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LETTERS: Santa Monica Public Works Just Another Concession Auctioned off to Corporations

October 27, 2017

Dear Editor,

In my opinion, the City of Santa Monica has some lousy strategies when it comes to leasing City owned properties and supposed concerns about labor ("Santa Monica Restaurateurs Protest 'Labor-Peace' Agreements," October 26, 2017).

I'm writing to bring your attention to the recent lease of the former restaurant amenity space at the Airport Administration building (aka the Clover Field Terminal).

A little history. The Skydeck and Restaurant amenity was designed into the building for the public from the start, and built with public funds. Unlike virtually every other aviation edifice at SMO, the Clover Field Terminal is a purpose built, public works project for the people.

All the people, not just pilots. I point this out because when the building was completed in 1988, the city issued an RFP and took multiple years to find a concessionaire to run the restaurant. That's how important the people were then.

Fast forward to today. When the Typhoon lease fell through last year, the city promptly leased the space to an existing airport tenant, a Delaware corp that makes their money as an international outsourcing company ("Santa Monica Airport's Typhoon Restaurant to Close After City Hikes Rent," October 11, 2016).

Besides the lack of RFP for a replacement food concessionaire, there are two other things going on here I find mind-boggling:

1) There was no consideration for an alternative use of the space to benefit the public. For example, a branch of the public library, or an annex to the Museum of Flying, or any number of easy and good ideas civic minded folks can come up with in a jiffy if a restaurant amenity was simply a no-go.

2) They leased the space to an outsourcing company. I have no quarrel with the new tenant in principle, they have a business model that works, they got an incredible deal for perhaps the most exclusive office space in town, and what business owner wouldn't want that?

But I'm supposed to believe the plight of labor is so important to the council, that they kicked local restaurant workers out so a private company can occupy the space and ship jobs overseas? Now I feel like I'm in the Twilight Zone.

I wrote the City Attorney requesting they review the lease and circumstances surrounding it. I got a nice call back from Mr. Campbell advising me they'll look into it, but to quote the City Manager when I chatted with him "that ship has sailed" so my expectation for an outcome in favor of the public is low.

We seem to be living in an age where our public institutions are being demeaned, degraded, dismantled, and our public works stolen from beneath our feet. It's as true in Santa Monica as it is in Washington D.C., with the same banal rhetoric, just insert the word "airport" instead of "liberal."

To come full circle to your article, using an LPA similar to LAX is perfect logic for them, with 8 million visitors to Santa Monica passing through LAX every year, Santa Monica and our public works are just another concession to be auctioned off to corporations.

John Jerabek

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