The LookOut Letters to the Editor
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SM, Russia... Checkpoints... Trader Joe's... Parking

September 5, 2001

Dear Editor,

I have lived in the Soviet Union as a teenager and have lived in post-communist Russia in the late 1990s. What is happening is Santa Monica is very closely related to what's happening in the city of Moscow.

Moscow has artificially very expensive rental housing of western quality. The reason is that the government makes everything so difficult in terms of rules and regulations that people who manage to jump through all the hoops then charge a high price. Low supply and high demand make sure that the prices are very high.

This mirrors Santa Monica. It is absolutely impossible to remodel an apartment building with tenants in it. It is impossible to remodel a vacant apartment unit in a building without all the other tenants screaming and complaining about noise and discomfort to the Rent Control board and City Council. It is also news to the City Council that a qualified carpenter with 5 years of experience wants to make $30/hour. This salary translates into high cost of repair and new construction.

Craig Jones charges $2,550 for a top floor one bedroom apartment in a new building on 6th street between Broadway and Colorado, and does not have rent control. But a remodeled unit, even with a high rent will have rent control forever. That is why owners wait for months until they can get that highest rent for the unit, because they know that future increases in rent are not happening. All this translates into extremely expensive rents for new tenants coming in.

Now compare this with the city of Beverly Hills, which has a very mild form of rent control. A 10% increase in rent is allowed per year and it is possible to evict a tenant for no cause with a 60 day notice. What this all means is that the owners rent units at lower rents and if the tenant is real thorn in the side, they can evict him with a 60 day notice. All this translates into lower housing costs for everybody. Beverly Hills rents are typically 10-15% lower than Santa Monica's for the same type of unit.

Ross Vaisburd

September 5, 2001

Dear Editor,

I read your article about the SMPD Labor Day weekend vehicle checkpoint. It sounds like the SMPD was able to take some potentially dangerous drivers off of the road.

Driving is a privilege, not a right, and all drivers must obey the law -- including the licensing laws. Drivers without licenses pose a threat to all other drivers who are licensed, not to mention the scores of pedestrians who cross these unlicensed drivers' path. And unlicensed drivers are probably uninsured as well.

I was taken aback when I read about the unnamed "local activist" who objected to the SMPD fairly enforcing the laws and getting these potentially dangerous persons off of the road. Just what is a "local activist" anyway? A nosy busybody who should mind her own business?


W.T. Dorr
Santa Monica

September 4, 2001

Dear Editor,

While reading through the latest Planning Commission Case list and the Planning Commission's Pending Projects list, (arrived Saturday), looking for projects that might affect South Beach Neighborhood, I noticed two listings that pertain to your recent article, "Planning Chair Questions Staff's Authority to Decide Fate of New Trader Joe's (August 30)."

According to the Pending Projects list, the original application for the Trader Joe project at 1200 Wilshire was filed on 1/9/2001, and the application for alcohol sales was filed on 2/15/01.

The Planning Commission Caselist lists the following
CUP 01-005
1200 Wilshire Boulevard
Type 21 Alcohol License
Filed 2/15/2001

The discussion about whether this project should come before the Planning Commission seems to turn on the issue of "concurrence" of filing, as I understand your article. While David Forbes Hibbert (architect for the Trader Joe project) is quoted as saying that the original filing was done "8 or 9 months ago", and the CUP for alcohol was filed in July, the public record seems to indicate otherwise.

Since the Zoning Code doesn't stipulate "simultaneous" filings, I would assume that filings a month apart would cause them to be considered concurrently. Would you agree? According to Kelly Olsen, Chair of the Planning Commission, this should serve to direct the project to the Planning Commission.

I am a longtime customer of Trader Joe and fervently (underline fervently) hope that the new project is granted adequate parking. But whether they are propitious for my agenda or not, facts are facts. I can understand, with the many projects Hibbert may be working on concurrently, how he may have confused filing dates, but these facts are available to everyone through the City's internet site.


Ellen Brennan
Santa Monica

September 1 , 2001

Dear Editor,

In Frank Gruber's column "Parking. Can't Live With It, Can't Live Without It" (August 31), he writes, "We can help local businesses grow without making traffic worse by building more housing downtown and within Santa Monica's natural hinterland while at the same time not encouraging people to drive downtown."

One wonders if you infer...buying a "home" in Santa Monica is better than paying for parking... so you will be able to "walk" downtown.. Hmmm... Ya better jack up the price of parking a bit so the choice is an easy one...

Len Labounty
Santa Monica

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