Nothing Is More Contagious Than Hope

The news keeps coming, and almost all of it is bad. We are alive during a once-in-a-century calamity, one with potentially catastrophic results for so many of us. Social distancing is the new normal, and our grocery stores have replaced post offices as the main street of our town. Millions are out of work. Your neighborhood is the latest exotic travel destination. I saw a note the other day that declared, “I don’t think that anyone expected that when we changed the clocks earlier this month, we’d go from standard time to the twilight zone.” It’s dangerous out there from an unseen enemy, the Coronavirus. It feels like the zombie apocalypse come to life.

~ Retail, restaurants, bars, art galleries, theatre, movies, and even the Playland Arcade are all closed. Some restaurants are trying to carry on with takeout menus and free delivery. City favorite, Gilbert’s El Indio, is delivering throughout the city and has managed to log over 1/2 of their sales each day, but they are a rarity. It’s a family business with nine Samohi graduates among them and twenty-five employees. They are beloved and open from 8-8 for their delicious Mexican food. Others are not faring as well.

~ Shoop’s Deli, a twenty-year mainstay on Main Street, has seen a business drop of 90%. Matt is trying to keep his doors open. He had a couple of chairs in the parking area for seniors awaiting their orders, says the chairs had enough social distancing, but code enforcement made him pick them up. He is selling bagged produce to help those who don’t want to brave a supermarket. The local fire station is patronizing Shoops, and a longtime customer walked in earlier this week and purchased a $500 gift certificate. He wants Shoops to stay in business. We want all of our local businesses to be strong enough to reopen.

~ The owners of Ingo’s and The Misfit, Bob & Sara Lynn, are opening Ingo’s Tasty Diner for takeout from 4-8 Wed-Sun with a “mashup” menu of customer favorites. They live in Santa Monica and own other restaurants in Pasadena and throughout Arizona. They have had to furlough over 600 employees. Bob says it is “soul-crushing.” He believes all of us will come out of this crisis with a lot more humility. There will be no choice!

~ The Cheesecake Factory corporate office just told their landlords that no April rents would be forthcoming. Our restaurant and bar landlords should also forego or reduce rents. It would be great for Macerich (the owner of SM Place) to abandon rent collection and set an example for other retail landlords in our city.

~ Classy Cleaners owner, Delly Mendoza, is worried. She had to furlough ten employees and is dreading the call she will have to make to her landlord, a big oil company, about the April rent. The cleaning equipment is only fired up every other day now because of a lack of demand. You don’t need your PJ’s drycleaned very often!

~ Closure has hit the Elks Lodge hard. The loss of event and dinner revenue hurts. All employees are still on the payroll. They are reaching out to their members in need. That is the Elks way.

~ Even with businesses closed, the SMPD is still busy. Domestic violence calls are up as household members are now confined together twenty-four hours a day. It’s necessary to make sure that businesses stay secure and that people don’t violate the stay-at-home orders. Each day, new advisories come down from the state, county, and city to help us stay healthy. Collectively, the strain of the uncertainty from this crisis on policymakers is unimaginable. For all the criticism that our City Manager receives, Rick Cole is doing a great job as our Mr. Rogers. He is folksy and in command as our emergency services director.

~ Construction crews are still building the various new mid-rise apartment buildings in Santa Monica. While we want them to be able to pay their bills, aren’t they at high risk?

~ Art Galleries and Theatres are sealed shut. The City of Santa Monica is the final arbiter of rents at Bergamot Station and for many of the businesses surrounding the Santa Monica Airport. Arts-related enterprises and non-profits operate on razor-thin margins even in good times. If we want these businesses to remain in our community, the city needs to forego rents for April and May.

~ The Coronavirus is proving what SMart has long believed, that the over densification of Santa Monica is destructive in many ways. We must fight for more open space once we have licked Covid-19. The city-owned land that centers at 4th and Arizona must become public space unencumbered by a high rise. Many of our community groups, including SMart and SMCLC, believe that the Surplus Lands Act governs the disposition of the city-owned land at 4th and Arizona. The Department of Housing and Community Development (HCD) is the State agency responsible for enforcing the Surplus Lands Act. HCD states that the Act does not govern the twelve-story Plaza at Santa Monica project. We disagree and note that the developer supplied only their version of the facts to HCD without input from the city. We believe that the HCD erred in their opinion and that it is incumbent upon the city attorney to work with HCD to correct the view.

~ The end of the Covid-19 crisis will bring a sea change to how Santa Monica works and commutes. Telecommuting will become even more critical than it is now, thereby reducing the need for more office space. We will also see a reduction in the number of mass transit commuters as the fear of another virus outbreak lingers.

~ Treat the army of workers at your neighborhood grocery as you do our first responders and the critical care nurses, doctors, and support staff in our hospitals. The clerks, butchers, produce team and all employees at Bob’s, Von’s, Bristol Farms, Gelson’s. Ralphs, The Farms, are carrying on without masks. Please thank them all every day!

~ Residents are concerned about our homeless population. I received a plea this afternoon about park bathrooms. Keep them open! Others are worried about an outbreak of Covid-19 among our humans with no shelter. The California National Guard may be activated. One of their missions should be the temporary installation of tents and restrooms for those in need. The sheriff released 1,700 low-risk jail inhabitants on Wednesday. They must be housed – not released to our streets.

~ As you shelter in place and keep your social distance, please remember as you go for a brisk walk or to the market, smile—a nod to your neighbors is necessary. A little kindness will go a long way during this crisis.

~ US Navy Adm. William McRaven believes, “We will prevail because the only thing more contagious than a virus is hope.”  Stay healthy, care for your loved ones; Be confident that all of us, together, will beat Covid-19.

By Phil Brock for SMart (Santa Monica Architects for a Responsible Tomorrow)

Thane Roberts, Architect, Robert H. Taylor AIA, Ron Goldman FAIA, Architect, Dan Jansenson, Architect, Building and Fire-Life Safety Commission, Samuel Tolkin Architect, Mario Fonda-Bonardi, AIA, Planning Commissioner, Phil Brock, Santa Monica Arts Commission.

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