By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
As longtime members of Santa Monicans for Renters Rights (SMRR), we are concerned that Mary Moore, in "Revolution by the Bay" [October 23–29], ap pears to have missed what is really happening to SMRR, namely that it has been co-opted by NIMBYs and other no-growth ers — and is in fact lurching to the right.
The "environmental ac tiv ist" SMRR has spent very little time opposing "uncontrolled commercial development." That is because there is no un con trolled commercial development in Santa Monica. In the ’80s, the city radically re duced zoning entitlements. This down-zoning paved the way for the congenial, pe destrian-friendly, European-scaled city that has been de vel oping ever since. Every significant development is now subject to extensive public review, and few are ac cepted without major con ditions. The "developments" that these "progressives" have variously opposed over the years have included: the first new elementary school in Santa Monica in 40 years; a supermarket to serve the working-class Pico neighborhood, which didn’t have one; the Project New Hope AIDS housing now being built on Ocean Avenue; density bonuses to encourage housing; the Loretta Theater being built at Edgemar on Main Street; the Civic Center Plan; and myriad other beneficial projects, both big and small.
As progressives, we must ask ourselves what our true goal is: to stop all construction — including schools, affordable housing and grocery stores — or to continue to renew our community with development that permits a mix of incomes, lifestyles and opportunities. While we en thusiastically support Local 814’s efforts to organize hotel and restaurant workers, no one has commented on the irony of their support for candidates who have opposed the building of the hotels and restaurants where these workers work. SMRR is in danger of being turned into the functional equivalent of a homeowners association.
While it is hard to doubt Denny Zane’s sincerity, we believe that SMRR is engaging in scare tactics when they raise the specter of wholesale evictions by property owners anxious to build luxury housing. Zane says that the "in lieu" fee the city enacted on residential development is too low, even though it is one of the highest in the state. This fee is designated to subsidize the construction of new affordable housing by nonprofit developers, but if the fees are a barrier to new housing construction, then no fees will be collected to build permanently affordable housing.
But then, that may be what the no-growth, NIMBY elements in SMRR want.—Abby Haight Arnold, Frank Gruber
Ernest Hardy sure comes off as one righteous brother in his short indictment of the movie Slam’s "nauseating white-liberal paternalism and cheap Negro sentimentality" [Calendar, October 23–29]. I too winced at some of the scenes in this imperfect film, but I also spent three hours in Lawrence Wilson’s living room talking about the real situation in D.C. (Wilson plays the character who is shot and blinded, a subplot based on his own life experience.) I also talked with corrections officer Allan Lucas (another supporting-cast member) and some of the D.C. Department of Corrections officials who made it possible for director Marc Levin to make this film.
D.C. is ground zero for black urban America, with the death rate soaring and violence creeping all the way into elementary schools. If one young person sees Slam and gets an idea about how to engage his or her mind and avoid drugs or hustling, then the movie is a success. By contrast, Hardy’s review is cynical, one-sided and counterproductive. Get over yourself, Ernest! This is not high art, this is a small-to-no-budget film about a black man facing difficult choices in one of the most hopeless places on Earth, the wrong side of the river in our nation’s capital.
Keep the faith.—Victor Compton, Esq.
Ernest Hardy’s review of the movie Slam points out the need for — and the need to support — independent news sources. Hardy provides an incisive, critical review of a bad movie that is being heralded as a near masterpiece in papers like the Wash ington Post and The New York Times. Even for folks like myself, who believe Slam’s heart is in the right place, I cannot endorse the film’s failed attempt at good art or good politics. Like the great D.C.-born poet Sterling Brown said, "Bad propaganda does not help your revolution."—Kenneth Carroll
MAYBE NOT SO PREDICTABLE
Sara Catania’s cover story "Saving Ricky Tovar" [October 23–29], about an innocent youth who was incarcerated for 28 days, echoes many instances of harassment and presumption of gang membership by the authorities based solely on ethnicity, haircut and clothing style. Thank you for sharing the Tovar family’s story of resiliency in the face of injustice, and for following up on Gil Garcetti’s surprising — and the LAPD’s not-so-surprising — responses to Ricky’s experience.—Cristina Chaparro Lutz