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LETTERS -- The Big Giveaway

February 18, 2020

Dear Editor,

Elected officials are supposed to protect the interest of their constituents. That’s not the way it works in Santa Monica.

Taxpayers are at the bottom of the list of our Councilmembers’ priorities. First are developers, followed by businesses, tourists and staff.

Last week the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City reported just one of the extraordinary perks (besides a “Taj Mahal” office building with a private art gallery) staff enjoys.

Some two-thirds -- 1,400 -- of our over-compensated City employees drive to work solo in their cars and then park free ("Two Thirds of City Workers Continue to Drive Alone to Work, Slow-Growth Group Reports," February 11, 2020).

Traffic congestion? Higher parking fees? Those are concerns only for the peasants (read taxpayers) while the elite overlords enjoy their privileges.

While the City rewards its employees for using their cars, it works diligently to eliminate the public’s use, ignoring the clear evidence that many residents, such as the elderly and disabled, depend on driving for daily chores.

Are they all supposed to use e-scooters instead? Bus service could possibly be an alternative if it ever reached the needed level of frequency and no-cost. But driving is not disappearing anytime soon despite the City’s one-sided mobility push.

Not to be left out of the list of ways the City supports one of its favored categories -- companies over residents -- is the way in which it has rolled out the welcome mat to e-scooter operators.

These billionaire private businesses take over our city streets and interfere with pedestrian use of sidewalks. They do pay a minor business fee that nowhere covers the cost of their usage.

Imagine, the City impounded 1,800 improperly parked scooters out of a reported 2.6 million rides. Can you believe that all those millions of riders legally parked in “furniture zones” or designated spots (also taking up public space)? Just look around.

Remember the campaign by fitness trainers to hold classes in Palisades Park? They won and the public lost.

Trainers get to conduct classes on our grass instead of renting a room for their customers. They get a break on rent and we get to pay higher maintenance costs for the once beautiful lawns in the park.

Has anyone noticed its many bald spots these days? It’s obviously due to overuse, not all the fault of trainers using the public’s grounds. However, they do contribute to the erosion process.

Not content to compromise our sidewalks and park, the City has moved on to parking spaces. It has allowed private businesses, such as restaurants, to extend their spaces into nearby street parking spots. They win and precious public parking disappears.

Continuing its campaign against car-dependent residents, the City plans to eliminate Parking Garages 3 and 4. Shoppers on the Third Street Promenade and Farmers Market will be further hard-pressed to find parking.

But this will give favored developers another opportunity to scoop up public property at bargain rates to build ever more apartments.

Speaking of developers, the proposed complex at Arizona and 4th Street is a prime example of the City’s giveaway program. Well-connected supporters of a yet-to-be “Plaza,” have scored a sweetheart rent deal.

If residents don’t shut down this project, the City will let the private developers pay a fraction of what the land is worth: perhaps as low as $1 million a year in rent for a property worth $20 million.

In its rush to give away public assets, the City doesn’t ask for a pro forma, a standard real estate document, which would spell out how much profit the developer expects so that a fair rent can be set.

Like politicians everywhere, those in Santa Monica favor those who can do favors for them -- provide funds and workers in their re-election campaigns. But the public holds the trump card.

Remember in November the incumbents who gave away your rights. Turn them out.

Harriet P. Epstein
Santa Monica

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