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Land Reparations, Needles and Noise on Council Agenda


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By Jorge Casuso

March 18, 2024 -- Tuesday's City Council agenda is packed with Councilmember items supposedly curbed by updated procedures, with rival items addressing reparations for a City owned property near the beach.

The Council is scheduled to take up eight non-routine discussion items at the end of the meeting -- ranging from noise ordinance changes to a Black family's efforts to regain a piece of Civic Center land.

Two separate items were placed by rival Council factions related to the property at 1811 Ocean Avenue the City took by eminent domain in 1958 from Black entrepreneur Silas White, who planned to build the Ebony Beach Club on the site.

The site, according to maps of the property, currently is occupied by surface parking spaces at the northwest end of the Viceroy Hotel property at the corner of Pico Boulevard and Ocean Avenue that iis owned by the City.

A discussion item placed on the agenda by the three Council members backed by Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) requests staff to recommend steps the City "should take to repair past harm" to White and his descendants.

The item requests that the City Manager and City Attorney return within 90 days with records documenting White's interest in the property and actions taken by the City to "seize" the property.

The item also requests "contemporaneous public writings, government communications, court documents, and other evidence that indicates the City of Santa Monica exercised racial animus in its decision to seize the property."

City Manager David White and City Attorney Doug Sloan should return with options "for financial compensation for the closest living descendant(s)," icluding wealth lost.

The recommendations should provide "an outline of steps that may be required to transfer the parcel(s) of land," according to the item placed on the agenda by Councilmembers Caroline Torosis, Jesse Zwick and Gleam Davis.

Councilmembers Lana Negrete, Christine Parra and Oscar de la Torre, who belong to an opposing faction on the Council, also addressed the issue, which was raised by speakers during public comment at the February 17 Council meeting.

Their agenda item -- which is far less detailed -- asks White and Sloan to "evaluate the use of eminent domain by the City to acquire (the) property."

"This analysis should include a review of historical ownership of the property, a review of City Council actions, and a review of court proceedings on the matter," the item states.

Tuesday's agenda also includes items that would express disapproval of LA's needle exchange program in Santa Monica parks and make minor changes to the noise ordinance.

An item placed on the agenda by Mayor Phil Brock, Negrete and Parra asks staff to draft a resolution that "should reflect the City’s opposition to the program in Santa Monica, as it is misguided and does not achieve the goal of reducing harm.

"The program encourages continued use of illegal and dangerous drugs, and people are dying as a result," according to the item.

"Residents should not have to see people shooting up in our neighborhood parks, nor the behavior that results from illegal drug use. Drug use and needles simply do not belong in our parks and other public spaces."

The resolution comes one and a half years after the City Council sent a letter asking LA County officials to immediately relocate the program run by the Venice Family Clinic indoors ("Council Expected to Ask County's Help Removing Clean Needle Program from Parks," September 12, 2022).

A month later, the City received a response rejecting the request ("Little Progress Moving Needle Exchange Program Indoors," March 23, 2023).

Last month, the Santa Monica Coalition filed a lawsuit against the LA County Health Department to halt the program ("Santa Monica Group Files Lawsuit Over Needle Program," February 16, 2024).

A separate item, placed on the agenda by Brock and Negrete, asks the City Manager and City Attorney "to prepare and return for Council approval amendments to existing ordinances to prohibit excessive noise as it may affect City residents in their homes.

"The ordinance should include time restrictions, reasonableness limits, and objective decibel limit standards," according to the item.

The item does not mention the complaints of neighbors awakened by the sounds of bullhorns, whistles and drums during ongoing union protests that led Brock and Negrete to place a similar item on the agenda last September.

Brock pulled the core of the item that directed staff to push back the start time for protests from 7 to 8 a.m., saying City officials should have "volunteer discussions" with the union ("Much Noise, No Action on Union Protests," September 14, 2023).

Over the past four meetings, the Council has taken up 15 non-routine discussion items its members have placed on the agenda.

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