County needs to give more attention to cycling in Marina

To the Editor:

Los Angeles County is in such a rush to hand over public parking lots to private developers in Marina del Rey that it seems to be giving almost no attention to expanding recreation, which is what the Marina was originally intended for.

One area which clearly requires more attention is cycling.

On weekends, and even on weekdays, the bicycle track along Admiralty Way can look like a busy workday in Amsterdam. Thousands upon thousands of cyclists pedal along there.

Yet the county has never completed its dedicated bicycle track through the Marina and cyclists have to ride along a busy motor road on Fiji Way. There may be stripes on the road surface made to look like a bicycle trail, but this does more to unduly increase cyclists’ confidence that they are not at risk than to ensure their actual safety.

This area of the Marina is the meeting point of all the Westside bicycle trails — the South Bay beaches trail, the Malibu trail and the Ballona Creek trail — and recognition should be given to that fact.

A picnicking area for cyclists should be set up there with a takeout restaurant and a cycling goods and repair shop, not to mention an air pump for those cyclists who are losing pressure.

The county and its pet developers have so far shown themselves to be more of an expert at closing Marina restaurants than opening them, but it is to be hoped that we will one day have a restaurant there with a name like “The Cycle Rack.”

It should not be very hard for the county to establish a dedicated cycle track through the mess along Fiji Way. All it needs to do is devote a little more time and imagination to recreational developments rather than erecting new monster apartment blocks.

Bruce Russell, Marina del Rey

Recalls Helen O’Niell’s contribution to Boys & Girls Club and community

To the Editor:

This is to share with you about a woman who dedicated herself to the Venice-Marina community and its youths. I had the pleasure of working hands-on with Helen O’Niell for a decade as she served as a board member of the Boys & Girls Club of Venice.

Helen was a woman who was proud to be a part of the Venice-Marina community and she shared that by participating in many community events. The community events she never missed were those of the Boys & Girls Club. Helen was a strong believer in youth development and giving our youths the opportunities they deserve.

Helen was a huge part of the Boys & Girls Club’s success and was instrumental in getting the James A. Collins Youth Center built on Lincoln Boulevard. Helen served on the club’s Capital Campaign Committee and never missed a meeting.

Helen was a true ambassador for the club and cared about the kids. I recall a time when a young club member, age 12, joined the club but was staying well beyond closing time.

One evening after a board meeting, Helen took notice that the boy was still there and asked him why. He told her that no one was home and that one of the staff was going to take him home. That night Helen took the boy home herself. As the boy was getting out of the car, he was crying and Helen asked why he was crying. The boy answered, “Because I’m hungry and my father isn’t home.”

The next day Helen called me and was adamant that the club needed a hot foods program and that we could not allow “our” kids to go home hungry. Two weeks later Helen contacted Kids CafÈ and we became a site certified to serve hot and healthy foods to children every day.

That’s the kind of board member that I recall Helen was for the club. I am proud to say that, because of Helen, that club member she helped stayed with the Boys & Girls Club and is now 23 years old and employed as a program coordinator at another Boys & Girls Club.

That’s the footprint Helen O’Niell has left in the Venice-Marina community.

Helen was loved and will be missed by her family at the Boys & Girls Club of Venice.

J.R. Dzubak, regional service director, Boys & Girls Clubs of America and executive director, 1996-’06 Boys & Girls Club of Venice

Cites Helen O’Niell’s support of Lloyd Taber-MdR Library

To the Editor:

Helen O’Niell was a long-term patron and a great supporter of the Friends of the Lloyd Taber-Marina del Rey Library. She helped us in so very many of our endeavors over the years, including raising money for the Nautical Wing.

A respected columnist of our wonderful local paper, The Argonaut, she wrote about our needs and achievements in her popular column, including when we had a boat in the Christmas Boat Parade representing the Friends of the Library. She was always there for us. Helen will be very much missed by our great library staff, our many patrons, and Friends.

Virginia Harms, president, Friends of the Lloyd-Taber Marina del Rey Library

Fond memories and photos are all that’s left of wildlife and flowers on the old bluff

To the Editor:

As I sat on my deck and looked at the 114 two-story monster houses across 80th Street located on the former habitat of the red foxes, blue herons, hawks, doves and beautiful wild flowers, I thought of the day I saw five red foxes on the bluff.

There were always two or three blue herons there every day stalking their prey (field mice). Hawks would hover above with their keen eyes looking for the mice. The doves were in abundance in those days. All of this is gone today.

The present councilman and present mayor did not try to protect the environment on the bluffs. They did not answer my phone calls or answer my letters.

The California Coastal Commission first objected to this development, but was finally swayed to approve it. I assume the city was looking for the tax dollars from the property tax.

The 114 new homes and cars will surely add to the global warming and increase the traffic problems in the area, versus the clean air offered previously by the vacant land.

One thing I used to look forward to every spring was the doves on my patio. They would build nests in my flower pots, lay eggs, hatch the eggs and feed the baby doves until they could fly away on their own. They would do this every spring and raise three different batches of baby doves.

The cats could not get to the doves, as the pots were suspended. The doves and I became friends, and they would stay in their nests while I watered adjacent pots.

In the last two or three years, since the houses were built, there have been no more doves in my patio. All I have left is photos and fond memories of the red foxes, blue herons, hawks, doves and beautiful wild flowers (yellow and purple).

Dale Neumen, Playa del Rey

Says RIFT measure ‘Is our chance to preserve our city and slow down runaway growth’

To the Editor:

I had hoped we could have an honest discussion about the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic (RIFT). But after reading the letter in last week’s Argonaut, [“New LEAD organization opposes RIFT”] I sadly see that might not be possible.

The letter writer has decided to join with developers in perpetuating the falsehood that if RIFT passes, school children will be hurt.

The fact is, the city’s own analysis of RIFT shows that by 2023 RIFT will have cut commercial development by 40 percent. Since commercial development generates three to four times the amount of traffic that residential development does, that would be a significant decrease in the amount of future traffic moving around our city.

And what would limiting run-away development cost us? Almost nothing. According to the same city study, Santa Monica would lose $9.2 million — and not until 2023. (The letter writer uses the figure of $11 million, without subtracting what the city will save in costs from having less development to service.)

Our current annual city budget is $521 million. At current growth, it is projected to be over $1 billion by 2023. RIFT, in the worst-case scenario, will cost the city less than one percent of its annual budget.

But don’t believe me. Read the city attorney’s impartial ballot analysis. The point of such an analysis is to tell voters, impartially, what a proposition would cost the city. The city attorney offers no findings of a budget impact. None. Why? Because it will be insignificant.

Santa Monica is a relatively rich city with many revenue streams. RIFT is our chance to preserve our city, slow down run-away growth and, in 15 years, will cost us less than one percent of the city budget.

And why a future City Council would take that one percent exclusively out of schools defies logic.

My guess is that, in its polling, the opponents of RIFT found that saying developers and their attorneys would make less money if RIFT passed wasn’t a winning argument. So they’re hiding behind children. Santa Monica deserves better.

Victor Fresco, Co-chair Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City

Concerned that RIFT is misleading the community, he wants to set the record straight

To the Editor:

As someone who has spent countless hours working with other residents to improve our city’s quality of life and reduce traffic, I am deeply concerned with the many misleading statements about RIFT (Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic) and LUCE — the Land Use Circulation Element update — currently under consideration by the City of Santa Monica. I would like to set the record straight.

First of all, the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic does conflict with the Land Use Circulation Element and it would silence the voices of thousands of residents who have worked tirelessly to update the city’s obsolete general plan.

Secondly, the initiative would not reduce traffic. The Land Use Circulation Element deals with reducing traffic head-on. A critical step towards reducing traffic congestion is to reduce the number of car trips made by the workforce that lives outside Santa Monica. Doing so is the foundation of the Land Use Circulation Element. It would shift housing creation — market rate, workforce and affordable — to commercial districts, especially those well served by current and future transit.

But to make housing creation economically viable and to comply with the city’s requirements for commercial uses at grade, it will have to be mixed-use — meaning retail services and office space on lower levels with affordable and market rate housing above.

Unfortunately, the Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic would make this nearly impossible. It includes all commercial space (no matter how small — such as a shoe repair or flower shop) under its annual commercial area limits. The lengthy, expensive approval process under this initiative would effectively discourage mixed-used transit-oriented projects in our commercial districts. Then, the only way to improve the jobs/housing balance would be to build more housing in residential neighborhoods. The impact of this upon Santa Monica’s current renters could be devastating. It would return our city to the days of massive demolition of affordable housing and displacement of renters.

Third, the Land Use Circulation Element would not allow high-rise buildings. It has various height limits. For example, the allowable height limit in the Bergamot Station District — which allows the tallest buildings other than in downtown — would be only two stories for commercial projects. Now, if a project provides “public benefits,” like a park or daycare center, then the height limit goes up to four or five stories. If affordable housing were also included in the project, the total stories allowed would be six or seven, which is 78 feet. For comparison, the RAND Building on Main Street is 82 feet high. I don’t think anyone would call that a highrise building.

In all the other parts of the city, the Land Use Circulation Element calls for lower height limits.

Under LUCE, development would be slowed and it would be balanced, unlike RIFT, which would slow development significantly and create imbalances that create further difficulties and unintended consequences.

The Land Use Circulation Element protects Santa Monica’s quality of life. The Residents’ Initiative to Fight Traffic, on the other hand, would cause the deterioration of our schools, top-notch services such as police and fire, and programs for our youths.

Hank Koning, Planning Commissioner, 27-year Santa Monica resident and business owner