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Not a Surprise

By Frank Gruber

August 1, 2011 -- Developer Jack Walter rolled the dice when he brought his Lionsgate project before the City Council last week, given that he knew that only a bare majority of four council members would be present at the meeting. For his project to move forward, he would need to receive unanimous support. (See_Lionsgate Passes Council On to ARB for Review, July 28, 2011.)

Which he got. But then, there’s no reason that he should have been nervous. Why? Not because of any backroom deals and campaign contributions, as the conspiratorialists in Santa Monica politics would have you believe, but because of something eminently transparent: the LUCE.

The Lionsgate project is both a product and instigator of the updates to the land use and circulation elements of Santa Monica’s general plan that the council approved last year. The LUCE wants a considerable number of entertainment industry jobs in the old industrial districts of Santa Monica and it wants new streets and a little retail on those streets.

That’s what Mr. Walter’s project delivers. If the council members had turned Mr. Walter down, they would have repudiated what they said they wanted.

* * *

In my column last week I argued that cyclists -- and I am one of them -- should begin a campaign among themselves to encourage adherence to traffic laws, both to increase safety and to improve the image cyclists had among motorists and pedestrians. I’m happy to report that after writing the column, it came to my attention that New York City has instituted just such a program.

But first it’s worth noting that as a result of a concerted effort to improve the environment for cyclists on the hard streets of New York (including installation of more than 390 lane-miles of bicycle routes since 2002), the New York City Department of Transportation has released data showing that commuter cycling is up 62% since 2008, and up 262% since 2000. Meanwhile, the injury risk has declined 72% since 2000. Even with more cyclists on the streets, bike fatalities declined from 25 in 2008 to 19 in 2010.

But New York is not only doing things for cyclists, it’s asking things of them. Earlier this year NYC-DOT launched a campaign, called in that typical New York pointed way “Don’t Be a Jerk,” that features celebrity cyclists in ads detailing some of the basic rules of the road that cyclists need to follow. Another program the department has is one that asks cyclists to take the “Bike Smart Pledge,” a commitment to learning and observing basic rules for the safety of themselves and other users of the streets.

This sounds great, but it would be even better, from a public relations perspective if nothing else, for organizations representing cyclists to take the lead and develop and promote programs like this themselves, instead of waiting for government to tell cyclists what to do.

* * *

During August city staff will start a process to name the new parks the City is building in the Civic Center by taking the question to the Recreation and Parks Commission and the Landmarks Commission, and soliciting ideas from the public. The City Council will probably make a decision in November.

A number of ideas are floating around and that’s a good thing -- the more possibilities the council has to choose from the better. And so I’ll chime in.

My feeling is to keep it simple when it comes to the big park (the one that has been called, during the planning stage, Palisades Garden Walk). The location and the design are so special, there’s no need to come up with a cute descriptive name. No matter what, the park will join the bay and its long crescent, the palisades, and the Pier sign, as an iconic symbol of Santa Monica.

How about simply “Park Santa Monica”?

As for the “town square” in front of City Hall, the idea of naming it after the late Ken Genser has arisen. The City has previously named parks and other civic buildings after important former city council members, and so there is ample precedent for this.

Ken Genser was a member of the council for 21 years. In my mind I can still see him standing in front of City Hall, simultaneously leaning on his cane for support and leaning back as if he was about to fall over, talking about city business with whomever buttonholed him.

“Ken Genser Square” sounds good to me.

* * *

I’m a little late taking note of this, but the City and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., should be commended by returning a public restroom to downtown, and for notifying the public about it with a sign on the Promenade.

Downtown Santa Monica public restrooms. Photo by Frank Gruber

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If readers want to write Frank Gruber, email 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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