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City Preps Residents to Defend Beach Parking Zones
By Jorge Casuso
On the surface, it seemed just another meeting of city staff and their constituents.
But with seven Ocean Park preferential parking zones on the line - all of them more than 10 years old -, Saturday's meeting at the Ken Edwards Center was anything but routine.
Instead of just providing information and listening to concerns, planning department staff helped coach and organize some three dozen residents for a crucial Coastal Commission meeting Tuesday morning.
After a year's delay, the commission finally will decide the fate of 936 preferential parking spaces south of Pico Boulevard and east of Lincoln Boulevard that were created by the city without commission approval between 1983 and 1989. The commission discovered the spaces in 1998, while considering the Edgemar Development project on Main Street.
"Don't be exclusionary," Planning Director Suzanne Frick advised the residents. "What is important is to put a face on this issue. We don't want to alienate this commission."
Among the key points city staff encouraged residents to make are the dearth of street parking, the availability of parking in beach lots and the make up of the community (it is not just rich homeowners).
Residents who spoke at Saturday's meeting said they feared that if preferential parking is revoked they wouldn't be able to move their cars or entertain guests, especially on weekends, because there will often be nowhere to park near their homes.
"I can't leave during the day, but there are empty spaces on the beach," said one resident who lives in a zone near Main Street with no daytime restrictions. "As usual, the residents are going to be caught in the middle of this squabble."
While there are 2,400 spaces in Ocean Park's two beach lots, it costs $7 to park ($6 during the winter.) By comparison, unrestricted street parking is free.
Frick, however, warned against bringing up the underused lot, saying that lowering the rates - which already are cheaper than the rates at Venice Beach and Will Rogers State Park - is not on the table.
She did encourage residents who blamed the parking woes not on beach goers, but on employees and customers of Main Street businesses, to speak out on Tuesday.
"It's a major impact," said Roger Genser, a 22-year resident of Ocean Park who helped organize the first Ocean Park zone in 1983. "It was a reaction against Main Street. It had nothing to do with beach parking."
Tuesday's decision will center on whether Santa Monica's zones restrict access to the beach, which the Coastal Commission was created in 1976 to protect.
Commission staff has recommended that the seven zones be retained - with the caveat that the city must reapply for the permits in three years. The city opposes that condition, saying it would be too costly, inhibit long-range planning and leave residents in limbo. Instead city staff is proposing to conduct a parking monitoring program and file a report within five years.
Commission staff also is requiring the city to create 154 spaces to help replenish those taken up by preferential parking. Of these, 65 already have been created. The city also must keep the Tide and Pier beach shuttles running during the summer months.
While Coastal Commission staff seems sympathetic to the plight of beach area residents, it is impossible to predict what the commission will do, Frick said. One warning sign was a complaint by a commissioner who visited the beach to watch the sunset and found no place to park.
"We've been discussing this with the staff for a year and a half," Frick said. "I think this really boils down to philosophical issues with the commission."
Although the city has been negotiating with commission staff, it also has made it clear that it is prepared to file a lawsuit if the commission revokes the zones.
"We have a difference of legal opinion as to whether the Coastal Commission even has authority," Frick said. "We would prefer to go through the process and have a positive outcome."
Since the Coastal Act was passed in 1976, the Coastal Commission has required cities to apply for permits for the special parking zones.
Historically, the Coastal Commission has granted permission for preferential parking zones in coastal communities, often imposing strict conditions to ensure plenty of public parking and beach access.
Since 1982 the commission has approved three applications from Hermosa Beach, Santa Cruz and Capitola. The commission, however, has denied preferential parking permits for Santa Monica's closest neighbors - Venice to the south and Pacific Palisades to the north.
In 1998 approximately 7.5 million visitors flocked to Santa Monica beaches. Over the past 28 years beach attendance has grown by 20 percent.
City Manager Susan McCarthy, who did not attend the meeting, said it would be "unforgivable" if residents weren't prepared given what's at stake.
"The Coastal Commission has a relatively clear mission laid out in the law, and in this situation, it may not be a mission that is sympathetic," McCarthy said. "This would certainly be a profound change."
The Coastal Commission will meet Tuesday at 10 a.m. at the Four Points Sheraton, 530 Pico Blvd.
Staff writer Teresa Rochester contributed to this report.
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.
Drescher Remembered by Friends and Family
By Teresa Rochester
For most Santa Monicans John Drescher is a name stamped on buildings and even neighborhoods across the city - from Santa Monica College's Drescher Planetarium to Drescherville, a one time artists haven along the Olympic Boulevard corridor.
But for friends and family who gathered at a memorial service at Santa Monica College's Madison Branch Wednesday, the millionaire philanthropist -- who died on Feb. 8 at the age of 89 - was a lovable flirt with a generous heart and pocketbook and a menagerie of animals.
"Sometimes people come into your life and you know they're there to teach you something," said Susan Barrett of the Santa Monica College Foundation. "He taught us to love and how to open our eyes to new things. He loved people, especially youth."
"Okay ladies I'm going to ask you a question," Santa Monica President Piedad Robertson said. "How many of you flirted with Johnny Drescher?"
Looking around to see who else was joining them, ten women stood up bashfully to chuckles from the crowd.
Robertson, whom Drescher called his favorite teacher, gave the philanthropist a report card on his life. The man who had donated $530,000 to upgrade the college's planetarium earned A pluses in his commitment to the community of Santa Monica and the college, for being a loving family member and for being Robertson's friend.
"He taught me to focus on the big picture and keep my eye on the prize," said Robertson.
Fred McNairy, past president of the Santa Monica Kiwanis Club, spoke of Drescher's generosity to the venerable service club. In annual competitions with the Rotary Club to see which group could raise the most money for the Salvation Army, McNairy said Drescher always made sure Kiwanis came out ahead.
McNairy recounted the time Drescher was late for a brunch at the Jonathon Club. It seemed his pet parrot had gotten loose and flown to the top of the water tower on Franklin Hill. Drescher spent more than an hour trying to coax the bird down.
Along with the parrot, Drescher owned other birds, as well as a mountain lion cub (it once nipped one of his dates on the rear) and what Robertson called "the biggest mouse I've ever seen."
"John loved to visit our campus and see the female part of our popluation," said Dr. Lawrence Hornbaker, the executive vice chancellor of Pepperdine University. Hornbaker announced that the campus, to whom Drescher donated Drescherville, would soon begin work on a 50-acre development called the John Drescher Graduate Campus.
Drescher also was remembered by his brother, William, Dr. John Gilmore of the Santa Monica Family YMCA, Santa Monica/UCLA Medical Center Director of Development Dan Graham and a representative form his alma mater, the University of Colorado at Boulder.
An unassuming multi-millionaire who drove an old car, Drescher, earned his fortune as an aircraft mechanism designer during World War II. His work during World War II led to at least nine patents, and other patents resulted from his work at National Machine Products.
Born in 1911, Drescher received his Bachelor of Science Degree with special honors in electrical Engineering from the University of Boulder in 1932. On Wednesday, the University honored Drescher for his innovative approach to engineering, which revolutionized the way the university taught the subject.
Six years after his graduation, Drescher moved to Santa Monica where he became involved in a number of community organizations and causes, including the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Santa Monica City College.
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.