The Feel-Good Proposal Of The Year For Santa Monica

Saturday, 17 Nov 2012, 12:58:00 AM

Steve Stajich

Steve Stajich, Columnist
Santa Monica Mirror Archives
Steve Stajich, Columnist

During personal hard times friends will tell you that there are always other things to look at. Yes, your job is possibly on the line to downsizing. But you have a lovely and healthy family. Sure, it’s tough that the repo man is towing away your car but… you wanted to go ‘green’ anyway. Sure, you’re going bald, but that baseball cap looks great you!

Call it well-being or any sense that, for the most part, things are okay.

We should all have some ability to sense that we’re basically all right, and these days Santa Monica residents should be feeling especially well. Looking at the images of what happened in the east to the coastal communities there after Sandy, this year there should be some extra lines edited into our litany of Thanksgiving blessings.

Still, the City wants to be sure. So in collaboration with the Rand Corporation, the City of Santa Monica is proposing tracking such metrics as our physical health, social connectedness, and community resilience. And that proposal is one of 20 finalists in a new event known as the Bloomberg Philanthropies Mayor’s Challenge. In the spring, they’ll announce the winners with first prize getting $5 million. How’s a five mil prize for a sense of “well-being?”

Much as the whole deal sounds a little touchy-feely and kind of like dinner with Dr. Wayne Dyer, there can be significant benefits to higher indexes of well-being. As reported by the LA Times, the more people feel connected to their community, the more they are likely to work together as a team after any sort of disaster. People in better mental health will likely pay less overall for healthcare. Or as James Brown put it succinctly years ago, “I feel good… I knew that I would now…”

With the abundance of sunshine, lovely beaches, bike paths, access to avocadoes, and strong local economy one would think we’d all naturally be happy here. But there could there be issues impacting a sense of well-being in Santa Monica that are not as clear to the naked eye. I’d only be guessing, but here are three random things that might tend to bend the well-being meter needle a little toward one side:

Over-priced parking meters. I parked on a stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard just west of Lincoln last week and discovered that the parking meter gave me one minute for a nickel. Now, I understand that what might be occurring is a pricing scale that allows people to park short-term and still gives the city a shot at revenue. But really? Five cents for one minute? I think that’s more than Lucy charges Charlie Brown for psychiatric care at her sidewalk booth.

Vanishing beaches. This column echoed concerns over a recent quickly done sale of City beachfront to one of our larger hotels. As much as our beachfront planning is admired around the world… we could still screw it up, people. A little more hotel encroachment here, some leeway for advertising and promotion events there, too much product placement at “art” events on the beach… and one day it’s just another waterfront mall. Special warning buzzer: Franchise food outlets on our pier.

The past. Let’s try to not completely erase our past. I’m going to re-run my concerns about Chez Jay here because it’s particular case so neatly fits the bill of what preservation should be about. I honestly think preserving Chez Jay is a tremendous value in well-being. Denying that very little square footage of Chez Jay (kept as it is) to the voracious maw of development will pay big returns in providing Santa Monica with a sense of place and time for years to come. “They didn’t tear down Chez Jay. I feel good. I have a sense of well-being.” (Just a sample of the kind of the thing you might hear, City Council).

Despite these concerns, my suspicion is that a well-being index of Santa Monica will turn out quite well. The LA Times piece reported a Youth Wellbeing Report Card tracked youth in our city up to 24 years of age. According to the report, 81 percent were physically healthy, and 57 percent felt safe at school. Still, 25 percent said they experienced “significant periods of extreme sadness” during last year. Of course, adults have those phases. One of them came right after Romney chose Ryan as a running mate.

Happiness is not a joke, Steve… although when I was a stand-up comic happiness was a joke. In fact, it was one joke after another concluding with a sensational closing bit. But we don’t live in a comedy club; we live here in Santa Monica. And while it will be interesting to see if we win a chance from the Bloomberg people to check our well-being, there might be a few indicators readily available right now. Take for example our complete lack of interest in being a ‘hot’ site for partying. We’re not a party town. We are trying to shut down the ‘party pad’ House of Rock. And Tuesday, SMPD called in support to shut down a DJ party at a Santa Monica Airport hangar. No, we’re not ‘rockin’ here. We’re a somewhat sleepy beach town. But we feel pretty good about that, right?

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