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.”
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
I recently had a chance to read both of Sara Catania’s articles regarding the arrest of Ricardo Tovar [“Saving Ricky Tovar,” October 23–29; “Remorse in High Places,” October 30–November 5]. The Department and I are very sensitive to the issues that were raised, and we are in the midst of examining all aspects of the case. This examination includes a review of the arrest of Ricardo Tovar and the investigative follow-up. We are committed to identifying any procedural errors that may have occurred during our investigation. If discovered, proper corrective action will be taken.
Additionally, as referenced in your second article, we have already initiated an investigation into an allegation made by Ricardo Tovar about the conduct of our employees during his arrest. In order to maintain the trust and support of the community, it is the policy of this department to investigate all complaints about the conduct of our employees. The complaint will be thoroughly investigated and carefully reviewed. Mr. Tovar will be advised of the results of this investigation.
I have also completed a review of whether Ricardo Tovar’s name was placed in our gang file. His name was not, and never had been, placed into any “gang file” within the Los Angeles Police Department. He was listed in a Newton arrest file as an “associate gang member” as a result of his recent arrest, where his associate was a known and admitted street-gang member from Newton Area. However, I have determined that Ricardo Tovar did not meet the criteria necessary to be identified as an “associate gang member”and have had this deleted from our records. I have also called the Tovar family and advised them of my decision.
Newton Area has placed particular focus on the reduction of street robberies. We have had significant success and year to date have reduced robberies by 29.1 percent. Newton Area is continuing the investigation of the robbery in which Mr. Tovar was arrested and is attempting to locate an additional witness to the crime. We will continue to make every effort to provide the best possible service to our community while insuring that our employees conduct themselves in a professional manner.
Very truly yours,
—Bernard C. Parks
Chief of Police
—John P. Mutz
Captain and Commanding Officer
Newton Community Police Station
From his acute observations on the pasteurization of Halloween, America’s last pagan holiday, and the Wyoming mentality in Westwood, along with his intimate account of the courage it takes to daily hit the streets in drag, the First Person article by Falling James [“The Cowboy,” November 6–12] was a rebellious celebration of life. Thanks for making my day.
As a member of the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation’s (GLAAD) monitoring and response team, I would like to commend you for publishing the Falling James piece. How interesting it is to read the first-person narrative of a transvestite traveling from drag-friendly West Hollywood to John Wayne–friendly Westwood on Halloween. How vividly I could picture the situations that Falling James described, not because I am a transvestite, but rather because I can relate to the taunts and insults of being “not one of the guys.” Please keep up the quality articles about the political, social and financial issues affecting the diverse lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and transvestite communities.
WHEN IS A PÂR NOT A PEAR?
Re: the review of the restaurant Paio [“Silver Lake Gets Lucky,” November 13–19], Michelle Huneven needs to take some Italian lessons. Paio is not Italian for pear or peach. It is Italian for pair, i.e., two of something. Perhaps your proofreaders and copyeditors could pitch in and buy an Italian/English dictionary for the office.
NO MORE SEQUELS
Re: Falling James’ “The Last Sequel” [November 6–12], I am happy that the Onyx/Sequel coffeehouse/art gallery has lost its lease. The management and employees are rude to customers. The food and drinks are expensive and ugly. Now that it’s gone, things have improved for Vermont Avenue, and Los Feliz in general. I hope the place never reopens.
. . . AND COUNTING
Re: Ernest Hardy’s article about Todd Solondz and the movie Happiness [“Kinda Hopeful,” October 30–November 5], please don’t use the word auteur for a filmmaker who has only made two films. Among the basic tenets of the auteur theory is that the term be applied to filmmakers with a substantial body of work. Two films does not an oeuvre make. It would suffice to say “writer-director.”
A LAST SNARL
For my having compared columnist Marc B. Haefele to a mindlessly barking dog as regards his commentaries on the Playa Vista development, David Sternlight, Ph.D., dubs me a loony-tunes crypto-fascist [“Attack Dog,” October 16–22] . . . and then, of course, scolds me for engaging in ad hominem attack.
While I bow to no one in my admiration for both the golden age of Warner Bros. animation and Mussolini’s ability to make the trains run on time, I’d like to point out to Dr. Sternlight that it is not that I believe in “free speech only for those who agree with [me]”; rather, I was noting how ineptly and dishonestly Mr. Haefele exercises that right.
Sierra Club Ballona Wetlands Task Force