Dear hosts of Santa Monica election forums and fellow 2014 candidates,
As we all know, Santa Monica is a city that takes sustainability seriously. Although there is no single path to sustainability - and all of us make compromises in negative environmental circumstances beyond our control, its critical that we don't create unnecessary damage in circumstances that are within our control. That's why I'm writing to you today.
At two recent candidate events I attended - one hosted by a neighborhood organization and another by a group concerned about airport pollution, large amounts of plastic water bottles were purchased and brought on-site by organizers. In both cases when I raised concern about this with the organizers, they said that after purchasing the plastic water bottles, they had second thoughts and would probably not do so again in the future.
As much as I was pleased to hear this, I am doubly concerned that a host of an upcoming debate - which has had this concern voiced to them on multiple past occasions - has nevertheless still chosen to purchase unnecessary plastic water bottles for their forums this year.
I know that these hosts have a long record of positive contributions to our community, and perhaps they chose to justify this unnecessary environmental damage because of the perception that it will be a 'convenience' to the candidates.
If that is the case, then the only way we can stop these negative practices is by stating ourselves, up front, that we as candidates do not want plastic water bottles purchased on our behalf. Why is this so important?*
Collectively, the residents of this city have asked our city government to set an example for the rest of us in practicing sustainability, and on the issue of plastic water bottles, the City has discontinued this practice at the community meetings it sponsors (see more below).
Commercially, many years ago our City Council passed a local ordinance making it unlawful for local restaurants to bring water in any kind of glasses, if the customer doesn't ask for it - whether in glass, paper or plastic glasses/bottles, because of the waste in bringing water to people who didn't ask for it - and we made that choice long before today's drought makes such waste even more destructive.
Beyond violating our personal rights by creating environmental damage in our names without asking, we also need to be cognizant of the terrible message having plastic water bottles on stage sends to the community, by suggesting it's OK to waste water and create environmental damage in this manner.
I personally plan to bring my own resusable container to all future forums and either fill it up beforehand, or on site from city drinking fountains.
I would encourage other candidates to both do the same and reply to this email, which contains the email addresses of all of the hosts of future candidate forums (that I am aware of), and ask them not to include any plastic water bottles with their events, so we can put an end to this practice.
Thank you for considering this issue. For more about some of the environmental issues with plastic water bottles see below.
*Among the many reasons we in Santa Monica should stop buying water in disposable plastic bottles, where Santa Monica City water is safe to drink:
We’d save the nonrenewable fossil fuels that are used in the plastic. The oil we use for plastic water bottles could fuel millions of cars for a year.
We’d save greenhouse gas emissions by keeping millions of tons of CO2 out of the atmosphere, which are burned in making and transporting plastic water bottles..
We’d save water. Twice as much water goes into making a bottle as its contents.
We'd save energy. Bottled water uses up to two thousand times more energy than drinking tap water.
*Steps the City of Santa Monica has taken to eliminate plastic water bottles from City functions
1) Resolution adopted by Council in 2007 where the City committed to eliminate the purchase of bottled water: http://www.smgov.net/departments/council/agendas/2007/20071127/s2007112701-J.htm (this will take you to the staff report - the resolution is linked to the staff report)
2) Memo from the City Manager in 2010 directing staff to eliminate the purchase of bottled water: https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/feinstein/pages/116/attachments/original/1411421875/Bottled_water_memo.pdf
3) Sustainable Food Guidelines for City Events: http://www.smgov.net/uploadedFiles/Departments/OSE/Food/Sustainable_Healthy_Food_Purchasing_Guidelines.pdf
There are two ballot measures on our November ballot affecting our ability to determine the future of our public land in the south east corner of our City - Proposition LC and Proposition D.
Back in 1926, Santa Monica residents voted for a park bond to purchase the land upon which Santa Monica Airport (SMO) sits today. Its our land - we own it - and its our right to decide what to do with it.
Proposition LC would ensure our right to vote on any new development there, and would direct future planning there towards the creation of great new parks and open space.
The deceptive Proposition D is paid for by the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a national aviation lobby group - and is designed to prevent any change whatsoever, even to mitigate the airport's negative health, safety and environmental impacts upon our community.
For true resident choice and local control, I'm voting Yes on LC, no on D.
I support converting Santa Monica Airport into a multi-purpose/ multi-use great park.
Back in 1926, Santa Monica residents voted for a park bond to purchase the land upon which Santa Monica Airport (SMO) sits today. Its our land - we own it - and its our right to decide what to do with it!
Santa Monica is one of the densest cities in California - and we are well short of enough open, green space for families, recreation, the environment and our health. Several Santa Monica neighborhoods are especially lacking, while two-thirds of Santa Monicans are renters with little or no open space of their own.
Utilizing public land to fit the unmet needs of the many is good public policy. We can start by taking control of the 35+ acres 'quit claim' parcel on SMO's western edge in 2015. Its time we regain planning say over land we own!
Other complimentary considerations should include cutting edge solar energy production, and expanding and synergizing the arts/cultural/educational uses on the southwestern side. We also should look at a potential large scale cistern for water runoff and storage under the park, after we remediate any environmental contamination there.
On funding for the new park, I moderated a forum in January entitled “Airport2Park, an Investment for the Future“ where two approaches were explored, that I believe are realistic: (1) for the capital costs, state and national funds could be available if the site met regional/national environmental objectives; and (2) the operating costs could be met by leasing existing on-site city properties (other than the arts/cultural/educational uses on the south side) at higher rates.
There are two ballot measures on our November ballot affecting our ability to determine the future of this public land - Proposition LC and Proposition D.
I'm voting 'yes' on Proposition LC, which would ensure our right to vote on any new development there, and would direct future planning there towards the creation of great new parks and open space.
I'm voting 'no' on the deceptive Proposition D, which is designed to prevent any change whatsoever, even to mitigate the airport's negative health, safety and environmental impacts upon our community.
For true resident choice and local control, I'm voting Yes on LC, no on D.
Protecting the raw natural beauty of Santa Monica is a major reason why I run for City Council. Our environment underlies everything we do. We are an undeniable part of a greater ecology. Our municipal policies and practices must reflect that.
In Santa Monica our Sustainable City Plan - which I helped develop on the City Council - is meant to guide our planning and practices so we can enjoy healthy air, water and a liveable environment -- and to do our part to address regional and global issues like drought and climate change.
Three areas where we need vast improvement are expanding our local solar power generating capacity - both residential and commercial; increasing water efficiency, conservation, retention and storage; and protecting and expanding our urban forest.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from stationary sources, we need more energy efficiency, conservation and renewable energy production. I've supported ground-breaking green building guidelines when on the City Council - that save money while promoting the environment - and led the City's practice of placing solar panels on new City facilities. When I was Mayor, we became the first city in the United States to power all of our municipal facilities with renewable energy. Now we need to aggressively expand that to distributed solar power generation across our city, in homes and businesses.
To reduce greenhouse gas emissions from mobile sources, we need to promote greener fuels for City vehicles and the general public; positive alternatives to the automobile like increased use of bikes, bus and light rail; and also minimize the need to drive in the first place, by meeting local needs locally. This can come by promoting community-serving affordable retail, neighborhood-based local markets and community gardens; housing policies that enable people to live closer to where they work and to live along public transit and bike corridors; more parks and open space, and local hiring and living wage jobs - all in a city that is safe and friendly to walk. We also need to continue to convert our municipal vehicle fleet to cleaner energy fuels, something I enthusiastically supported in office.
In the 1980’s, Santa Monica approved a number of large commercial developments that created many jobs, but also created a significant jobs/housing imbalance, leading to large amounts of commuter traffic. Our beautiful and prosperous city also draws workers and tourists to the beach, Third Street Promenade and our Pier.
We can address traffic concerns head-on. We’ve got the Expo light rail line coming soon and many people who work in the City will use it. We are creating ‘shared’ roadways that encourage cycling to get around town, and people are using these alternatives, as well as our award-winning Big Blue Bus.
I played a role in promoting these when on the City Council between 1996 and 2004. I will continue to work on creative ways to ensure that residents can get where they need to and when they need to, and that our public safety personnel can maintain their rapid response times.
At the same time we provide alternatives to the automobile, we need to minimize the need to drive in the first place, by meeting local needs locally. This can come in a number of ways: by promoting community-serving affordable retail, neighborhood-based local markets and community gardens; to housing policies that enable people to live closer to where they work and to live along public transit and bike corridors; and from more parks and open space, to local hiring and living wage jobs - all in a city that is safe and friendly to walk.
Connecting outside our borders, I support the 'Subway to the Sea' extension to Santa Monica on Wilshire Bl. of the Purple Line from Westwood, and enhanced public transit down Lincoln Bl. and Sepulveda Bl. to LAX and the South Bay. That's one of the reasons I've been endorsed by Los Angeles City Councilmember Mike Bonin, who represents Venice and West LA, with whom Santa Monica would work together with to help achieve these regional goals.
Video: Michael Feinstein - Transportation/Development - CityTV Vote 2014
All residents are entitled to stability, safety, privacy, dignity and peace in their homes. I support:
• Defending and enhancing tenant protections and rent control, so that tenants remain secure in their homes, while ensuring safe neighborhoods, so all residents feel safe where they live.
On the City Council, I successfully sponsored Proposition 1, a 1999 City Charter Amendment Prop protecting against unfair evictions, which was approved by Santa Monica voters with 71.8% of the vote, that established that "a tenant in a controlled rental unit cannot be evicted unless the tenant has committed a material and substantial violation of the lease which the landlord has not waived or otherwise lost the legal right to use as the basis for an eviction." I also helped lead the creation of relocation funds for tenants during substantial building remodels.
• Directing the bulk of new residential development outside of existing neighborhoods, so as not to encourage the displacement of existing residents and affordable rents.
Why new housing? The 'jobs heavy' jobs/housing balance in Santa Monica has created significant traffic and congestion. Why new affordable housing? The 1995 Costa-Hawkins Act by the State Legislature decimated Santa Monica's affordable housing stock, causing over 20,000 previously rent-controlled units to rise to market rates. Today people are paying greater percentages of their income to live here. Standard urban planning doctrine says it should be 1/3. But many pay 1/2 or more. I support:
Producing new affordable and work force housing, as well as purchasing / rehabbing / deed-restricting existing affordable housing, so people can live closer to work and we can enjoy a diverse community of people from all income levels. New housing should be focused in our downtown, as well as along our major commercial boulevards -- and in those cases, scaled to fit nearby neighborhoods.
We also need to emphasize the creation of more two and three-bedroom units as part of this production, so that families can find a home in our community - as well as affordable starter units, including for young people raised here who want to remain in the community after they move out of their parent's homes.
We have many great parks in Santa Monica. But for a city as dense and populous as we are, we are well short of enough open green space - for families, recreation, the environment and our health. Several of our neighborhoods are particularly deficient, and two-thirds of Santa Monicans are renters with little or no open space of their own.
Its simple. We need more land for parks, recreation and open space. I support bold steps:
• Cover the I-10 freeway and put parkland on top - for a total of 17 blocks - from Ocean Ave. to 4th St., 11th to 17th St., and 20th St. to Cloverfield Bl. When on the City Council, I successfully proposed to include "consider the development of freeway parks" as a policy objective in the city's Open Space Element. It is 17 years later now and little has been done. We need to begin planning this legacy project today.
• Convert Santa Monica airport into parkland. Back in 1926, Santa Monica residents voted for a park bond to purchase the land upon which Santa Monica Airport sits today. Its our land - we own it - and its our right to decide what to do with it. We can start with the 45 acres on the 'quit claim' parcel that we will take control over in 2015. Its time we regain planning say over land we own.
My record on the City Council, played a leading role in expanding parks and open space:
• Tongva Park - I was an early proponent and lead instigator to facilitate the City Council's historic move to buy 11.3 acres of land from the RAND Corporation in November 1999, leading to the six acres of beautiful Tongva Park today. That purchase eliminated 305,000 sq. feet of proposed office space from across City Hall, and opened up the view corridor to the Pier and the sunset. In December 1993, I played a lead role in qualifying a residents referendum against the Civic Center Specific Plan, arguing that plan had too much office space and not enough open space.
• Virginia Avenue Park Expansion - I successfully advocated for an extra $3.5 million for public land acquisition in the first budget I voted upon on the City Council, which gave the city flexibility to make a key purchase when land did become available - which it did next to Virginia Ave. Park at 2101 and 2115 Pico Boulevard (the old Plastic Mart and the building adjacent). The new buildings house approximately 14,600 square feet for youth oriented program activities. This unprecedented land acquisition set-aside began with my working with the City Manager early on in the budget process to identify a potential source for those funds, then making the case to the Council to approve moving the funds into land acquisition.
• Restoration of 415 Pacific Coast Highway for public use - In 1997-1998, I co-chaired a City Council-appointed working group that oversaw creation of a plan to restore 415 PCH - the old Sand and Sea Club - to public use, with a restoration of the historic buildings and pool, the creation of a new beach park, plaza and courtyard, and non-profit office spaces. This plan eventually became the Annenberg Community Beach Club. This was an enormous victory for residents of Santa Monica, because at one point this public land was proposed to be a luxury hotel. In 1990, I was part of the residents movement that defeated the luxury beach hotel project at the ballot box. Now its a public facility serving the entire community.
No to Over Development
Yes to Community-Serving/Community-Scaled Development
Santa Monica can and must develop to meet changing needs and changing times - without - losing any more of our human scale and feel as a beach-side community. Our currently debate over development is ripping our community apart and fraying our local body politic. I believe my campaign and my service in office can help heal those wounds and close that divide, by promoting an inclusive and fact-based process where everyone's voice is heard.
I will be a strong 'no' vote against development that does not fit our community scale, is the wrong mix of uses, and causes unacceptable traffic and other negative impacts.
I will be a strong 'yes' vote for right-sized development that does serve the community. I will use my experience and political skills to bring people together so that when projects come to the City Council for approval, there is already broad community buy-in to what is proposed, and we can be happy about changes that will occur.
I have a strong record of doing just that.
In 1990 as a resident activist, I gathered signatures for Proposition S, which halted conversion of our beachfront into luxury hotels. On the City Council, I helped turn what would have been a luxury beach hotel at 415 Pacific Coast Highway, into the public Annenberg Beach Club.
In 1993 as a resident activist, I played a leading role in the referendum against the Civic Center Specific Plan (CCSP), which proposed a commercial office park along Ocean Ave. On the City Council, I played a lead instigating role turning what was planned across to be an 84’ high/305,000 sq. feet office tower across from City Hall, into Tongva Park.
What about today?
Video: Feinstein on proposed unlimited heights and density in the Downtown Specific Plan, Planning Commission Community Work Shop, Santa Monica, May 6, 2013
Video: Michael Feinstein - Transportation/Development - CityTV Vote 2014