WATCH THE NOVEMBER MEETING - JUST CLICK THE LINK
Phil Brock, top vote getter for City Council 11/3 election, one of four candidates of Santa Monicans for Change slate and the Slate of 8, native Santa Monica, P&R and Arts Commissioners and local business owner
Christine Parra, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator at Culver City Fire Department, Culver City, California, living in the Gandara Park neighborhood within the Pico District for the last 20 years, successful candidate for Santa Monica City Council as one of the Santa Monicans for Change
Mario Fonda-Bonardi, recent candidate for City Council 11/3 election, one of four candidates of Santa Monicas for Change slate and the Slate of 8, Santa Monica Planning Commissioner and local architect.
Charles Andrews, frequent commentator on Santa Monica life and politics, Santa Monica Daily Press
Nina Fresco, SM Planning Commissioner, SM Conservancy Board Member and three term member of the Landmarks Commission with a strong focus on protecting historical landmarks and adaptive reuse. Nina will be discussing and asking for our help to preserve the SAMOHI buildings on Prospect Hill.
Elizabeth Van Denburgh began the meeting by giving an overview of the Miramar project which is going before the Planning Commission on September 2. She showed an overview and an architectural rendering.
Next, we were happy to have Mario Fonda-Bernardi, Christine Parra, Phil Brock, and Oscar de la Torre, the candidates on the Resident’s Slate, come and share their views:
Overall, some primary concerns were shared by all the candidates:
And they shared their individual views:
Alissa Finerman did a good job of digging into the issue of homelessness, asking the candidates to “break it down” about what they would do.
Parra decried the loss of the position of a “homelessness czar” to the budget cuts.
Brock made the point that out of our population of approximately 1000 homeless people,
1.) a small percentage is intractable, they are “outside” people and will refused to be housed, even if housing were available to them, and
2.) about 1/3 were Vets, often subject to PTSD, who could be housed at the VA, which was the VA’s original purpose, to provide an old soldier’s home.
When asked if we “should allow” the homeless to “take over” the parks, especially Reed Park,
Oscar reminded everyone that just being homeless is not a crime. His model would be “compassionate accountability.” It was acknowledged that homelessness is not a simple problem with a simple solution—that it is a regional and national problem, and involves difficult mental health and drug addiction aspects that are not easy to deal with. But the sentiment is that Santa Monica has done more than it’s fair share to help the homeless. It’s time for our surrounding cities to do their part. But the Slate as a whole seemed energized to try to find new solutions.
Kristin McGowan, the new appointee to the City Council, was our featured guest. She explained her support for the controversial Plaza Project, based on the prospect of it providing new, good paying union jobs. She cited her Grandfather’s experience as a beneficiary of the WPA, which gives her a personal appreciation for the need for well-paid, solid employment opportunities, especially in this challenging Covid environment.
When asked about the controversial Miramar project, McGowan said she hasn’t had time to do enough research on the project yet. Learn more about Kristin >
Our other guests were: Richard McKinnon of the Planning Commission and Kevin McKeown, Mayor of Santa Monica. They were both queried at length about the Miramar Project. McKeown is on record that he opposes the 60 high-end condos in the Miramar plan. Both emphasized that NOW IS THE TIME FOR CITIZENS TO VOICE THEIR APPROVAL OR DISAPPROVAL.
PROBLEMS WITH THE MIRAMAR PROJECT:
CRUISE LINEAR MIRAMAR
Historic Palisades Building & New California Building
This is a showcase site identified in the LUCE as a site that could be of exceptional planning and design due to its prominent location, unobstructed ocean views and visual connection to Palisades Park. The Miramar project doubles site development from 262,284 square feet to 502,157 square feet in the Wilmont neighborhood. 71% of the square feet increase is due to 60 condominiums which average 2,833 sq. ft./condo and are estimated to sell for $7.6 - $8.5 million. The site is not currently planned to be started until 2023 and finished 2026. Further work needs to be done to make this a showcase site.
Eliminate the Condos and related Parking Spaces
Eliminating the condos will open up the site and reduce the massive wall on 2nd Street. Luxury condos don’t create a community or benefit hotel workers, the applicant has avoided paying at a minimum $2.4 million in property taxes paid to the City and no transit occupancy tax will be received from them. This is not how Santa Monicans want to develop its Ocean front property. Nor is it a reasonable exchange for giving up a 50 foot building height on Ocean Avenue.
Eliminate the California Building and any Rooftop Bar or Dining and Shift Guest Rooms towards Wilshire
No food or beverage rooftop services should be allowed either in the California location because of the noise impacts to the neighborhood.
Reduce the Massing On California and 2nd Streets
Readjust height of remaining hotel buildings so highest height of 130 feet is closest to Wilshire and not in center of site.
MOBILITY AND CIRCULATION:
Require Main Hotel Entrance to Remain on Wilshire and Eliminate 2nd Street, California and Ocean Entrances
Th e Wilshire main entrance is an established part of the Miramar history that works well. The developer studied all the ways in which the hotel is old and functionally obsolete to justify tearing it down altogether and doubling its size. But what it didn’t appropriately design or study was a functional circulation system for a hotel twice its current size in relation to its existing neighborhood and how best to minimize the traffic and parking impacts.
REAL COMMUNITY BENEFITS THAT ARE COMMENSURATE WITH THE SCALE OF THIS PROJECT
Residents aren’t getting real and needed community benefits that would compensate for the many significant entitlements the developer receives e.g., building up to 130 feet on a Ocean Avenue site zoned for 50 feet maximum building height and permanent burdens to the surrounding neighborhood – in addition to the demolition and 3-year construction, and the unsolved circulation problems; the massing of the hotel in relation to the neighborhood is huge, the 2nd Street hotel wall turns its back on the rest of the city; and the community benefits proposed are de minimis.
I queried Kevin McKeown after the meeting:
On Aug 4, 2020, at 8:39 PM, betzi richardson wrote:
1.) As you have stated several times, you are opposed to the 60 condos for the Miramar: How can and will you block them?
KM: I will argue against them strongly in discussion, and cast my vote against them.
2.) Do the rest of the Council members agree with you?
KM: I do not know yet. First we have to see what the actual proposal is now, as presented to the Planning Commission. Then we’ll see what the Planning Commission does with it. Only after there is a staff report and amended proposal for the upcoming Council meeting will I decide which of my colleagues to discuss it with. We are prohibited by law from having a discussion among more than three of us outside of the public hearing.
We had interesting and informative guests for our meeting, Sue Himmelrich, City Council member, Stephanie Archer, Branch Manager of Wilmont’s own Montana Ave. Branch (17th & Montana) and Patty Wong, Director of Library Services for the City of Santa Monica, and President of the American Library Association for 2021 – 2022.v
Alissa Finerman brought up the need to revamp spacing on Montana to help retail businesses, especially restaurants, suggesting the possibility of developing parklettes as has been done on Main St. This need was seconded by Kara Taub, Director of The Ten Women Gallery. Himmelrich suggested contacting Anju Gupta, Deputy city Manager, and Greg Morena, who is actively involved in this issue.
The Black Agenda and Obama Challenge was discussed, as well as the Independent Investigation of the SMPD response to the events of May 31. HImmelrich hghly recommended attending the Committee for Racial Justice, which has been meeting on the 1st Sunday’s of the month, in VA Ave. Park.
Re: State of the SM Public Library in these Covid days: Wilmont Board member Alissa Finerman was the interviewer ad began with a Gallup poll that showed Americans visited libraries more frequently than musical events, museums, and other cultural activities. SMPL is beginning curbside pickup of book placed on hold (see: smpl.org/curbside) and the return bins are now open for the return of books taken out before the Covid lockdown happened in mid-March. Stephanie outlined many ways in which the library is remaining active in spite of the physical buildings being shut down: ebook demand has doubled since march of last year; movies and music are available through Overdrive/ Libby and Hoopla. Alissa asked how does the library add to the community and Stephanie replied that a new vision is emerging of the library branches as neighborhood services locations. The libraries are providing many services, including online career development, high school scholarships, homework help (once in person, now virtually) , ESL, job searching, workforce development. Stephanie spoke of young kids brought to story time, who have fallen in love with the library—and the librarians have had the pleasure of watching these kids as they are growing up. When asked about Covid protection measures, Stephanie responded that redesigns are in the works to give the libraries proper spacing and plastic shields. Returned books are quarantined for 72 hours. Elizabeth van Denburgh, Wilmont Chair, asked about the budget cuts, which had a huge impact on the libraries. Out of the 5 library branches, on 3 will resume with partial hours when it is safe to do so. Pages who normally would restack the books have all been eliminated, and volunteer re-staffers are welcome. When asked how we can support the libraries, one method would be to join the Friends of SMPL and of course, to donate funds. It’s also possible to attend Board of Library Trustee meetings. Wong explained the library is completely funded by the General Fund, and even though we go after grants, there is little flexibility in the source of income for the libraries, 85% of costs are paying for staff. Wong hopes for revisions of the Personnel code in the future, especially toward the need for specialization in the Youth Services Team.
Mayor Kevin McKeown was also in attendance, but wanted to remain more in his role as a resident of Wilmont.
Our mayor, Kevin McKeown, attended the meeting. He avowed his complete opposition to the 60 condos in the “Miramar Hotel Project.” He also fielded questions about the curfews. While he acknowledged the inconvenience of the curfews, he felt they were necessary to assure citizen safety. When asked about the deployment of the SMPD on Sunday, May 31st, when looting went on for hours and caused such an astonishing amount of widespread damage throughout the city, his position was that the SMPD’s primary responsibility was to protect and deal with the George Floyd protest march, and the primary aim of the SMPD was to prevent loss of life or injury, which was accomplished. After 8 pm when the curfew was in place, then the SMPD put their full attention to the looters and over 400 of them were arrested.
Our Wilmont Newsletter is OUT and it looks INCREDIBLE! However, the City has cut all future Newsletters and Neighborhood Grants from its budget. We are asking for the Newsletter to be reinstated in the future. Please open these newsletters as they unfortunately come addressed only to “Resident.” We hope the newsletter will encourage people to become members and/or become active in the organization.
We appreciate Laurence Eubank, Board Member At Large, seen here with his dogs at Reed Park, who wrote the newsletter. Thank you, Laurence!
Proposed “Miramar Hotel Project”:
We oppose many aspects of this project:
Budget Process – restructuring of budget
The City is mandated by State Law –it must have a balanced budget by June 30.
Thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic, the City has lost revenue from almost all its usual sources, especially tourism, utility taxes on businesses, and sales tax revenues.
We are submitting neighborhood letters lobbying for lost neighborhood resources , especially the loss of ALL the CROSSING GUARDS, and limitation of the Montana Branch Library to being open 2 days only.
WHAT IS THE GENERAL FUND? The General Fund is The General Fund is the largest fund and supports resident services. There are no restrictions on how these funds can be used. It is made up of the departments that we think of as basic city services: police, fire, parks, public works, libraries, planning, etc. They do not generate significant revenue. The General Fund is the heart of the city, and normally is supported by transient occupancy tax (tourism), sales taxes, utility taxes (paid by businesses), fines, parking tickets, etc. The other funds, such as Big Blue Bus, are specific to their function. The General Fund is the largest part of the budget – approximately 60% of the overall financial activity of city.
Residents pay for waste & sanitation and water and sewage: waste water treatment, garbage and recycling, preferential parking.
Additional Impacts on Residents
We will lose all crossing guards, Playground access, and Crest Sports unless we ADVOCATE to the City Council before the June 9th meeting.
Parks turning into homeless central – Ambassadors should be re-instated in all parks, especially Reed and Douglas Parks.
Wilmont Members, Residents and Friends:
This is a request of you. The approximate 40% reduction in the 2020-21 City budget will be discussed by Santa Monica City Councilors and acted upon on Tuesday, May 5th, beginning at 3PM and extending into the evening. If you can, please take the time to view this meeting.
We cannot overstate the momentous nature of the discussion, as these reductions will substantively if not drastically, affect WILMONT and all residents of Santa Monica. An informed citizenry is an effective citizenry and if we do not digest and react to the proposed budget changes we will simply have to live with them.
The link at the bottom of this email accesses the City Developed Restructure Plan for the FY 2020-21 City Budget and Staff Report for the your review ('A Plan For The Future').
How to Access City Council May 5th Meeting – STARTS at 3 PM
TV: Cable Channel 16 or Streaming at https://www.smgov.net/content.aspx?id=4292
Online: LIVE STREAM (Chrome Browser Recommended but not required): https://primetime.bluejeans.com/a2m/live-event/xzurkqeh
DIAL-IN NUMBER: 1 (415) 466-7000 (US), PIN 8072851 #
Services to residents have been significantly reduced. We are particularly concerned about these budget cuts:
To send comments to the City Council or to dial-in to be in a phone que to speak on Tuesday night follow these rules:
We hope you and your loved ones are well and enjoying our fine weather. Let's take care of each other.
The WILMONT Board fo Directors
Because of the Novel Coronavirus pandemic, and the fact that Santa Monica is on complete lockdown, (everyone staying inside their homes and only going out for absolute essentials) Wilmont moved online to hold our meeting on April 7.
Our featured guest was Mayor Kevin McKeown, who gave the most recent updates, such as, it is now MANDATORY for everyone to wear a mask or face-covering outside their homes, and that the Governor has extended the 'Safer at Home' order until May 15th..
The Mayor also updated the efforts being made by the Council and city staff and especially our first responders, the SMPD AND SMFD, to keep the City safe during this unprecedented experience. McKeown says we are “flattening the curve” because we have, as a City, been proactive about taking protective measures. There are now at least 100 in Santa Monica who tested positive for Covid-19.
We also had the pleasure of welcoming Ben Allen, our State Senator, who was in the middle of giving his baby an evening bath. (Ironic isn’t it, that the online experience is affording us greater intimacies than we would ever have without it?) Ben was very helpful in giving us the perspective from Sacramento.
We had a lively interactive discussion, with many questions: How long will it last? How will we cope with the economic downturn? but the answers to most of the questions were: “We just don’t know.” Ben Allen reminded us that all the cities throughout the state are facing the same challenges, and all will be getting as much assistance from the state as possible.
One question was raised about the extension of unemployment benefits, and Ben Allen was able to promise help to one of our Wilmont residents who had been forced to go on unemployment before the crisis hit.
We will undoubtedly be holding our next meeting on Zoom again on May 5th. Beyond that, we'll let you know as events change.Stay tuned!
Mario Fonda-Bonardi, Santa Monica Planning Commissioner and Architect – talked about Santa Monica Housing: a manufactured crisis. “It’s not a crisis of quantity; it’s a crisis of affordability.”The completely unrealistic and unfunded SCAG goals: over 9000 new units of housing to be built in Santa Monica, 69% affordable push the City council to approve “upzoning.”
Background on SCAG from the Wikipedia: “The Southern California Association of Governments is the Metropolitan Planning Organization of six of the ten counties in Southern California, serving Imperial County, Los Angeles County, Orange County, Riverside County, San Bernardino County, and Ventura County. SCAG is the largest MPO in the United States, representing over 18.5 million people in an area covering over 38,000 square miles (98,000 km2). As the designated MPO, SCAG is mandated by the federal government to research and draw up plans for transportation, growth management, hazardous waste management, and air quality. Additional mandates exist at the state level.
Governance - SCAG's policy direction is guided by the 86-member official governing board known as the Regional Council. The Regional Council is composed of 67 Districts that include an elected representative of one or more cities of approximately equal population levels that have a geographic community of interest (except the City of Long Beach, which has two representatives). Additionally, membership in SCAG's Regional Council includes one representative from each county Board of Supervisors (except the County of Los Angeles, which has two representatives). SCAG's Regional Council also includes one representative of the Southern California Native American Tribal Governments. Finally, all members of the Los Angeles City Council are each considered members of the SCAG Regional Council, and the Mayor of the City of Los Angeles, serves as the Los Angeles City At-Large Representative.[Greg Moreno, Santa Monica City Council, is a member of this Regional Council.
In recent years, SCAG has taken a leadership role in goods movement activities and its impact on the Southern California region. In 2008, the California State Legislature passed SB 375, which sets a framework and target dates to achieve Green House Gas reductions. This legislation impacts transportation planning, growth and development, housing, and land use decisions. It also expands the role of SCAG in setting regional targets… SCAG's main function is to coordinate growth and development on a regional level, with responsibility for the development of infrastructure and housing planning in a way that furthers the state's environmental mandates around greenhouse gases and sustainability, as well as broad state-wide goals for increased housing affordability. The state- mandated Regional Housing Needs Assessment is calculated by the state government on a regional basis and in turn the SCAG distributes growth targets (including both the total number of units and the distribution of units affordable for different income categories) for each county (for unincorporated areas), city and town.”
Anastasia Foster, Elected Member of the Rent Control Board, discussed the water rate increase (109% over 5 years) and waste water increase (51% over 5 years) and the impact on rent-control renters vs. others. “If you live in a rent-controlled apartment, you most likely pay your own electric and gas bills, but not a water bill. That’s what we call a “master meter” for water. Water is included in the price of your rent. If a LL wants to, he or she can install new sub-meters for water, but that is fairly rare. Because the Rent Control Charter law does not allow for additional charges for utilities, including water, to your rent, tenants cannot and will not be billed for water.”