An Open Letter to Interim Santa Monica City Manager Lane Dilg

Re: Main Street’s ‘Al Fresco’ emergency rescue experiment

Dear Ms. Dilg,

Please accept my respect for your obvious skills and also accept my sympathy for the pressures coming at you from so many directions with diminished resources available for relief. Some mistakes are inevitable, so we must do our best to learn from them and adjust our course.

Santa Monica’s deeply flawed Main Street “Al Fresco” rescue plan proves to be one such mistake with COVID-19 realities spoiling the pretty picture painted by the plan. Social distancing, with cleanable six-foot barriers and distances — that is the goal for reviving public contagion-safe spaces as shutdowns ease. Soon you’ll discover that proponents of this plan don’t know how to make it work with the community spread dangers we face.

The image of an open-air piazza with thriving sidewalk cafes and wonderful little shops is an admirable goal. With a large open space, one without bike and traffic lanes and cement K-rails areas, but with more space at the center where vehicles once rolled — that open space would have left more room for distance (“Duh,” I dare say). Al Fresco’s design sacrifices over two-thirds of the potential area a closed-to-traffic plaza would offer to provide the safe margins required to combat community spread.

Some Al Fresco proponents have bent your ear with songs praising the intimate “parklets” that will be distributed along the former parking lanes on each side of Main Street. Eye candy appeal and functional extra customer seating virtues are loudly, but falsely commended.

Resuscitate Main Street with a plan that deprives it of the space social distancing requires? Concentrating people in public spaces during this global crisis is wrongheaded — and just plain evil when you really look at it. I’m sorry you were misled so badly. Now committed to this plan with our $190,000 gone — spent on repainting the Main Street road surface with fresh new lane markings — what can we do to mitigate the potential contagion machine we’re building?

By contagion machine I mean: mask-less patrons eating, drinking, laughing and sneezing into the exhaust of passing buses and panting cyclists, while families wait in line for limited restaurant seating options.

Outdoor dining permit applications require specific social distancing diagrams for each participating business. Scrupulously examining them will be a huge city chore. This approval process will be Santa Monica’s last opportunity to mitigate transmission opportunities before enforcement becomes the only remedy. Does our Office of Emergency Management have to shoulder these responsibilities for Main Street along with the rest of their overload?

So far, the only published plans available for social distancing seating standards are in the L.A. County COVID-19 recommendations, and even a quick look shows how few additional seats would actually be added following these standards. If the Mobility Division brain trust has some secret formula to solve the puzzle of serving enough customers to save Main Street, those plans should be public by now so applicants can see what the city requires to keep our re-opened Main Street as safe as possible — safe enough for customers to come and spend.

If no such model plans are offered, utilizing the outdoor space will be a mess of disparate, ad hoc arrangements submitted, each to be individually evaluated without a clear set of published standards. But messy as that eventuality is, it is the only move left for the city to make this plan less bad — except for disrupting action against violators after violations occur.

You can salvage a valuable lesson from this embarrassing error. Don’t let automobile access remain more important than people access. Attack the challenges and get away from “last mile” personal transport that consumes valuable roadway and parking space with private cars.

But on the bright side, we’re fortunate that the $190,000 spent has exhausted funding for similarly proposed stupid plans on other streets that sacrifice the public common for motor transport. Too bad that Santa Monica had that extra $190,000 when this plan first surfaced — then you wouldn’t have had to make the same mistake once.


Tim Tunks

Santa Monica

44-year Ocean Park Resident

Lost in America

The social revolution that is happening now inspired me to write the lyrics below.

I’m your black citizen… I committed no sin…

I fear because of… The color of my skin…

I’m Lost In America… Searching for the Statue of Liberty.

I’m your Vietnam Vet… My home is the street

I fought for you to be free… You turn your back on me…

I’m Lost In America… Searching for the Statue of Liberty.

I’m your welfare mom… Trapped in poverty…

If I get a job and work… I have less money…

I’m Lost In America…Searching for the Statue of Liberty.

I’m your fast food server… Working hard every day…

Doing my best to survive… On minimum wage…

I’m Lost In America… Searching for the Statue of Liberty.

I’m your high school dropout… Makes no sense or logic…

Teach me a career skill… Not everyone goes to college…

I’m Lost In America…Searching for the Statue of Liberty.

Oh we the tired, the wretched and poor…

We’re lost In America, Searching for the Statue of Liberty…

With chains broken at your feet… You stand so proud and tall…

We are knocking at your door once more…

For you promised us … freedom and justice for all…

Oh you promised us … freedom and justice for all…

Lyrics and music by
Dan Wunsch (ASCAP),

Marina del Rey

We Must Invest in Arts Education Now!

During this uncertain and destabilizing time, we have watched with growing alarm as school districts across LA County propose drastic cuts to arts education programs. While there is no doubt that the economic devastation caused by COVID-19 is forcing leaders to make difficult decisions, we take this opportunity to remind our school board members that California education code legally requires every student to have access to arts education.

Additionally, multiple studies show that arts education increases student engagement, their sense of connection, average daily attendance rates and thus graduation rates. This cannot be overlooked as distance learning fuels an “engagement crisis” and dropout rates spike across the state. Evidence shows that students with arts ed are:

– 5x less likely to drop out of school

– 4x more likely to be recognized for academic achievement

– And 3x more likely to earn a bachelor’s degree

This is an issue of basic equity. We know low-income students & students of color face the greatest barriers to the high quality arts instruction they deserve. And, because the creative sector generates 1 in 10 jobs in the SoCal region, cutting funding for these essential programs will negatively impact an entire generation of students preparing to enter California’s workforce.

If we fail to recognize the importance of arts education, we fail our children. We must invest in the arts programs that will ensure students have the tools they need to thrive. Do not cut arts education funding when our children need it most.


Renee Klein, Marina del Rey

Ingrid Mueller, Venice