Los Angeles area Interfaith Clergy Coalition ‘fervently opposes’ Proposition 8

To the Editor:

We, The Interfaith Clergy Coalition, are a professional coalition of wedding officiants representing a cross-section of clergy from many denominations and belief systems. Our mission is to support the desires and needs of every adult couple who wish to marry.

Love does not discriminate; therefore we perform wedding ceremonies for both gay and straight couples, seeing no difference in the love that these couples share. Because love does not discriminate, neither should the law.

The Interfaith Clergy Coalition believes that all adult couples regardless of race, creed, color, religious beliefs or sexual orientation must be treated equally under the law.

We fervently oppose the passage of Proposition 8, as it would not treat all adult couples in love equally and would relegate some couples to second class citizenship. It would write prejudice and divisiveness into the state constitution. That is not what this state or country stands for.

Together we stand united and urge all voters in California to vote “no on Prop 8.”

Let all Californians be treated equally with liberty and justice for all.

Rev. Alan Katz

Rabbi Barry Tuchman

Rev. Clint Hufft

Rev. Lorelei Starbuck

Rev. Stephen Merriam

Rev. Shayna Lester

Rabbi Arthur Rosenberg

Rev. Genevieve Coleman

Pastor Dan Hooper

Rev. Aliah K. MaJon

Rev. Gabrielle Kaufman

Rabbi Wendy Spears

Terry Lieberstein, officiant

Mary Jean Valente, officiant

Rev. Joel Curtis

Pro-education but against Santa Monica Proposition AA

To the Editor:

I urge residents to look into the history of bond requests from

Santa Monica College (SMC). I believe every voter in Santa Monica “supports education,” as evidenced by the history of approving bond measures, paying parcel taxes, etc.

However, SMC has taken advantage of our generosity, and

is asking us for a bond measure for the third time in six years, when it hasn’t even spent the money from the last one yet.

Take a look at what SMC provides for us locally, and I think you will agree that more traffic and parking problems are not what we need right now. If we have money to spend on education, we should be putting it into our own school district, where our own residents will benefit directly.

SMC has something like 85 percent of its enrollment from outside Santa Monica. It has become much larger than the “community” college it was designed to be.

And we Santa Monica taxpayers have paid for that.

Don’t be fooled by the “pro-education” rhetoric being offered by the supporters of this measure. We are all pro-education, and we have a responsibility to see that our education dollars are spent wisely and appropriately.

No on Measure AA.

Tom and Laurie Charchut, Sunset Park, Santa Monica

Residents’ group near Santa Monica College is opposed to Santa Monica’s Measure AA

To the Editor:

In response to the story in the October 2nd issue of The Argonaut, “Santa Monica College: Pros, cons of $295-million Measure AA debated,” here is the perspective of some Sunset Park residents who live near Santa Monica College (SMC).

While supporting SMC’s educational mission, the board of directors of Friends of Sunset Park (FOSP) opposes Measure AA.

Friends of Sunset Park, based in the neighborhood that borders SMC’s main campus on three sides, is a city-recognized neighborhood organization. This is the first time it has opposed an education-related ballot measure, and here is why:

Measure AA is primarily a bond to allow SMC to continue expanding its facilities. SMC continues to spend over $1 million per year recruiting students from outside its district, from out-of-state and from abroad. Fewer than 5,000 local students attended the college this spring, while 25,000 came from elsewhere.

This is the third SMC facilities bond measure in six years — Measure U for $160 million in 2002, Measure S for $135 million in 2004, and now Measure AA for $295 million. But more than $100 million remains unspent from Measures U and S.

The $590 million total for all three bonds means that if AA passes, 100,000 Santa Monica/Malibu residents will pay out over $1 billion, including interest, or an average of more than $10,000 per person. (There is no exemption for seniors.) So local residents will pay for the construction, although just 16 percent of SMC students live in Santa Monica/Malibu.

By contrast, more than 80 percent of the 12,000 kindergarten-through-12th-grade students in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) live locally. The school district has passed only one facilities bond measure since 1998, despite having many 1930s and ’40s buildings on its 16 campuses that need safety upgrades or replacement. That should be a higher priority than expanding SMC.

SMC wants to demolish its 1,500-seat amphitheater, built in 1967, and its concert hall, dating from 1979. It’s also planning a new math/science building; the current science building is just eight years old.

SMC trustees have also okayed spending $9.5 million (bond money) for an extravagant campus quad, with fancy fountains and transplanted palms, saying “no” to a traditional “campus green” with grass and a few deciduous trees.

Measure AA’s campaign committee has a $450,000 budget, with money coming from KCRW, the SMC Foundation, the Associated Students and fundraisers.

In 2002, SMC assured the Friends of Sunset Park board that if Measure U passed, SMC wouldn’t need another bond measure “for decades.” Two years later, Measure S appeared. Now, it’s Measure AA. A fourth bond could be needed to pay for replacement of the “temporary” classrooms installed after the 1994 earthquake.

Many of SMC’s students could choose colleges such as East L.A., L.A. City, Harbor, Mission, Pierce, Southwest, Trade Tech, Valley, West L.A., El Camino, Glendale or Pasadena.

West L.A. College has only about 8,000 students on its roomy 70-acre campus (114 students per acre). SMC has about 30,000 students on a 40-acre campus (750 students per acre). Yet SMC spends more than $1 million per year to recruit students from other cities, states and countries.

To accommodate the crowd, SMC has purchased property all over Santa Monica — the Main Campus, the Administration Building at Pico Boulevard and 27th Street, the Airport Arts Campus, the Bundy Campus, the Emeritus College on Second Street, the Academy of Entertainment and Technology on Stewart Street, the Madison Performing Arts Center on Santa Monica Boulevard, and a vacant lot at Pico and 14th Street. And it uses John Adams Middle School and Santa Monica High School classrooms.

Although some shuttle buses carry students among the various campuses, many students drive, increasing traffic congestion and parking hassles. The Big Blue Bus routes that have been added with SMC students in mind all travel on narrow residential streets, with bus stops by homes, where students wait for the 126 buses a day. Exhaust from idling buses forces homeowners to keep their windows shut.

Constant growth makes financial sense to SMC. The majority of its operating expenses come from the state legislature, based on enrollment. So the more students, the more state money SMC gets. The constant expansion has led to the Board of Trustees referring to SMC as a “regional education center” and to Santa Monica as a “college town.” Berkeley, Davis and Palo Alto may be classic college towns; Santa Monica is not.

Opponents of Measure AA include SMC instructors, classified staff, students and alumni, as well as residents most negatively affected by SMC-generated traffic congestion, parking problems, litter, and construction noise and dust.

For more information, go to www.bondfatigue.com/.

Zina Josephs

Santa Monica

Say Prop T is not the answer to Santa Monica’s traffic woes and could harm important services

To the Editor:

On November 4th, Santa Monica voters will be asked to vote on Proposition T, a measure that would restrict most development in Santa Monica to no more than 75,000 square feet per year for the purpose of controlling traffic.

At first impression, this may seem good. After all, traffic is often frustrating and we need serious controls on new development. But Proposition T is not the answer.

Proposition T is a deceptive, irresponsible and unnecessary measure that would not reduce traffic as promised, and may make it even worse. And Proposition T threatens to harm important community services, including our public schools, public safety and healthcare. In these very uncertain and difficult economic times, we cannot afford the risks of Proposition T.

That is why we have formed Save Our City, a broad-based coalition that includes Santa Monica’s classroom teachers, police and firefighters associations, SMRR (Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights) leaders, State Senator Sheila Kuehl, environmentalists, healthcare advocates, the Chamber of Commerce, nonprofit and religious leaders, and hundreds of Santa Monica residents. (For full list, see saveourcitysm.com/opposes.html/.) Though we do not always agree on every issue, we all oppose Proposition T.

The voters should not be fooled by the scare tactics and deception being used to sell Proposition T. Though packaged as a traffic control measure, the only expert traffic study of Proposition T concludes that it will have virtually no impact on Santa Monica traffic. In fact, it may make traffic even worse by undermining the real traffic solutions contained in the city’s new, nearly-finished General Plan update known as the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

Nor is Proposition T necessary to control commercial development, as its proponents claim. In fact, the city’s new Land Use and Circulation Element incorporates strict controls on development, including a braking mechanism unanimously supported by the City Council that will regulate the pace and amount of new development.

And the voters should not be fooled by claims that Proposition T restricts only commercial development. Proposition T also restricts new healthcare uses, which explains why our two local hospitals, Saint John’s and Santa Monica-UCLA, have issued a joint statement exposing Proposition T as dangerous for healthcare. [The hospitals’ joint statement ran as an ad on page 6 of October 23rd Argonaut.]

Proposition T also classifies nonprofit uses — including those serving our youths, senior citizens and the disabled — as “commercial,” which explains why it is opposed by key nonprofit leaders. Our local nonprofit agencies face enough challenges raising funds in these difficult economic times; they do not need the added burden of competing with developers for a Proposition T square footage allocation.

Proposition T will harm renters as well, especially vulnerable seniors. As renter advocates have argued, Proposition T encourages demolition of rent-controlled apartments and their replacement with expensive condominiums, thereby displacing renters. And Proposition T would impede the city’s strategy of building workforce housing (with resident-serving commercial uses) in its commercial zones — housing for those who work in Santa Monica but are not now able to live here. Workforce housing will not displace existing renters and will cut down on commuter traffic, a key source of Santa Monica’s traffic congestion.

Proposition T also threatens important services that depend on city funding, including our public schools. According to an independent financial study, Proposition T would deprive the city of millions of dollars in tax revenue that we need to fund our schools and other important services.

The effects of Proposition T, in combination with anticipated declines in school funding due to the economic recession, pose a serious threat to our public schools. That is why the Santa Monica Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, nearly every member of the school board and college board, two leading education advocacy groups (CEPS, the Community for Excellent Public Schools; and LEAD, Leadership Effectiveness Accountability Direction for Santa Monica/Malibu Unified School District), most Councilmembers and many education activists oppose Proposition T.

In addition to these major flaws, Proposition T suffers from being poorly drafted and rigidly inflexible. Because none of its terms are defined, and it leaves key questions unanswered about how it would work in practice, Proposition T would trigger years of conflict and costly litigation — wasting city funds on lawyers that would be better spent on our schools and other important community services.

Moreover, Proposition T cannot be modified, nor can its maximum square footage be exceeded, without voter approval. So when its negative effects become apparent, Proposition T would prevent the City Council from providing Santa Monica residents with timely and effective relief.

Santa Monica can and will address the challenges of controlling development and reducing traffic congestion without the severe harm threatened by Proposition T. Please join us and vote No on T.

Terry O’Day, Santa Monica, Judy Abdo, Ocean Park

Councilman Shriver supports Measure T

To the Editor:

Measure T is a tough decision. Good Santa Monicans are on both sides. Good arguments are made on both sides. I am going to vote for it. Here’s why:

(1) New development — especially commercial development — will generate more traffic. Conversely, if Measure T causes one million square feet not to be built over the next 15 years, the traffic related to it is not happening. This is common sense.

(2) My canvassing tells me that traffic is killing Santa Monica residents’ way of life and they want to slow development down. They do not want more tall, dense buildings. City Hall is ignoring their pleas to preserve what’s left of the low-scale, open feeling that keeps Santa Monica connected to the ocean, mountains and sky.

There is nothing wrong with putting a brake on for a little while. Once the city “gets it” and aligns its development policies with what residents keep asking for, we can vote to modify or even repeal Measure T.

(3) This is pretty obvious, but once a building is built, you cannot get rid of it. The most important results of Measure T will be what we will never see — huge buildings and more gridlocked traffic.

(4) I don’t believe the predictions made by Measure T’s opponents:

ï City revenues are not at any near-term risk. Because of the long-term nature of development approvals, we will know well in advance if Measure T is keeping too many developers from proposing new projects. If it looks as if serious revenue loss will occur, we can change the law in plenty of time.

– The city derives revenue from many sources other than development — that’s why our bond rating is AAA.

– Over the past 30 years various department policy proposals have caused opponents to predict that new development would stop. Those predictions have never come true.

– Police, fire and schools are not at any risk.

If the city loses revenue for whatever reason, funding for public safety and helping our schools are two of the last items in the city budget that would be cut. The notions that passing Measure T will harm school children or cause crime to increase are cheap scare tactics.

ï Nonprofit organizations and medical centers are not at risk. Do we sincerely believe that the people of Santa Monica, their city council and planning department will not make sure our great nonprofits and hospitals can continue their service to the community? If that requires an amendment to Measure T, the council can put it on the ballot, and the public would no doubt pass it.

If, over the next 15 years, some very large development is proposed that most residents agree would be good for the city, Measure T provides that a vote of the people can approve the extra square footage.

Bobby Shriver, Santa Monica City Council

Calls the claim that Proposition T would devastate schools “false and irresponsible”

To the Editor,

There are lies being told in our community. And many of our community leaders (good people) will privately admit it, but are afraid to do so publicly because of the political and financial power of those who are telling them.

Developers from around the nation are funding a deceptive campaign against Proposition T — the local measure that would place an annual cap on new commercial development in Santa Monica.

Let me say up front that I have not endorsed Proposition T, nor do I have anything against developers. Development isn’t my passion. Schools are. As a Santa Monica parent and ten-year advocate for increased revenues for our local schools, I’ve focused my volunteer energy on developing education funding measures here, organizing campaigns to pass those measures and as a volunteer statewide legislative advisor to PTAs [Parent-Teacher Associations] on how to do the same around the state.

I haven’t paid a lot of attention to development issues. But when I opened my mailbox and saw threats about Prop T “cutting millions from classrooms,” “devastating our schools,” and “jeopardizing our children’s future,” I did pay attention. If Prop T were going to do this to our schools, I would be one of the leaders of the charge to defeat it.

So, I looked carefully at the issue. And when I learned that [certain developers in Chicago, San Francisco and Irvine, Texas that own, invest in and manage, among other things, office buildings and hotels] have, among other developers, contributed more than $400,000 to pay for these frightening mail pieces… well, who knew that developers around the country were so concerned about preserving Santa Monica’s schools? Okay, we know they are not.

The reality is, they all own property here in Santa Monica. They all have plans to develop that property, and they don’t want to see any limits on their ability to do so. And, they have every right to make a fuss about that. It’s big money at stake for them. But do they have a right to lie about the impact that development limit would have on our schools? No, they do not.

Still, if Prop T were going to hurt our schools as an unintended consequence and developers were willing to foot the bill to get that message out, okay by me. So whatÝcould be the connection between a development limit and school funding? Here’s what I learned is the entire basis for their argument: If Prop T passes, and if the result is that fewer new commercial development projects get approved under it than might otherwise be approved by the city under the limits in its yet-to-be-finalized land use plan, it is possible that this one revenue stream to the city (out of a very diverse budget portfolio that other cities can only dream of) could grow slower than, well, than whatever the land use plan would have allowed without Prop T in place. And, if all this happens, the city council might choose schools or even firefighters over, say, more new bronze trash cans, to reduce funding for, what? Exactly.

The entire argument that this measure could impact city or school funding is wildly speculative. It is based upon comparing the potential rate of new development under Prop T to the potential rate of new development under a plan yet to be determined by the city. Perhaps this explains why the city attorney’s impartial analysis in the ballot pamphlet does not include any dire warning against decreased revenues to the city, let alone our schools.

Prop T will put an annual cap on commercial development in Santa Monica. It has nothing to do with school funding, and will have no adverse impact on our schools. That’s why our local PTA, which studied Prop T, took no position on it. The well-heeled players funding the campaign against Prop T are not bad people, but they are a powerful interest group and an attractive ally to those in political power in our city. If you desire a future in the political establishment in Santa Monica, it’s tempting to align with them, and by the same token, risky to oppose them.

But the bottom line is this: whether you are for or against slowing commercial development in Santa Monica, this debate should be based on facts, not fiction. And the fact is, the claim that Prop T would devastate our schools is false and irresponsible.

There is a real threat to school funding here that neither the developers nor anyone else for that matter is talking about. If Prop SM doesn’t pass (the reauthorization of a utility users tax that is already collected) it could be a direct hit on our local schools because it’s part of the formula to increase city funding to Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. Alas, there is no wealthy special interest to fund any campaign to pass it.

Rochelle Fanali, Santa Monica

A teacher speaks out for Santa Monica Proposition T

To the Editor:

Proposition T is not about our schools, it’s about our students. It is about the quality of life for every child in Santa Monica today and long after they graduate from Santa Monica High School.

Our children deserve better. They need less traffic, so they can again ride their bikes safely to school. Their parents need to be able to drop them off at school without having to fight traffic every day.

The teachers union supports Prop T, but only a handful of teachers actually live in Santa Monica. Every teacher I spoke with that lives in town is voting “yes on T.”

The PTSA (Parent Teacher Student Association) stands neutral on the issue.

If you have ever voiced a complaint about traffic, a “yes” vote on T can start to solve the problem. It’s simple. Less commercial development means less traffic and a better quality of life for all residents.

Edward Anthony Jacobs, Santa Monica, 28-year Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District teacher