COUNCIL CANDIDATES TALK TO THE DISPATCH:II

Hannah Heineman

Fifteen candidates are running for the four open seats on the Santa Monica City Council in the November 6 election. Two of 15 are incumbents. One is a former Councilman. Some have run previously and lost.

The Dispatch asked each candidate the same questions.

Gleam Davis, an incumbent and attorney, is seeking re-election because she said she “enjoyed her time on the City Council and gained insight and experience” that will help her move forward on city issues if elected to another term.

She credited herself and her Council colleagues with significant strides in the areas of education, sustainability, and overall quality of life in the city. In terms of education, she noted they extended the ”facilities use agreement” between the School District and the City, made strides in sustainability by approving plans for the city to become water self- sufficient by 2020, as well as obtaining a settlement with the companies that polluted the ground water at the former Papermate site. She believes the quality of life in the City will be improved by the Council’s decision to construct two new parks in the Civic Center, the traffic synchronization project, the Expo line, the realignment of bus circulators to coordinate with the Expo service, and the rebuilding of parking structure 6. Davis praised City staff, saying they are “amazing, and hard working” and “provide excellent service to residents.”

In Davis’s view, the most pressing city issue is traffic and parking.She would like to improve traffic by realigning Big Blue Bus services and improving local bus circulator services. She believes the downtown parking problems could be reduced with more “centralized parking so people can park once.” Davis also wants to create more shared parking, get employees off residential streets, and she would like to use social media and other electronic means to let people “know where parking is available.” Another important issue to Davis is the loss of state redevelopment funds and the “challenge to fill that gap” so that the city can “fund the high level of services the residents are used to and want.”

Davis believes development is “appropriate near light rail and bus routes.” However, she believes a “a citywide view of development [should be taken]” so that decisions can be made about what the city should look like in 10-20 years from now. She also supports the creation of “complete neighborhoods in which residents can live and work.

“It is important to renovate the Miramar Hotel,” she said. “It’s not pedestrian friendly, it’s a walled compound.”

She wasn’t happy with the proposal that the owners presented to the Council as it was “too massive,” and she “didn’t like the way it interacted with the surrounding streets and buildings.” Davis hopes that the proposal will be redesigned to make the project “a net benefit to the community.”

She still has “unanswered questions” about the latest revision of the Village Trailer Park mixed use project, and is “supportive of the current residents who want to remain there. She is “grateful and encouraged that the developer is going back to the drawing board.”

Roberto Gomez, a community volunteer who used to work for US Bank, is seeking a seat on the Council because of “inaction and indifference by the city to the plight of those who live in the Mountain View Mobile Home Park” which is owned by the City.

As a resident of the park, he “pleaded for help and got no help, not even a phone call.” Gomez believes the current Council “appears to vote in blocs” and is “not only non-responsive to residents but believes there is more than that, they are in cahoots together. The city is bought and paid for by the developers on the backs of the residents.”

He is also critical of City staff because “they are more sensitive to all the other tenants in the city and their legal rights than they are with their own tenants at Mountain View. I have no one to turn to” on park problems.

In Gomez’s view, the key city issue is “over-development on the backs of city residents.” He believes Council members are not voting independently because they are “making back door deals with developers. No building is safe if it is more than 10-15 years old.”

Gomez opposes further development in the City, as “we’ve already reached a saturation point, which was reached a long time ago because we have to tear down buildings.” Additional development would mean, “our quality of life will go down and we will become another New York by the sea. The developers don’t care and don’t live here.” His main goal is “to bring the feds and state in to investigate illegal transactions between the city and the developers.”

In Gomez’s view. the City’s decisions about the Village Trailer Park redevelopment are being made “to set themselves up for future development” decisions. He is “ worried the Village Trailer Park redevelopment will set a precedent so the city can’t deny someone else.” Gomez also stressed, “If the city is allowing the removal of 109 units at the Village Trailer Park, this cancer will spread.” He had no comment on the Miramar Hotel project.

Armen Melkonians, a civil/environmental engineer, wants to become a Council member “to make decisions that make a difference.”

He believes there is a “big white elephant in the chamber nobody is looking at – a looming city budget crisis.” In his view, the Council is “scrambling with development agreements (DAs) to raise revenues in the short term to deal with a budget crisis but the DAs will have long-term adverse impacts on the community.” In contrast, he finds the city staff to be qualified and responsive and “to have a vested interest in the well-being of Santa Monica.”

Melkonians believes the city budget crisis is a crucial issue and that “Santa Monica can solve its immediate budget crisis with long term solutions as opposed to the short-term solutions the current Council is adopting. He also concerned about Santa Monica Airport and believes “100 percent that there is no future for an airport in Santa Monica. I would work towards a long-term resolution to shut down the airport.” Another crucial area, in his view, is parking and traffic. As a civil engineer, he has “real world experience. These problems are complicated and are local and regional. I will work with other agencies to fund and resolve the regional impacts and I will work locally with the appropriate officials to help solve the local congestion and parking issues.”

Melkonians supports “responsible, sustainable growth,” not the DAs the Council is currently negotiating that are “contrary to sustainable growth objectives.” He believes that the proposed Miramar expansion proposal “fails to meet the 2010 LUCE guidelines. It does not respect the transition between commercial and, corridor, and residential neighborhoods.” To Melkonians the Village Trailer Park is “another example of a DA with short-term benefits such as approximately $5 million direct benefit to the city at the expense of a loss of affordable housing. It doesn’t make sense to get money from the developer, part of which will be used for affordable housing while displacing existing residents in affordable housing units.”

Tony Vazquez, a former Council member and a consultant for small school districts and municipalities, wants to return to the Council because he is concerned about jet traffic at Santa Monica Airport (SMO) and excessive automobile traffic in Sunset Park.

He believes the current Council doesn’t have “a clear direction of which way to take the city,” which he blames on the loss of institutional memory caused by the deaths of former Council members Ken Genser and Herb Katz. He believes he could help fill that vacuum. Noting that key City staff people are relatively new to him, he went on to say that they too need new leadership “to get a better focus on where the city needs to go.”

Vazquez views the increased jet traffic as a key city issue and would “support a reduction in operations at SMO.” When it comes to traffic he wants to “explore making Ocean Park Boulevard two lanes because it is a boulevard and continue the synchronization of traffic lights on cut-through north and south streets.” He also wants to explore “ways to encourage people to get out of their cars including sufficient parking” at the Expo Light Rail stations at Bergamot and 4th Street, and would like to utilize shuttles to get people form North of Montana and Sunset Park to the Expo stations.

In terms of future development, Vazquez wants new projects to be looked at “with a clear eye to the whole city.” He also wants the City to be careful to “not sell us out for insignificant community benefits” from developers, but to hold out for authentic, useful benefits such as hiring locals and significant help to our schools. He does not support the Miramar Hotel proposal, agreeing with the residents who believe it needs to be scaled back, be more pedestrian friendly, and make a stronger commitment to the community. Vazquez wants to “not only save the Village Trailer Park but to bring it back to the green lush that it once had.”

Ted Winterer, a Planning Commissioner, who’s a writer and does some real estate marketing, is running for the Council because he “loves Santa Monica.

“My wife and I are raising our children here. They’re 5 and 10 and I want to protect Santa Monica so it will be a great place to live in when they grow up.”

Specifically, he wants to ensure that the $2 billion or more in proposed development now doesn’t negatively impact the character and scale of the city. He also wants Santa Monica to have adequate affordable housing, mobility on our streets, more parks and open space, great public schools, clean air and beaches, and first rate police and fire departments –- “all with a balanced budget.”

He has “great respect for all the work the Council does on behalf of the City, but sometimes feels there is a disconnect with resident concerns as if they never have been stuck in the noise and pollution from the airport or never battled for parking spots on residential streets.” He has worked with city staff as “a commissioner and community activist and finds them to be hardworking, thoughtful, and dedicated to the city.”

To Winterer the two most crucial city issues are its fiscal health and traffic. “These issues work against each other. There’s a lot of pressure with the loss of the redevelopment funds, to approve a lot of new development and at the same time residents are very concerned about traffic. The challenge for the current and future Council is to make sure pursuit of new revenue from development doesn’t exacerbate traffic.”

In terms of future development, Winterer stated, “Clearly, properties will be redeveloped per the LUCE along our transit corridors, the downtown, and the east end of town. We have to manage that growth responsibly.” The Miramar Hotel owners have a “clear need to redevelop their hotel and they should” in Winterer’s view. However, he is opposed to their initial proposal. He found its architecture “uninspired” and objects to its proposed addition of 200 luxury condos as too large. He would “support a revised plan that maintains the existing number of hotel rooms and does not add mass to the site. I also want world class architecture.”

Winterer believes it is a mistake to include the Village Trailer Park in the City’s Creative District and “premature to look at the park proposal before the development of the Bergamot Area Plan.” As a Planning Commissioner, he voted “to reduce the scale of project as proposed and enhance the relocation benefits for the existing tenants.” He also supported “looking at an alternative proposal to preserve half the park for the existing tenants and develop the other half.”

Repeated attempts to reach candidates Jonathan Mann and Terence Later for interviews failed.

AND

Jerry Rubin’s full name is Jerry Peace Activist Rubin. Some years ago, when the City Clerk wouldn’t allow him to list his occupation as “peace activist” on the ballot in one of the many Council elections he’s run in, he went to court and added “peace activist” to his name.

We prefer to think of him as Jerry “Win-Win” Rubin, because though he has lost every election he’s run, he believes everything can be a “Win-Win.”

He says he’s “running because he loves Santa Monica,” and he describes his semi-perpetual Council candidacy “as part of my all around activism.” He told our reporter that he wants to involve people in the election process and raise issues that would not otherwise be addressed — but he did not identify those issues.

He thinks he’d be a good Council member because he is “an independent thinker, hard-working, dedicated, and cares deeply about Santa Monica.” And, of course, he speaks on almost every item at every meeting — even when he has nothing to say.

Rubin believes “we have a very good City Council and city staff who are getting a lot done. The many challenges the city is facing can be looked at as an opportunity for people to work together to find win-win solutions.” He defines win-win as a way to “get closer to finding viable solutions.”

In fact, we don’t have a very good City Council and City staff. Indeed, for some time, virtually every time the Council wins-wins, residents lose-lose. The “challenges” the City is facing are not “opportunities,” they’re problems, and there are more this year than there were last year, and there will be more next year unless residents take back the town in the upcoming election.

Rubin is also concerned about Santa Monica Airport because of the “ongoing problems including toxic air pollution, noise and safety issues,” and his brother is one of the primary critics of the airport. He feels It’s “time to work for a 2015 closure date when the 1984 agreement [with the FAA] expires.” After closure “so much could be done with the site that could benefit residents and visitors and our economy. It could be used for recreation, more open space, community gardens, affordable housing, educational facilities, and an environmental center.

He also supports improving the city’s Big Blue Bus system “to encourage people to get out of their cars,” and enjoys telling the world that he doesn’t have a car – though he sells bumper stickers.

He co-founded Treesavers, fought to save the trees on Second and Fourth Street, and wound up in jail. Good for him. But that was then and now he believes Santa Monica “needs development and developers should not be seen as the enemy of Santa Monica.” He opposed the RIFT initiative which would “have mandated a development moratorium. Buildings can go a bit higher if it makes a project more workable and allows for open space” and if the developer provides “good community benefits.” In fact, RIFT did not call for a moratorium, but for reasonable annual caps on commercial developments. Rubin would support a Miramar Hotel project “that provides for a lot of open space and also highlights the historic landmarked Mortem Bay Fig tree.” In addition, he would permit condos in the project, as if 200 condos are added, about a dozen affordable housing units must be added.

The crucial issues to Rubin, as well as virtually everyone else in the area, are development, traffic, and parking.

He believes “the developer of the Village Trailer Park has been trying more than most developers I’ve seen to provide solutions for the residents living there to be able to have housing options to remain in Santa Monica. I believe the project as proposed would be of benefit to the community.” The residents disagree.

One of the late great New York Times’ columnist Russell Baker’s most memorable columns focused on the crucial difference between “serious” and “solemn.” In his view, the Beatles were serious, the Stones were solemn. Bridge was solemn and poker serious. Mr. Win-Win Lose-Lose Rubin is solemn.

Santa Monica is at a crucial moment in its history. We need serious people on the Council and the staff, if we are to preserve this gloriously idiosyncratic and thoroughly serious beach town.

We would not deny Mr. Rubin his apparently insatiable need to speak on every question whether he has anything to say or not, we simply wish he were serious.

— Peggy Clifford

DEMS EXPLORE 2012 BALLOT MEASURES TONIGHT

Westside Democratic headquarters, on the Third Street Promenade in Santa
Monica, will be the site of a presentation, “What Voters Need to Know about the California Ballot Propositions 2012,” tonight, from 7 to 9 p.m.

Assembly Member Mike Davis (not the very self-important writer Mike Davis), District 48, will discuss Proposition 36: Improves California’s Three Strikes Law, which he co-sponsored, Proposition 31: Overriding Public Health and Environmental Laws, and Proposition 38: Middle-class tax hike that hits everyone earning over $7,317.

Gil Garcetti, former Los Angeles County District Attorney, current
photographer and father of a likely future mayor of L.A., will talk about Proposition 34, which would replace Death Penalty with Life without Parole.

Dr. Vivian Price, Associate Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies/PACE, Coordinator, Labor Studies, California State University, Dominguez Hills, Prop 32 that allows SuperPACs and special interests to buy elections.

Sahaja Douglass and Mark Centkowski, Prop 37: GMO-Labeling – the right to know what’s in your food

An Overview of all of the other Propositions by WLADC President Alan Bail and WLADC Board Member and former President of the Westwood-Westside Democratic Club Stephanie Nordlinger

Q & A after each speaker.

There will probably be food. Please RSVP to Cara. For more information, or to volunteer, HQ: westsidedemhq@gmail.com 310-395-0155. Phone banking immediately before meeting from 5 – 6:45pm on Proposition 30 YES and Proposition 32 NO

Westside Democratic Headquarters, 1408 Third Street Promenade, 3rd Fl. (ocean side, just south of Santa Monica Blvd., and Anthropologie)

GRACE. ELISABETH SUNDAY. ARCANA. BOOK SIGNING. TONIGHT

Arcana, gone to Culver City, but not forgot, will have a Book signing, Tuesday, September 25, 5:00 – 7:00 PM, With Photographer Elisabeth Sunday, and her new book,GRACE, published by Nazaraeli Press.

“For twenty-six years, Elisabeth Sunday has found her muse in Africa: a place of origins, devastating beauty, great troubles and unyielding expressions of life. She has traveled alone and lived among various original peoples who, amidst a changing world, have clung tenaciously to traditional ways of life. From the hunter-gatherers dwelling in the primeval forests of the Congo Basin, to the nomadic tribes inhabiting the vast stretches of the Sahara Desert, Sunday’s photographs reveal an interplay of invisible forces that connect her subjects with the world of nature. Utilizing a flexible mirror of her own design, Sunday photographs reflections that blend and dissolve the boundaries between her figures and their environment. Sunday’s images express an intimacy with a corresponding strength derived from that relationship. She writes: ‘Mirror photography is much more than photographing a reflection, it produces a visual alchemy that combines the physical world with that of the great mystery….and captures some element that remains hidden in straight photography.’ ”

Ms. Sunday’s work from this series will be on display at the fabulous Peter Fetterman Gallery, through December 6th. Peter Fetterman.com.

ARCANA: BOOKS ON THE ARTS. 8675 WASHINGTON BOULEVARD, CULVER CITY, CA 90232 SALES@ARCANABOOKS.COM 310.458.1499. MAP + DIRECTIONS

SIERRA CLUB ENDORSES FOUR FOR SM COUNCIL

The Sierra Club, which has endorsed candidates for Santa Monica City Council for many years, has endorsed four candidates who will compete in an unusually large field in the November 6 election.

After what club officials describe as “an exhaustive and complete process,” current Santa Monica Planning Commissioners Richard McKinnon and Ted Winterer, City Council incumbent Terry O’Day and a newcomer whom the Club describe as “a refreshing, strong and clear voice for the environment,” John C. Smith, were endorsed.

Smith was a leader in the organization in the 1990s in the effort to protect the Ballona Wetlands from being completely displaced under a sea of concrete and development.

“Out of the 15 candidates and, after interviewing nine of those who completed questionnaires for consideration for endorsement, we believe these candidates best reflect the ideals of Sierra Club that John Muir would be proud of and who can lead the City of Santa Monica in its next stage of being a truly green city,” stated Darrell Clarke, a former Santa Monica Planning Commissioner who is also a former chair of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter and is currently co-chair of the national Sierra Club’s “Beyond Oil” campaign.

Pollution and health concerns caused by Santa Monica Airport, traffic congestion, overdevelopment, regional wildlife protection (including Santa Monica’s continuing partnership with Sierra Club on protection of the Ballona Wetlands), leading-edge sustainability, energy & water conservation, and tree protection in the city were some of the significant issues the candidates discussed with Sierra Club leaders and have emerged as some of the central issues in the election campaign, according to Marcia Hanscom, a former member of Sierra Club’s national Board of Directors and a member of the Club’s Political Committee for the Angeles Chapter.

“We are heartened to see that important environmental issues are being discussed throughout the city, and we are confident that some of Santa Monica’s serious overdevelopment issues, Ballona Wetlands wildlife protection and pollution concerns related to the Santa Monica Airport will be addressed properly by the Santa Monica City Council if our chosen endorsed candidates are elected,” stated Hanscom.

As a resident of Sunset Park, which is directly in the airport’s flight path, as well as serving as a cut-through traffic thoroughfare, long-time community leader and Sierra Club Airport Marina Group Conservation Chair Kathy Knight is especially concerned about this election.

“This is one of the most important elections the City of Santa Monica has had in a long time; we believe that if our endorsed candidates are elected, they will provide the leadership to get the city back on track and focused on protecting our quality of life and nature in the city. My neighbors and I are very concerned about the increased influence of developers and how big construction projects have overshadowed the neighborhoods. We urge everyone to get out and vote for McKinnon, Winterer, Smith and O’Day,” stated Knight.

SM DEMOCRATIC CLUB ENDORSES WINTERER

The Santa Monica Democratic Club held three rounds of voting on its way to endorsing one candidate, Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer, out of a field of ten Democrats seeking seats on the Santa Monica City Council last Wednesday.

For the first time in years, a majority of the seats on the Council are open. Mayor Richard Bloom is giving up his Council seat to run for the State Assembly. Two-term Council member Bobby Shriver has chosen not to run for a third term, and the seats now held by incumbents Gleam Davis and Terry O’Day could be taken by any of the other candidates.

Winterer won the endorsement in the first round of voting with 81 votes. None of the other would-be Council members came close enough to threaten his lead in that or subsequent rounds.

He came heartbreakingly close to winning a Council seat two years ago, when, after all the votes had been tallied, he lost to incumbent Bob Holbrook by only 56 votes.

If he wins on November sixth, and the other three empty seats are
taken by newcomers, the composition of the Council could change
radically .But Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights (SMRR) has held a
Council majority since 1988, and If Winterer and incumbents O’Day and Gleam Davis, all of whom have been endorsed by SMRR, win, SMRR will maintain its majority.

Santa Monica Democratic Club President Jay Johnson told the PATCH that “the one-candidate outcome is common when there’s a large field of candidates. In total, there are 15 qualified to run November 6.

“In years past it was very frequent because of division in the [club] over particular candidates. I wasn’t surprised,” Johnson said. “Ted had very strong support.”