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The Gruber Census  
By Frank Gruber

April 5, 2010 -- Last Thursday was Census Day and being superstitious I waited until then to send in our form (have you sent in yours?). Filling out the form made me reflect a little on where Santa Monica has been going.

Santa Monica's population has not significantly changed since the early '60s. Although new apartments have been built, there has been a steady decline in the average number of people living in each household -- because there are fewer children.

This hit me last week. My son is away at college and the census form was quite specific: children attending college elsewhere are to be counted there. And so the population in my house dropped 33-1/3% percent from 2000 to 2010 -- from two parents and a child to two empty-nesters.

But then since the census in 2000 my parents moved into one of the new apartments in downtown Santa Monica. My mother died a few years ago, but my father still lives here. So far as Grubers go, we are still the same number of Santa Monicans.

Economically, it's probably a good deal for Santa Monica and the region. My son, as a public school student, was a heavy user of local and state tax revenues. My father consumes more healthcare than my son, but nearly all of that is paid for by the federal government or by insurance provided by his former employer in Pennsylvania.

One of the major reasons California sends more taxes to the feds than it gets back is because the population of the state is comparatively young. A significant part of the economy of Santa Monica, with its two major hospitals, is no doubt based on Medicare payments.

I often chide some Santa Monicans for their fear of change, but one change I would be fearful of is that Santa Monica would cease to be home to enough young families to keep our schools and playgrounds full. Santa Monica was never a "sleepy beach town", but it was always a town that was proud of its schools.

This means two things, one long term and one short. The long-term meaning is that as the City makes plans for its future, it needs to promote many different kinds of housing to encourage families to move here and stay here. Three-bedroom apartments are obvious, for all income levels, but also, believe it or not, good-sized condominiums to entice empty-nesters like my wife and me out of our houses, to make them available for families with children.

The short-term meaning is to vote yes on the new schools parcel tax in May. If there aren't going to be many houses available or affordable in Santa Monica for young families, we need to make sure that our schools stay good enough to persuade parents to stay when the choice is living in an apartment here with their kids or moving to a house somewhere in sprawl land.

* * *

Once when Santa Monica was full of kids it provided the venue for what I'm thinking (as least this week) may have been the moment when the America of the '50s irreversibly became the America of the '60s.


I am speaking of October 29, 1964, the night of the T.A.M.I. ("Teenage Awards Music International") rock 'n' roll show at the Civic Auditorium.

What a line-up: the Beach Boys, Chuck Berry, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Supremes, the Rolling Stones . . . and more!

What brings this up is that a restored and complete version of the T.A.M.I. concert movie has just been released on home video, and I watched it last week. There they were on my TV as they were on the Civic's stage (and in the audience), all the elements of the '60s -- sex, youth, race, rebellion, and rock 'n' roll. (I hate to say it, but knowing what we know now about the subsequent history of some of the performers, we can be sure that drugs were there, too, or at least hovering nearby.)

Hard to believe it was very nearly a half-century ago. 1964 is as long ago today as 1918 was from 1964 -- interesting that popular music change more between 1918 and 1964 than it did between 1964 and today. Watch the movie and wallow in retrospective optimism for a future that didn't happen.

Fun, fun, fun.

* * *

Wednesday night the Planning Department and Planning Commission are holding a workshop to review with the public the provisions of the update to the land use and circulation elements of Santa Monica's general plan that is finally ready, now that environmental review is complete, to go before the commission and the City Council for review and voting. (For details about the workshop, go to:

Planning staff is justifiably proud of their work, and appear eager to defend it (early publicity for Wednesday's event called it a "celebration"). Expect, however, because formerly advisory votes will now be "for keeps", that the rhetoric will ramp up and political pressure will be intense on the planning commissioners and city council members.

While a few weeks ago, when they were asking for a moratorium on development agreements, Santa Monica's anti-growth community was singing the praises of LUCE, they will now likely focus on those provisions of the plan they don't like. Expect big battles over "one floor."

And it's not only the no-growthers. Readers of this column know that I along with others in the city who generally are not against change believe the plan would not require enough residential development on sites that will be zoned for mixed use.

So stay tuned.

Frank J. Gruber is the author of Urban Worrier: Making Politics Personal, available at Hennessey + Ingalls and Angel City books in Santa Monica, at City Image Press, and on

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