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Five Thousand Word Equivalent

By Frank Gruber

Dear Readers:

I have been on vacation, travelling, and I have missed a couple columns. In anticipation of the trip, however, I bought a cool digital camera, which enables me to add a visual component to my weekly fulminating.

I didn't have time to write, but I did some picture-taking the week before I left. I hope these pictures are each worth a thousand words, but if not, I've added some explanations.

intersection at Tenth and Wilshire at 8:00 a.m.

This is the intersection at Tenth and Wilshire at 8 a.m., which I wrote about a few weeks ago in the context of the Madison site theater. Under the City of Santa Monica's standards for evaluating congestion at intersections, this intersection has the worst rating, F, because cars have to wait at the stop sign to make turns onto Wilshire.

By the logic of the City's standards, every motorist has the unalienable right to enter Wilshire at any time, even though the purpose of having an intersection with stop signs on only two directions is to keep traffic flowing in the other two directions.

The legal effect of this standard under the California Environmental Quality Act and Santa Monica law is that any development that will add even one car to the intersection is deemed to create a "significant environmental impact."

What that means is that any governmental body that wants to approve the project must either "mitigate" the impact, which usually means adding traffic capacity that degrades all aspects of quality of life other than how fast one can travel through the specific intersection, or find considerations that "override" the impact.

However, politicians understandably are loathe to override "significant impacts" because NIMBYs will then accuse them of selling out the environment to "greedy developers."

This is the Fair Market on Fourth Street near Pacific. Due to the vagaries of zoning law and its own history, this market is permitted to be open only 11-1/2 hours per day, and only between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

The customers of the market would like it to operate as early and as late as possible. At the Planning Commission meeting April 23, Commissioner Jay Johnson put forward a sensible and imaginative motion to allow the market to open at 8 and close at 9, provided it closed between 1 and 2:30, the market's slowest hours.

This motion failed, 4 to 3, because Commissioners Brown, Dad, Moyle and Olsen thought the "siesta" closure would be hard to enforce.

A subsequent motion, to allow the market to operate until 9 at night, but not allowing it to open until 9:30 in the morning, passed on a 5 to 2 vote. The votes in favor were Commissioners Brown, Clarke, Dad, Hopkins and Johnson.

Commissioners Moyle and Olsen voted no. Although they said that they favored the continued existence of the market, they wanted to protest the fact that the market wasn't turned into the front yard for two condominiums that were built behind the market in the 80s, pursuant to an agreement the City made with the property owner at the time.

Apparently in Santa Monica it's possible simultaneously to be in favor of something's continued existence and against its present existence.

The City requires developments downtown to have retail on the ground floor, to enhance the pedestrian environment. For some reason the Architectural Review Board likes to require a continuous strip of landscaping to create a barrier between the potential customers and the potential retail.

Downtown Santa Monica. Canyonization? Or a neighborhood in progress?

Mundane beauty in a city with "world class" pretensions: the Budget Market at Fourth and Hollister.

(Eds. Note: Stayed tuned for Frank Gruber's regular column tomorrow)

The views expressed in this column are those of Frank Gruber
and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of The Lookout.
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