Lock Yourself Into the Stillness

~ We have entered another dimension in Santa Monica. Time stands still. There is a meme where the entire week is just entitled “day.” We can no longer travel. We feel forgotten within our houses and the surrounding closeness of our neighborhoods. Palisades Park, the Pier, and Beaches closed. Our hectic lives silenced. Our air is among the cleanest in the world. There is no traffic congestion. The crowds and tourists are gone. There are no residential parking tickets or permit zones. Wow! Just Wow! It sounds like a great town. For those of a certain age, it feels a little like the Santa Monica we lived in as young children. And then reality hits. Eighty-One residents infected by COVID-19 and some are fighting for their lives at press time. Face masks are de rigueur, shops and restaurants may not survive, and seniors need to stay at home. Millions are out of work, many can’t pay their rent, and the $1200 one-time federal grant they will receive won’t pay for more than ten days worth of rent in Santa Monica. We’d gladly settle for a portion of the previous traffic, a little of the air pollution, and welcome some of the tourists back to our shores for a return to normalcy. That’s going to take awhile.

~ I spoke with a Samohi senior, Savannah Yassin, to see how she is coping with losing the last 3 1/2 months of high school. A Valedictorian candidate, a member of the Volleyball Team, and a past Kiwanis Key Club President, she will attend the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University in the fall. She is disappointed but accepting of the closure of Santa Monica High School. She misses her teachers, classmates, and senior activities. She feels life is more restricted and that her freedom is gone. Online learning is easy for her. But her friends get her down by being depressed. Savannah’s message is simple, “Stay positive; don’t get caught up in the negativity. We will beat this”.

“We have entered another dimension in Santa Monica. Time stands still. There is a meme where the entire week is just entitled “day.” We can no longer travel. We feel forgotten within our houses and the surrounding closeness of our neighborhoods. Palisades Park, the Pier, and Beaches closed. Our hectic lives silenced.”

Phil Brock for SMa.r.t.

~ Lenny Rosenberg, the new owner of Marmalade, has spent over three decades in the restaurant business. He is confident that we will get through this pandemic, together. Unfortunately, Lenny had to furlough about 50% of his staff but is keeping the doors open via take-out, curbside pickup, and delivery. He feels the daily gratitude from his customers and is slashing 25% off his prices for all orders phoned into Marmalade.

~ While on one of my daily physically distanced, protected walks (up to 8 miles a day) in our deserted neighborhoods, I encountered Nancy and Richard Strick. They are longtime residents, and they care—their first words to me, “We should all take pride that California, Los Angeles County, and Santa Monica have done an outstanding job in trying to slow the spread of COVID-19.” A third-generation native of Los Angeles, Nancy is happy that our air quality is “the best it’s ever been.” Richard and Nancy hope that the city will turn its eye to focusing on the needs of our current residents when this crisis ends. People won’t be traveling as much, so residents will need increased activities for all ages in our city parks. The interview finished with some inspiration. Do stuff. Appreciate your disrupted lives. Dig into hobbies you’ve put off for years that you can do at home. Don’t be despondent; be active.

~ We all appreciate the risks and the stress that health care workers are experiencing. They are our heroes. Every single one of them deserves our heartfelt thanks. They are endeavoring to save lives. Our Lives!

~ Front line workers are trying to keep us fed and healthy. It’s the staff and owners of supermarkets as well as your local grocer. One of those is The Farms, at 2030 Montana Avenue. Owner Sean McGuire’s family have been Santa Monica grocers for decades. His grandfather was a butcher, and another family member ran a market on Montana Avenue. Sean has been operating The Farms for thirty-one years, and Juan Lopez is his head butcher. They are both good, hard-working men.

While tractor-trailers filled with supplies pull up to supermarket loading docks, small markets are fighting to put food on your table and toilet paper in your bathroom. Juan manages to stock 90% of the high-quality meat his customers demand. He and his staff sometimes travel 200 miles in the early morning to make sure the meat we want is in their coolers. Sean says they have had an uptick in customers who want to avoid waiting in line at the supermarkets. He believes those customers will stay with them after the pandemic is over. To Sean, the neighborhood is everything. He stresses that there is not a food shortage in LA, just a logistical shortage, and he is willing to fight for his customers, sometimes literally. He got into a “throw down” earlier this week at a wholesaler for the last ten-pack of paper towels at 4 AM. Give Sean, Juan, and the staff applause the next time you go to The Farms.

~ There are heroines in our city. One is Maryanne LaGuardia. She has been fighting for parks, playing fields, and the health of our kids for a long time. She scored big time with the upcoming completion of the Civic Center Multipurpose playing field. It will provide generations with a first-class soccer and lacrosse facility across from Samohi. She and her husband, Alan, appreciate the restaurants that are staying open for take-out while still cooking more than they have in years. While observing the Stay-At-Home guidelines, the two of them are enjoying safe walks around her neighborhood and taking time to notice the art and flowers surrounding them. As the Vice-Chair of the Recreation and Parks Commission, Maryanne believes when this ends, residents will appreciate our parks and outdoor spaces more. Teachers will feel the love as well. She is above all, thankful that they live in Santa Monica. “If you have to be isolated, there is no better place to be,” says Maryanne.

~ As both an insider and outsider in our local government, Maryanne LaGuardia thinks that Santa Monica has been “perpetually blind to the need to serve its residents.” This pandemic, along with the pressure of residents, she hopes, should convince city leaders that there is a need for less density and a change in planning to make the needs of residents come first. She knows that some city services will be chopped in the short term by necessity. Maryanne believes our city must learn to do more good with less money.

~ Our days are rife with the unseen danger of the virus. Our hearts go out to those who are stricken and to families who will never be the same. We are staying still, in the words of Queen Elizabeth, to “protect the vulnerable and spare many the pain already felt by those who have lost loved ones.” All of us need to remember that there are no empty days in life. Find the gifts in our city’s stillness. Marcus Aurelius said that “each day provides its own gifts.” We must find our gifts in the stillness that will save our neighbor’s lives.

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.
For previous articles see http://www.santamonicaarch.wordpress.com/writing