOT BETTER

In their letter of support for the Miramar Hotel’s plans to double its size and substantially increase its height, the “Friends of the Miramar,” who number about 300, say that it will fulfill LUCE’s “vision of downtown Santa Monica as a vibrant mixed use place… enhance our downtown and make a gateway to the City…and make it relevant and competitive.”

At a hearing on the Miramar plans, Kathleen Rawson, who heads Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (formerly known as the Bayside District), said that the Miramar’s massive proposal, which includes 6400 square feet of new retail space on Wilshire Boulevard, would add some much-needed “excitement” on the northern end of downtown Santa Monica, which has, she alleged, lagged well behind the southern end. A business owner seconded the notion.

The “new” Santa Monica Place (which is about the same size as the proposed “new” Miramar) is the primary basis for escalating action in the southern reaches of downtown. But that’s just the beginning.

Mayor Richard Bloom recently said that the primary purpose of “The Village,” now under construction in the Civic Center, is to house hundreds of new customers for downtown Santa Monica businesses. And, in four years or so, the last station on the Expo Light Rail will start disgorging 400 people every six minutes (or is it 600 people every four minutes?) on Bloomingdale’s doorstep.

At a recent Planning Commission meeting on the Esplanade that will be installed on the west end of Colorado and has been described asa “gateway” to the Santa Monica Pier and the beach, someone said that surely the Esplanade should be reconfigured so as to be a gateway to….yes…. downtown Santa Monica.

Neal Payton, the consultant in charge of preparing the latest downtown specific plan, has wondered out loud whether the last four blocks of Wilshire “need to be that wide.” It’s four lanes.

What Payton seemed to be getting at was that if the west end of Wilshire were reduced to two lanes, the newly widened sidewalks could be the site of all sorts of frivols and revels, i.e. excitement.

It would also create a perpetual traffic jam at what Alan Epstein, chief flack for the Miramar, had previously described as one of the world’s legendary intersections.Wilshire is, he said, a legendary boulevard, running straight .from downtown Los Angeles to the Pacific,
a legendary ocean.

Clearly, the notion that Downtown Santa Monica Inc. is the star of this gloriously eccentric beach town has seized the self-anointed
shapers and movers, but we know residents who’d rather eat glass than go downtown.

In fact, the beach is the real star, the primary fact of Santa Monica. and more beautiful, valuable, interesting and useful than Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. has ever been, or ever will be. But City Hall has always been baffled by the beach (what is it, REALLY?) so it has left it more or less alone – for which we should all be grateful.

But the planners continue to monkey maniacally with Downtown Santa Monica Inc., at the expense of everything else, and have, over the years, produced a masterpiece of congestion, high gridlock, a perfect money mill, perpetual tumult at the heart of Santa Monica.

And it’s growing, shouldering its way south into Ocean Park via the new Santa Monica Place, the Expo Light Rail station, the Esplanade, the $47 million Palisades Garden Walk, complete with a “water feature” across the street from that other water feature, the Pacific Ocean, and the Mega-Village in the Civic Center, with its shops, cafes, and shoppers.

Now, Downtown Santa Monica Inc. is pushing its way north into a hitherto serene residential neighborhood. A while ago, the City quietly extended the downtown border to California Avenue to include the Miramar, which now wants to double its size to 556,000 square feet, add several stories to its new complex, including a roof-top pool and restaurant, along with the new retail installation on Wilshire.
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The Friends of the Miramar believe its immense
proposal will “enhance downtown.” It won’t, of
course, it will simply enlarge it, and make a rather sizable and constant commotion in a previously peaceful residential neighborhood.

At tonight’s City Council meeting, neighborhood conservation districts will be discussed. Former Planning Director Eileen Fogerty spoke frequently of conservation, noting that 94 percent of Santa Monica would be unscathed by plans and planners

But Fogerty is gone, and the scathing is proceeding –in the Civic Center, at the Village Trailer Park, in the Bergamot area and at the Miramar…and it’s time for residents to tell the planners to get back in their boxes.

THE MAGNIFICENT BIRDS OF BALLONA

Two White Tailed Kites in flight soared toward each other, locked talons and dive bombed together towards earth, only to separate just before crashing. The rarely seen bird ritual was captured on film in the early 1960s by the young photographer Bill Beebe, and it sparked a passion in him to document the birdlife of the Ballona Wetlands, which he continues to this day.

Birding aficionados from all over the world know they can arrive at LAX and in 10 minutes see Heerman’s Gull, Elegant Terns, Allen’s Hummingbirds or the Great Egret and nesting Blue Herons in the Wetlands. Once the site of all forms of plant and animal life, it was a true coastal estuary with the ocean tide flowing in to meet the fresh water of the Los Angeles River. But by the 1990s, it was an area of neglect, riddled by rubble, European and African plant species, such as the invasive ice plant — some of it still buried under the land fill dredged from the construction of the Marina.

Fewer and fewer species of birds and animals called it home. Then, in 2003, after legal battles with two prior developers, an unprecedented plan emerged. Three groups decided the area could be returned at least partially to what nature intended: the Friends of La Ballona, the developers of Playa Vista and the government of California. After years of hard work by hundreds of dedicated volunteers, the Ballona Freshwater Marsh, the Del Rey Lagoon, the Playa del Rey Breakwater and Beach, “The Wetlands” and the area known as Dune Willows are being reclaimed as part of the ancient Pacific Flyway used for centuries by migratory birds.

The Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club takes great pleasure in presenting a free multi-media presentation of a selection of Bill Beebe’s thousands of photographs which he has given to the library of the Friends of Ballona Wetlands.’ There will also be a presentation of the history and future plans for the Wetlands, the last large coastal estuary in L.A. county, by Lisa Fimiani and Patrick Tyrell. (www.ballonafriends.org)

Beebe has photographed top news stories and wildlife in much of the world, but the Ballona Wetlands continues to compel his interest. Fimiani and Tyrell are dedicated to the restoration of the area and will recount the dramatic story of the negotiations that lead to its creation. Each year, more than 9000 people attend programs and lectures by The Friends of Ballona Wetlands’, including many schoolchildren who may have never seen the ocean.

The only remaining “wetlands” in Los Angeles County, they now provide safe harbor for 200 species of birds, including migratory species now returning after a 70-year absence. From 2000 to 2010, Friends of Ballona Wetlands’ 65,000 volunteers removed an estimated 10,000 cubic yards of invasive plants, trash and debris, equaling more than 500 tons of material. More than 1,000 native plants have been carefully planted and tended by dedicated volunteers and community groups, such as the Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts of America, as part of their merit badge activities.

The multi-media presentation, the “Birds of the Ballona,” will be presented Thursday, June 28 at 7 p.m. at the Santa Monica Bay Woman’s Club, 1210 4th St. Refreshments will be served.

SEMINAR ON FUTURE OF UNLEADED AVGAS

Saturday, June 30, at 9 a.m., Lars Hjelmberg, founder of Hjelmco Oil, will take part in a seminar on the development of unleaded aviation fuel at the Santa Monica Museum of Flying.

Attendance is limited to the first 250 people to register. Register at http://futureofavgas.eventbrite.com.

In 1979, Hjelmco Oil, developed an UN-Leaded 80/87 grade AVGAS. In 1991, the company developed an 91/96 grade UN-Leaded AVGAS, which is VERY close to 100 Octane. Coninental, Lycoming, Rotax and radial engine manufacturer Kalisz have all cleared the Hjelmco AVGAS 91/96 UL for use in some of their engines. The fuel has been widely used throughout Sweden for decades and millions of flight hours, including by the Swedish Air Force, and is the preferred fuel for general aviation there.

The fuel currently used in piston-powered aircraft, 100LL (low lead) AvGas, is the last leaded fuel in production. For years, environmental protection agencies worldwide have been working with refiners and other regulatory agencies to develop an un-leaded replacement for 100LL.

Tetraethyl-lead (TEL) used in 100LL AvGas acts as an octane booster to prevent engine detonation and pre-ignition. It also provides improved heat transfer for valve seats and piston rings. Due to the relatively small demand for AvGas, the TEL used in the AvGas has a very limited production.

There has been a lot of news recently about unleaded alternatives to 100LL, including a UL 91, which is being pushed by Lycoming Engines and TOTAL in Europe (see this news story – http://www.aopa.org/aircraft/articles/2012/120419lycoming-eu-bless-ul-91.html), 94UL, which is being pushed by Continental, a new 100UL being developed by a startup called Swift Fuel, and G100UL being developed by GAMI.

Additionally, recent national publications like Bloomberg have highlighted the potential health risks of leaded aviation gasoline. http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=newsarchive&refer=&sid=aCfotEYJYr3Y

Lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft and leaded aviation gasoline are Federally-regulated. EPA received a petition to determine whether lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft endanger human health and the environment. The EPA is currently conducting a national-scale analysis of the local impact of lead emissions from piston-engine aircraft. It’s time to understand what the alternatives are to 100LL and where we are in the certification process.

The Museum of Flying is located ar 3100 Airport Avenue@ SMO Airport.

CITY REJECTS SETTLEMENT IN PARKING TICKET CASE

At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, during the closed session, a City Attorney will inform the Council that the City and ACS/Xerox are ending settlement negotiations of the case concerning violations of California statutes governing parking enforcement.

Deputy City Attorney Jeanette Schachtner gave attorney Eric Benick, whose clients, Stanley and Harriet Epstein brought the case, the news on Friday.

Four weeks ago, the City submitted a redraft of the agreement to give legal protection to more than 20,000 motorists, doubling the number of those affected by its actions. The change was made after a citizen reported that although the City had claimed it had changed its notices as of May, 2011, “as a public service” in the wake of the Epsteins’ law suit, it actually had continued for over a year to use two illegal form letters. When confronted with the proof, the City agreed to add 10,000 drivers to the total.

On February 28, 2012, City Attorney Marsha Moutrie and City Manager Rod Gould told Council, residents and the media that a settlement had been reached and the Epsteins would be awarded $75,000 — less legal fees. The officials later retracted the statements, as they knew that at least a dozen major issues remained and that the Epsteins would receive only $12,500, with the balance paying legal costs.

The Epsteins alleged that Moutrie and Gould were “motivated by an intent to head off a joint press release critical of the City and to make it appear as if the plaintiffs were acting out of greed.”

With the City’s withdrawal from settlement talks, the case will go towards a court hearing and decision in November. Instead of admitting that it has erred in handling parking tickets, and making appropriate amends to affected motorists, as provided in the proposed settlement agreement, Stan Epstein said, “The City has wasted a lot of time and taxpayer money. And now when it already faces a budget deficit, the City will continue to spend money defending an indefensible cause.”

Epstein went on to say, “By taking this matter to court, the City is twice failing the public. Motorists affected by its failure to follow state law will now have to wait longer for relief. And, of course, taxpayers will pick up the bill for additional staff time and legal expenses because the City refused to go the extra mile to work out a fair settlement. After three years of failing to comply with state law, including 16 months of lies, coverups and stonewalling, the City Attorney and the Finance and Police Departments, under the supervision of the City Manager, will be forced to provide details and explanatory documents and sworn testimony. Under oath, the truth should emerge.”

TALKING TRUTH TO THE RENT CONTROL BOARD

Re: Case 447R-D, per 2930 Colorado Avenue, Santa Monica

Dear Rent Control Board Members,

I’m now running out of patience. And please do not misunderstand me here. There are a lot of hard-working, well-meaning souls in our City’s government. You know that. You work with them, yes? As always, I intend no personal antipathy toward you reading this or anyone who will come to be involved in these regards…

But, the action of our over-worked, insufficiently informed, and it now seems, also inappropriately apprised Planning Commissioners this past Wednesday—in moving, as it then did its recommendation to City Council to accord the Village Trailer Park [VTP] development agreement [DA], 07-005—is about the last straw for me.

I’m not yet sure now just how I may best accomplish it, whether by litigation or media action perhaps, but I am not now going to stand by and let my home [nor yet more those of my neighbors’] be stolen.

And make no mistake about it, theft of our owned housing is exactly what I and my neighbors continue to face; and, per your “Notice of Consideration on Removal Permit Application” [NCRPA] letter of Monday to me and others living on these VTP grounds, and this week’s noted Planning Commission action, a threat now seeming even more imminent.

You know all the facts about this. More than enough has already been documented about the matter.

In a sentence though to recap said record:
We trailer homeowners, under RCB-permitted residency agreement contracts sustaining pad-site habitation rentals for said homes on this, since ’88 RMH-zoned property, have, since ’06, faced loss of those homes and our holdings in them due to intended abandonment of the trailer park management business by the property’s owner and developer so that zoning-changing development use by them on the property might instead then proceed.

Apparently, without the granting of ostensibly-required “removal permits” over the course of these past 22 years, ~40 trailer homes have, under your purview, somehow nevertheless already been sanctioned for, and then subsequently removed from the property. Whatever the facts about these seeming statutory violations, there are now vacant pad sites here attesting to said removals of those earlier-seen homes.

So, for me and my neighbors to now need contend to stop the granting of removal permits in effort to thwart illegal and unilateral “taking” of our owned homes, is felt particularly aggrieving.

If you, personally, might pause a moment and consider how you would feel if someone was so perfunctorily acting to steal your home, I imagine you would concur that such criminally-intended acting is the matter most deserving of first response.

All other issues, procedural and otherwise [i.e.,those you well-present in yours noted of 6-18-12], must then be held in abeyance until this intended thieving of our homes is addressed; for me, but for such serving of justice, no other matter has relevance.

That said, and for now, please take this as formal notice that I expect you to advise our City Council that NO removal permits will be granted this property owner with regard to this DA matter [nor any such possibly bearing on the memorandum of understanding regarding that DA which was also subsequently drawn and agreed-to by only the City those years back].
I will start my next actions by sharing this letter with others in our community to advise them of yours regarding this now-pending NCRPA action.
Too, as best I now can, I will commence action seeking to find legal counsel to assist me in the matter.

Cordially, but as you may appreciate, not at all happy about the way this reprehensible closure matter is now being progressed… We used to be a Nation that held ethics and the honoring of its laws in higher esteem…

David Latham

Dear Rent Control Board Members,

This, a follow-up to the letter I gave to Eric at your office yesterday, in which it was [essentially] suggested that a legal suit may prove necessary if further RCB-managed housing resource at VTP comes to be lost due to the granting of home Removal Permits.

As said, as well as being ironic, that is an especially distasteful and upsetting prospect now for residents, since apparently-failed Board oversight seems already to have allowed, and without the granting of any such permits as are now being talked of, the removal of some 45 or so homes from the property at various times over these past 2 decades.

Since dropping off that letter, several conversations have occasioned with some of my neighbors here in the Park.
…We living here often have casual contact when meeting on way from our vehicles to our homes, when getting some air and exercise walking the Park roadways, and when having pot-lucks and other get-togethers at the pool, barbeque, library, and meeting-room facilities on the grounds…

Several comments from these conversations, of import for us residents, which may also be of interest to you…{before those, though} :
I should note [of which you may already be aware], a significant number of my neighbors, many elderly, are not able to proffer submissions such as this. Too, this extended living for years with this threat against home- and life-situation, has had a daunting affect [year 7 commences next month, on the 10th]. Some have felt harassed by this ongoing unsettled circumstance. Many have been greatly angered by the basic injustice this taking of homes constitutes. In general, most have also felt to some degree or other “battered” in their living, what with being forced to hold stance of sustaining vigilance awaiting the eventual need to be taking some action with this poor-options matter. Many, by inclination or capability, seem just to have found it too difficult to manage energy and all needed in reacting to the stream of missives and meetings which have occurred these many years. Too, for some of these elderly souls, with aim to “just live and enjoy this time of life here”, having to instead wrestle with technicalities and ponderous decision-makings in these regards, are simply living choices some can’t manage to meld well enough, if at all.

Anyway, as said, from these just-had conversations with some of my neighbors, these observations relate to the 2 letters you recently sent us, the…

(1) “Notice of Filing of Removal Permit Application” [received 5-18-12}, concerning the “Application for Removal Permit, No.447R-D”, date-stamped in your office on 5-2-12, and the
(2) “Notice of Consideration on Removal Permit Application” [received 6-19-12]…

In reporting a bit about some of these conversations, for simplicity, I’ll refer to them as (1) or (2):

One neighbor became frustrated that, in wanting to try to explain why these Removal Permits should not be issued, felt need for deeper delving into the implications and perhaps inconsistencies of [in (1)]: the “Rent Control Law (Art. XVIII, S.M. Charter), section 1800(t), the SM Charter Section 1803(t), and the City Ordinance No. 4.24.030.

As alluded to (page-over), being then overwhelmed by that perceived need to study more was enough to make her feel not up to saying anything of greater- or more specific-substance than words to effect, “It just isn’t fair to allow them [the permits] to be issued.”

Another felt challenged enough to not even bother writing that permit issuing would, in his view… “This will be disastrous. It’s just wrong”. He also talked of these [in (2)] wonderings: “Just what is the intent here?”, “What kind of argument about the staff report would be of importance for the Board to hear?”, “Are we being asked to write about a continuance on this matter?”, “Permits are required and other permits? What permits for just what?”

Clearly, he was feeling confused to the point of not knowing exactly what usefully best to dispute about from among the many statements and suppositions which bothered him in the letter.

I, too, in reading [both in (1) and (2)], foundered some before recalling how neither addressed anything about the essential crime underpinning all these process concerns, and being reminded then that attending first to that core matter trumps spending much energy on what seems problematic in these letters.

But, just a bit on that…Along with also wondering about “the other necessary permits” my neighbor had puzzled about, it was the “III Analysis” section [in (2)], and especially the “may” justifying commentary in that which started to raise again my ire about all this. Actually, I could probably spend pages trying to write on assertions in all three, a through c, parts of the section which feel more obfuscating, deflecting, and word-spinning than truly justifying of the conclusions made in it. Too, in that section, I got wondering about the lines: “Currently there are no regulations enacted under section 1803(t). Thus, the only statutory language governing removal permits is the Charter section itself.” ??? Another neighbor had mentioned that, for some unstated reason, the Board had apparently suspended prior, chapter 5?, regulations back in 1977. Which leaves me wondering “Why then and why still none now?” Some clashing of regulations with the needs of “vacancy de-control” back then, it was suggested might have occurred.

Altogether, not much of use to say after reading these very disappointing letters, other than that this application should certainly fail. I came away from reading (2) especially, thinking how very suspicious, a la Shakespeare’s “…doth protest too much, methinks”, it truly does seem to be.

Before recently first learning of this “Removal Permit” aspect of Rent Control Board duties, I had only thought of the Board in terms of it being a protector of resident rights, especially for those of lowest income. To see it now more acting in capacity [in affect] as an “agent of eviction”, via this RCB staff recommendation for approval of this Removal Permit Application, is certainly most disappointing.

Spending now all this energy to effect the killing of this VTP property and this now most rare affordable-housing resource, instead of acting to, as aggressively, seek to restore and strengthen it, looks certainly poles-apart from what the Board’s mandate seems to be toward moving its stated goals.

Personally, I can only wonder if the desire to destroy this piece of Santa Monica’s history might still be the aim if some in our City government hadn’t gotten so married in aspiring to what seems a broader problematic aim to also destroy what remains of the diminished [and soon to be again very needed] stock of manufacturing-, machinist-, and sundry other trade/crafts businesses in Santa Monica’s east end; an apparent aiming to assure that various Expo-line-supporting developments now in the works might instead have benefit of the land.

As must be endlessly stated : Hoping that that approaching line will do much to abate the traffic problems here , and thinking that massively devastating much of what presently still has business function in this east end of the City might in the end serve to give us a bettered community? Both are views sadly far from the mark and not the kind of planning thinking that should be encouraged.

*I could get far a-field here with too many more words about space needs for that train-line service, the wiser resident/business-friendly trolley alternative, earlier discussed thoughts about truly “green” people-friendly open-space options, needed business-refurbishing, etc., but…

Overall, I have now the sorry sense that, after last Wednesday’s disappointing Planning Commission recommendation to Council, too many still do not have a full-enough understanding of what this VTP property truly represents in terms of how us 100,000 now need to be thinking about our City.

Too, there seems still no understanding about what this unique home-owning/space renting arrangement really requires if this business relationship is to be at all honorably managed over time.

As has been from several perspectives now suggested to Council, this City cannot keep trying to build its way out of space-use problems and economic difficulties. It can though, if continuing with said sometimes short-sighted development and planning acting, almost guarantee that the enjoyment of life here in the years coming will lessen, and lessen proportionately to just how much wrong-headed, only-money-matters affairs-handling may again be permitted a part in the management of the City’s business.
As requested of you in my previous letter, please put this new input on record, and set right this matter. This Removal Permit Application should be denied.
To use the term this government so often invokes, there can be no mitigating of the great harm to lives the issuing of these permits would bring.

Thank you. David Latham

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