Patricia Bauer Talks About “Santa Monica City Council Disconnect”

Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of columns featuring Santa Monica political thinkers.

Saturday, 9 Nov 2013, 8:57:00 AM

Susan Cloke

Patricia Bauer, NOMA Co Vice-Chair.
Courtesy photo
Patricia Bauer, NOMA Co Vice-Chair.

“Despite the unanimous opposition of every one of the neighborhood

associations, as well as opposition from the Recreation & Parks

Commission and the Landmarks Commission, the Council chose to allow

commercial fitness trainers in Palisades Park,” says Patricia Bauer, Co

Vice-Chair of NOMA (North of Montana Association). “We’re very

disappointed. NOMA will be continuing to discuss this issue. Personally,

I’d like to see the Council reopen the conversation about the parks

ordinance and remove Palisades Park from the list of parks in which

commercial training is permitted.”

“Speaking in a general way,” she says, “there seems to be a

disconnect between the Council and the neighborhoods. This leaves many

people in the community to wonder whether the Council cares much about

what the neighborhoods and the residents have to say.”

Patricia Bauer was born in Detroit, went to the University of

Michigan at Ann Arbor, worked at the White House Press Office during the

Carter Administration, and went on to work at the Washington Post.

After she and her family moved to Santa Monica, she worked at the Los

Angeles Times.

“We came here for the schools and the fresh air, and we fell in love with the town,” Bauer says.

Bauer was pulled into local politics when the City proposed to

replace the iconic palm trees in her neighborhood, on an as needed

basis, with sycamore trees.

Bauer loves sycamores but this was not the right location – the palms

are the signature tree of her neighborhood. They were part of the

identity of the neighborhood and Patricia Bauer, as she would learn

later, was only one of many neighbors opposed to the plan.

Bauer turned to her neighborhood organization, NOMA, the North of

Montana Association, one of the seven major neighborhood organizations

in the City, but the organization was almost inactive at that time.

Support for keeping the iconic palm trees was high and the

neighborhood pulled together to save them. Their efforts were successful

and “the City reversed course and agreed to replace palms with palms on

the historic palm streets,” said Bauer. “Then we went on to work

together to revitalize NOMA.”

Now, as Co Vice-Chair of NOMA, Bauer is a leader working with NOMA to

actively oppose the commercial use of Palisades Park by fitness

trainers, whose presence in the park has grown in recent years.

In their letter to Council Members NOMA wrote:

“We are now faced with the prospect of city-authorized private

businesses using Palisades Park land for profit-making purposes that

directly contradict the original intent of our founders. If the

ordinance is enacted as currently written, private businesses will be

free to use taxpayer-supported lands as their private fiefs, interfering

with the public’s use and enjoyment of the historic lands that make up

Palisades Park.”

Bauer adds all the neighborhood organizations are talking with one another on this and many other issues.

“On development, NOMA has gone on record calling for the Council to

slow down its rush to develop the city,” Bauer says. “Our residents are

happy with the size and scale of our built-out city, and are concerned

about growing traffic and congestion around town. They strongly question

whether the intense development that is contemplated now will worsen

the quality of life for everyone.

“Voters wonder: Where’s the accountability, and why did the Council

vote down a measure that would have them disclose their campaign

connections before voting? Why is it okay in Santa Monica for council

members to vote on measures that are backed by the campaign contributors

who put them in office? Why are the developers’ voices heard so much

more strongly than the voices of taxpayers, residents and voters? Whose

interests are really being served here?”

“Follow the money,” famously said the investigative journalist Bob Woodward in “All the President’s Men.”

It was advice Patricia Bauer often heard him give when she was a new

reporter for the Washington Post. Now Bauer is asking that question

about the Santa Monica City Council.

“When you look at Mayor Pam O’Connor’s campaign contributions, as

publicly reported, both before and after the recent elections her

campaign was heavily financed by developers,” Bauer said. “Ms. O’Connor

had campaign debt from her 2006 election. In March of 2008 people

associated with one developer paid it off. That developer is Hines, the

company behind a massive project that is currently proposed for the

Bergamot property. People have begun to wonder about the Mayor’s close

relationship with that developer.

“It’s interesting to note that something similar also happened in

March of 2005, following Ms. O’Connor’s election to Council. Her

campaign debt then was also paid off by people associated with a

developer who had a pending development proposal in the city: Macerich.”

“I have a sense, and am hearing all over town, that others share my

sense, that people feel the Council is ignoring the wishes of the

residents. Anger is building. People are feeling ignored. When voters

get angry, they speak with their votes.”

So says Patricia Bauer of NOMA.

What Say You?

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