Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Columnist, Volunteer and Activist Bill Bauer Dies
By Niki Cervantes
November 2, 2016 -- Bill Bauer, a longtime opinion writer and activist who was well known for his often scathing assessments of Santa Monica’s political powers, has died.
Bauer’s death of complications from his cancer treatment was announced October 28 by the Santa Monica Daily Press, where for more than 14 years he’d written a column called “My Write” that focused heavily on City politics, particularly where it intersected local development.
Tricia Crane, a leading slow-growth activist, called Bauer “my friend and a champion of the people.”
“Our city will not be the same without him,” Crane wrote in a letter to a local news outlet. “I know I will miss him dearly. He was one of a kind. Bill knew our City and loved our City.”
Crane said Bauer was forced to discontinue his column by a fight with cancer.
He was in his mid-70s, and had lived in Santa Monica since 1971 after moving from Pennsylvania in 1965 to complete his graduate studies in television and theater at UCLA. He had been a volunteer for both the City’s police and fire departments and the local Red Cross.
Bauer entered local politics in the mid-1970s, joining the Save the Pier Citizens Committee to prevent the then-City Council from demolishing the Pier for an island luxury resort. He also managed the “Save the Piers, Forever” initiative campaign that made demolishing piers illegal ("SPECIAL REPORT -- Dreaming Big," September 29, 2003).
Fed up with how Santa Monica handled growing problems involving its homeless population, traffic and a lack of parking, Bauer ran for City Council in 2004.
It was a crowded field with big local names that included Bobby Shriver and Richard Bloom (now a state representative). Bauer wasn’t close to being one of the top four vote getters, garnering 3,364 votes, slightly more than 2 percent, although that was better than four other candidates.
He was also involved extensively in non-political volunteerism. Aside from his work with police and firefighters, Bauer also volunteered for nearly 15 years for the Santa Monica Bay chapter of the American Red Cross, and helped with disaster relief in New York City after 9/11.
Julie Thomas, the chapter’s executive director, said Bauer handled public relations and was tireless, hardworking and critical to the success of “Red Tie Aware,” the chapter’s major fundraiser.
She remembered Bauer as a positive person, who "wasn’t challenged by being direct” when something seemed amiss.
That was a trait the readers of his columns valued.
In his column space, Bauer often argued (as he had in his council bid) that the City’s elected leaders had lost touch with the concerns of residents. He was highly critical of City Hall, dismissing the City’s entire planning process as “dysfunctional” for not doing more to help Samohi parents who’d spent years trying to turn a parking lot at the closed Civic Center into a sports field.
In 2014, as a battery of proposals for mixed-use apartments buildings moved through the City’s development pipeline, Bauer said City planners and the Planning Commission had failed to notice they were all “banal, repetitive, unexciting, boring and creatively numbing.”
He also lambasted Santa Monica College and public schools at various times for having what he believed were bloated budgets.
Crane said Bauer “took on the phony politicians and exposed their hypocrisies,”
His resume included public relations and copy editing, but Crane said his columns showed he was an “old style journalist. He told the truth and we needed to hear it. He is irreplaceable.”
A Memorial service will be held on Saturday, Nov. 19, at 9:30 a.m. at the Santa Monica Pier.
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