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Development, Opinion, Letters To The Editor, Santa Monica

Letter To The Editor: I’m My Own Voice On Santa Monica Development

Posted Feb. 8, 2014, 6:44 am

Letter To The Editor

Dear Editor,

I recently attended my first Santa Monica City Council meeting after moving here a year and a half ago from the Valley. I came to speak and support the Bergamot Transit Village project and sat through hours of public comments.

In those comments and the public dialogue that followed through our local newspapers and community blogs, many community members claimed that they were speaking for all of Santa Monica and asserted that the residents of Santa Monica were united against the project.

Neighborhood groups and community organizations claimed to speak on behalf of me opposing the project, but my voice is my own. I’m a renter, a resident of the Pico Neighborhood, and I work in downtown Santa Monica.

I favored Bergamot Transit Village as proposed, and I feel that my voice was heard and considered by our elected officials, along with the voices of the many other supporters at the hearing.

Some have accused the majority of the members of City Council who voted for the Bergamot Transit Village of being out of touch with the residents of Santa Monica.

As a young resident of Santa Monica, I take offense to that. I moved here because I wanted to be part of a city that is changing and growing in the right way.

I’m proud of our bike lanes, our clean buses, and our thriving walkable downtown.

I’m proud of our cultural destinations like Bergamot Station, our parks, our libraries, and our charming storefront-lined streets like Main and Montana.

I’m a resident just as much as members of our community that have lived here for 50 years or more.

I'd like to continue to see developments oriented around transit to improve our quality of life and I believe Bergamot Transit Village will do just that.

Simply because a vocal group of residents gets together and rallies against a project does not mean that they represent the views of the majority of residents in the city.

It’s hard to get young people to sit through four or more hours of a community hearing to speak for two minutes, but I can tell you that many of my friends who live or work in Santa Monica favor this project.

I know because I have asked them. It’s important to be aware that residents who are happy about the way Santa Monica is transforming are not as motivated to be vocal because they're too busy enjoying this amazing city that we live in.

I’m tired of hearing others claim to speak on my behalf. I’m a resident of this city and I speak for myself!

Jeremy Stutes

Resident, Santa Monica

Chairman, railLA

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Feb. 8, 2014, 10:12:24 am

W Smiff said...

You've lived here 548 days and attended a single City Council meeting. Great to hear from someone so experienced. Glad you support the destruction of a city you barely have lived in. One day when you're inconvenienced repeatedly for months or years on end, like others who have lived and worked here longer than you, you will join the thousands who want the graft taking City Council and their back door, (hidden companies) money deals by developers ended. Didn't know about that? Aww. Read some back issues of the Mirror and the Santa Monica Daily Press. Maybe (if you even own a car) you will see that re-purposing previously designed roadways into bike lanes because Santa Monica was embarrassed by other cities in the US is impractical and patently dangerous. (Did you hear about that? Google it.) Squeezing car lanes for rarely used bike lanes with car doors swinging open isn't a solution because the City Council says so. Have you travelled Broadway from 20th street to 14th? Lovely, isn't it? Only been that way for over 2 years! Have you experienced the 10 freeway on any business morning? The Bundy and Cloverfield off ramps have exit back up for up to a mile each day. Think that's safe? Sure you do. Glad to read you support the weekend back up from the 4th, 5th and Lincoln exits where traffic is at a stand still. Locals refuse to go downtown because it takes them over 40 minutes to travel the few miles just to get there. Single lane 4th street with full lane bicycle rights is the correct design to keep the buses moving forward. Mr. Chairman, adding a rail line is certainly the correct way to stop the congestion. It encourages even more people to visit the city. Good for the city coffers, bad for congestion. (Seeing a pattern yet?) That doesn't matter, right? Look both ways before crossing the street as wrong way un-helmeted bicyclists who don't pay attention to the rules of the road can run you over. Unfortunately, you missed what Santa Monica's previous beauty was which has been destroyed by development all within the last 10 years. Hope you enjoy the new condo complex at the entrance to Santa Monica on Pico and Centinela. Architects have apartment kitchens visible from the bus stop. How lovely. Tiny apartments, skyrocketing rents in the hundreds of dollars per square foot, smaller spaces than those given to the animals at the LA Zoo. I know you approve! You haven't lived in Santa Monica when the Gillete factory operated. The situation at Bergamont is confusing. There's the new station which destroys the historic arts compound and then the supposed rebirth (yay! ... right? smaller is better) and then there is the proposed multi-use housing area at the factory site. Which "development" are you writing about? Confused? Yes, the subject is DESIGNED to confuse the casual observer. That's the point. (Still, all good. You said so. I'm so relieved...) Combined with the saturated dual corporate complexes there, and the previously mentioned highway back up traffic, we're still just peachy... Yes, indeed! You may be lucky enough to live and work in Santa Monica, but the MAJORITY of residents have to leave the city for other areas in LA to make a living. Others can't afford to live here and must commute. However, the City Council is correct in your eyes at a single meeting. Thank goodness. Thanks also for pointing out your ignorance. You've marked yourself as the dunce of Santa Monica. If you're here in 20 years, please write again and tell us all how great things are. Oh wait, if you decide to grow a family, and unless you're lucky enough to be a multi-millionaire, you won't be in Santa Monica, you'll have moved back to the valley. Ah to be young again.

Feb. 8, 2014, 10:57:27 am

D'Lynn Waldron said...

New resident Mr. Jeremy Stutes has a vested professional interest in the the development he advocates in Santa Monica. This from his own web site: "Jeremy currently serves on the board of directors of the transit advocacy non-profit railLA. He was instrumental in organizing railLA's LA Beyond Cars event at CicLAvia in April of 2011, and produced Dapper Day on the Subway in 2012, and Dapper Jr. in 2013. "

Feb. 8, 2014, 11:55:00 am

Jeremy Stutes said...

Mr. or Ms. W Smiff, Thank you for contributing to this ongoing dialogue among people who see this project from very different perspectives. I'll try to share a bit more of my own. I have indeed traveled down Broadway from 20th all the way to downtown Santa Monica and back on my bike, and I thoroughly enjoyed it - particularly when I stopped by the local Co-op at which I have been a member for many years. I'm a car driver, a bus rider, as well as a cyclist and I do my best to make sure that I'm not taking up additional space on the road or in parking lots unless it's necessary. I don't think it's possible to be a strong advocate for a multi-modal transportation society, which I am, unless you live that lifestyle and understand what people are facing on a daily basis. My recent move to Santa Monica was intended to allow me to reduce my vehicle mile driven significantly and perhaps eventually I will stop using my car entirely. It's true that this city was not originally designed for cars. It was designed for trains. When the train lines were converted over to roadways and highways bisected cities to provide us with efficient transportation, I don't think anyone anticipated the kind of traffic congestion that we see in Los Angeles on a daily basis. I'm well aware of the off-ramps on the highway at Cloverfield and Bundy, as I have used both to access my neighborhood. But widening highways or leaving vast areas of our city undeveloped won't solve the problem - we've got to start living our lives differently, and we are. On a whole, American's are driving less and my generation doesn't see driving a car as a core piece of the American lifestyle anymore. As you suggest, google it. I take offense to your suggestions that my age or years lived in this city render my viewpoints invalid or mistaken. A healthy community is made up of individuals who respect each others diverse perspectives. I’m sorry you feel that that bike lanes are unsafe. I certainly feel more safe as a cyclist riding on Broadway where there is a bike lane than I do riding my bike on Cloverfield across the highway to get to my local optometrist’s office. I’m not the type of cyclist who runs red lights. I stop at stop signs, allow pedestrians to cross, and try to share space on our roadways. A bicycle takes up a lot less space on the road than a car, and doesn’t contribute greenhouse gasses. I ride, walk, and bike for a number of reasons, and I’m proud to live in a city where my local government cares about all uses of our shared streets - not just about cars and traffic. Mr. or Ms. D’Lynn Waldron, Yes, I am the Chairman of the board of locally-based non-profit railLA. I made this clear in my signature. It is not, however, my full time job. I work in downtown Santa Monica for a technology company. I’m honored and pleased to offer my time to a non-profit that is making a difference here in Los Angeles county and I’m proud that I produced some fun events in the city to encourage more people to explore our rapidly expanding train network. As with many people who offer their time to non-profit organizations, the mission of railLA's work aligns with my personal views.

Feb. 8, 2014, 5:08:36 pm

Charles said...

Jeremy, thanks for speaking up. I 100% agree with you. Welcome to Santa Monica and I hope you keep enjoying it here. And you're totally right, just because a bunch of people rally and make noisy complaints doesn't mean they represent the majority of the citizens in SM (they wish, that's why they keep saying that). You see, they think it will "majikally" become reality if they keep repeating "...the vast majority opposes the project". YAWN. Anyway, good luck in SM!

Feb. 8, 2014, 7:05:49 pm

Jeremy Stutes said...

Thank you Charles! I truly appreciate the warm welcome to Santa Monica. I think all people's voices deserve a place at the table and all should be heard. And all voices should be considered respectfully. We share this community - let's not claim to speak for everyone else in the room.

Feb. 8, 2014, 7:30:08 pm

Young Person Against YOU said...

Jeremy is another in a long line of shills for Big Development money. Perhaps that promised him a part in a commercial, I don't know. I only know that this will cause MORE traffic congestion not less and that is not good for anyone. This whole notion that building bigger and higher is more environmentally friendly is bunch of lies. It's a talking point like e-cigarettes being "healthy". I am around your age (30ish) but I have lived here for years now. I have seen how this city has been ruined by all of the development. A series of token bike lanes and a silly little park that cost 43 million taxpayer dollars doesn't make up for the increase is traffic and lack of sunshine because I'm always in the shadow of a Starbucks. Enough is enough.

Feb. 8, 2014, 7:34:20 pm

Tim Harris said...

It's like the oil companies fighting for the keystone pipeline. They make you feel warm and fuzzy like this is a grass roots thing that will be great for everyone. Never mind when guys like Jeremy move to the valley in a few years leaving the rest of us with this hell hole of a city. It's sick how misguided people are by the rich and powerful corporations.

Feb. 8, 2014, 10:34:34 pm

Ryan said...

I'm really confused by the rants here by people like Smiff, Waldron, and Harris. The city council is not a pawn of big developers complicit in giving them an unfair profit. And Mr. Stutes is absolutely not a planted corporate zealot. Where do you guys get these ridiculous conspiracy theories? What is it about real estate development and urban planning that turns the progressive, open-minded, liberal people of Santa Monica into "NIMBY"s who are as reactionary and backward as tea-party members? Yes, car traffic in Santa Monica stinks. But the solution is not to restrict development so that Santa Monica is only accessible to the elite, wealthy people who can afford the increasing rents and prices that occur when you restrict the supply of housing and office space. The solution is to develop walkable neighborhoods clustered around transit stations, so that we can have the old-fashioned, pre-car, pre-sprawl, pre-suburbia authentic-American main street kind of life available to those who want it. Car traffic in Santa Monica and LA will always be bad, but we can create mobility alternatives so you don't need to sit in traffic. Try living close to where you work, shop, and play. Try taking advantage of our wonderful weather and ride your bike somewhere. Let's keep building train lines and dedicated bus lanes so than even when cars are stuck in traffic, people can keep moving where they please as a convenient and swift pace. Of course businesses (i.e. developers) will make profits along the way - that's how you run a business. But the real purpose of all of this is to improve the quality of life in the city. The city has created very intelligent guidelines for development (the LUCE plan, for example) that lay out quite clearly how to improve our quality of life through urban planning. Let's not give up on this opportunity to create a better (and less dependent!) Santa Monica as a gift for the future generations.

Feb. 8, 2014, 10:43:39 pm

Ryan said...

Correcting a few types. The last part should read: Try living close to where you work, shop, and play. Try taking advantage of our wonderful weather and ride your bike somewhere. Let's keep building train lines and dedicated bus lanes so than even when cars are stuck in traffic, people can keep moving where they please at a convenient and swift pace. Of course businesses (i.e. developers) will make profits along the way - that's how you run a business. But the real purpose of all of this is to improve the quality of life in the city. The city has created very intelligent guidelines for development (the LUCE plan, for example) that lay out quite clearly how to improve our quality of life through urban planning. Let's not give up on this opportunity to create a better (and less car-dependent!) Santa Monica as a gift for the future generations. Thank you

Feb. 8, 2014, 10:44:04 pm

Ryan said...


Feb. 9, 2014, 1:02:32 am

Joe said...

One good quake and its all back to normal. Until then enjoy your 20$ burger.

Feb. 9, 2014, 8:54:43 am

WestLAres said...

Every morning and every night there is a mass exodus of cars into and out of Santa Monica. People who work in SM dont live there. They don't live there because they work at the restaurants and Hotels . Will they be able to afford these apartments? We have a new rail line coming but what if you live 3 miles from the line? No parking lots have been proposed near the stations. I think this property should become nothing more than a parking lot. That way people don't have to drive all the way to the beach on a weekend. We have plenty of stores and offices in the area already.

Feb. 9, 2014, 12:56:56 pm

Becki said...

I think we need more $3500 a month studio apartments built on top of one more Starbucks and throw a Chase branch in there. Yeah that's progress and affordable housing!

Feb. 9, 2014, 1:15:30 pm

W Smiff said...

Let's take a close look at the response by people here... D'Lynn Waldron - thank you. A response based in fact. Charles - fanboy. No facts here. Hasn't taken into account fact that people leave Santa Monica to work and those who can't afford to live here have to commute into the city. Young Person Against YOU - Great you took into account D'Lynn's comment and adding a few more facts about sunlight. If you want to live in perpetual shade, move to Manhattan. Speaking of Manhattan... The best public transportation system in the country and the place still has huge traffic issues AND huge ongoing public transportation issues. Ask those thousands of commuters what they do when the public transportation fails to work. Want to see where Santa Monica is going, look there. There is no panacea. However, there ARE a lot of dreamers. The cure is to ratchet down the gross number of people. Period. Tough love, but it works. Tim Harris - great analogy. Thanks. Ryan - WTH are you talking about? Any example of anything local? Are you MSNBC brainwashed? Do you even live in Santa Monica? Your Santa Monica version of Walden Two = worthless. (Look it up.) Joe - totally true! For the entirety of LA! WestLAres - please read my first response. You've stumbled on one of the most conspiratorial stories in this rail mess. (Reading this Ryan?) One of the FANTASTIC aspects of the rail stations is that the parking lots are UNDER the new construction. Slipped in silently during the closed (unaccountable) City Council sessions which Jeremy Stutes doesn't understand is a large part of what goes on here. Here's another example... The SMCC conducted several studies of the 3rd street parking needs for the next few decades. More than one study, independent of the others indicated SM needed over 1000 parking spaces. Get it? MORE THAN ONE STUDY SAID OVER 1000 NEW SPACES. So what did the City Council do? They cut the suggested number of spaces by nearly 20%, completely disregarding the surveys. Think that's smart? Ask yourself why they paid for a study and rejected the results. There's only two reasons why: 1) The SMCC isn't working in the local interest. 2) The SMCC has undisclosed plans for the other parking spaces, perhaps in conjunction with the developers. One thing is certain: many of the missing parking spaces for all the new rail stops are under the new condos. Yes. Already proven. Again, look it up. Jeremy - Let's examine your thoughts: "On a whole, American's are driving less and my generation doesn't see driving a car as a core piece of the American lifestyle anymore." Your generation is completely inundated by debt. Your brain is already programmed. Noam Chomsky wrote: "My feeling is that student fees are instituted, basically as a technique of indoctrination and control. I don’t think there’s an economic basis for them. And it’s interesting that, you look at the timing — like when I went to college, I went to an Ivy League university, The University of Pennsylvania. Tuition was only $100 and you could easily get a scholarship. Students today are over $1 trillion in debt. That’s more than credit card debt. A trillion dollars of debt? That’s a burden on people coming out of college. It’s got them trapped. It (tuition) is a technique of control, and it surely isn’t an economic necessity in the richest country in the world. All sorts of things started happening — the university architecture changed. Universities that were built, worldwide, in the post-’70s and on, are usually designed so that they don’t have meeting places, designed just to keep students separated and under control. Look at the ratio of administrators to faculty: it’s gone way up the last couple of decades … not for educational purposes, but for more techniques of control. What you’re talking about, I think it should be opposed, because it’s a general form of indoctrination and control, which goes down to kindergarten. I mean, that’s what No Child Left Behind is about. It’s training for the Marine Corps. It’s a way to make sure that children aren’t free, independent or inquisitive, exploring." Globally, the number of riders on public transportation is falling. It was one of the mainstay arguments against the California high speed rail. It's the reason that despite the hundreds of thousands who head from LA to Vegas monthly, there is no passenger rail system. In Europe and the especially the Far East cars are the future. There are very good reasons why. They are learning what Americans already know. After the initial public transportation euphoria wears off, you realize you are subject to the bathing habits and personal smells of the person next to you. In NYC, homeless and beggars ride the subways asking for handouts. Some perform acrobatic acts between stops hitting scared riders who don't know what kind of weapons the person will brandish. Sitting in your private automobile, you're not subject to this nonsense. You're not as comfortable in a public plastic seat versus your luxury car seat. It is the concept of airline first class versus coach. There's a reason first class costs more. The mention that you work for a non-profit is nice, but your blind participation won't bring a solution to this small city. Proud won't clear the 10 freeway. Santa Monica is filled to capacity. Taxpayers pay a premium above Angelinos to live here. The City Council is trying to expand a tax base by building upward. Look at the impending downtown Marriott and Hilton projects. All that does is block the sunlight for your bicycle or walk. Either way, you'll still breath the car exhaust. It's easy to say rail is the answer. Then we'll need cops, the graffiti cleaners, replacement rail windows, earthquake repairs. There's an endless spiral we'll all be charged and with very little accountability because "we'll need it." The money is out of your pocket and in some unaudited company's. Maybe you've learned something from the above. Perhaps you (and Ryan) might learn that the utopian Santa Monica you envision will never happen. Know that what I wrote above is true. (I can't make this stuff up.) You're already paying an extra 10% tax to live in Santa Monica. You're being taxed above that for the Santa Monica Malibu school system which is still running a deficit when they told us the new tax would balance costs. Again, the pattern where government representatives tell fairytales to residents is clear. There is no room for under the table and closed door politics. These unchecked practices have ruined this city. Writing that you enjoy bike riding down Broadway where k-rail, steel plates, orange diversion arrow signs, and single lanes are, is just an outright lie. Don't trust your paid representatives and instead hold them accountable for the crimes they've already committed. One meeting doesn't do it. Attending the public sessions doesn't do it. Instead force ALL business to be public, and not just some. Didn't our president encourage "transparency" back in 2009? I have yet to see one politician hand cuffed, but there's always hope.

Feb. 9, 2014, 8:46:05 pm

Here Here said...

Thank you and VERY well said, W Smiff!

Feb. 10, 2014, 8:24:31 am

Friend said...

It is all about the money. simple as that. the city goes down the drain. who wants to live in those super small and super expensive apartments? We moved out of S.M. and never had a moment of sorrow or wanting back

Feb. 10, 2014, 9:47:43 am

Gigi de Pourtales Davis said...

Thank God the future is finally speaking out. The past is preserved by the incredible work of the Santa Monica Conservancy and the Santa Monica History Museum. Our children should have the ability to live in a thriving city that includes Bergamot station full of arts, life, recreation and yes business where they could work, not one that is governed by opposition and paranoia. Get the facts!

Feb. 10, 2014, 10:30:22 am

JJ Paul Mark Chris III said...

Talk about your "astro turf" PR party. Gigi de Pourtales Davis is part of the chamber of commerce and other interested parties that benefit from developer money. DO you notice the trend here? It's rich pro-development people who live way north of Montana who don't care about traffic and congestion. They don't have to deal with it, you see.

Feb. 12, 2014, 12:12:27 am

Ryan said...

I respect the opinions of you anti-development folk, but I think your conspiracy theories about developers padding the pockets of city council members are absurd, ludicrous, implausible, and quite frankly embarrassing. None of you have proposed any realistic solution to deal with the traffic though. I really think we need to start retrofitting our city to be less car-dependent. There's no other way to solve the problem of cars than to propose alternatives to cars. Welcome to the 21st century. The heyday of cars is over. This isn't 1960 anymore. Oil isn't cheap anymore and we've recognized the social ills (not to mention the horrible environmental impacts) of sprawled communities and car-based lifestyles. Let's join the rest of the civilized world and move on from this car addiction.

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