Monday, April 20, 2009

Stepford Town

The City of Santa Monica is at it again: destroying the character of our beach town, supposedly to improve its quality of life. This time, city authorities have set their sights on Vidiots, a local video store that earned a national reputation for its extensive, eclectic selection of movies. A heaven for cinephiles, "Vidiots is a magical place full of movies about wizards, aliens, superheroes, robots, monkeys, cowboys, pirates, cops, and that's just the documentary section," says one of its signature window displays. Sadly, those displays will have to go.

"On April 1, the 24-year-old business received a letter from City Hall notifying it was in violation of a city code that limits temporary window signage to less than 20 percent of the total frontage glass area during only two, 30-day periods in any calendar year," writes the SMDP. "The business was warned it could receive a $250 fine and face other repercussions if it doesn't comply by May 1."
Why now, when the ever-changing displays have adorned Vidiots' windows for the past ten years? Why, when residents and patrons alike love the touch of fun and color they bring to their Pico corner? What kind of absurd bureaucratic decision is that?

According to Jack Leonard, liaison officer for City Hall's Building & Safety Commission, "Members of the community have recently brought the issue of excessive signage to the attention of the City Council and other officials community [...] The city has a long standing sign ordinance that helps protect against visual clutter. It ensures the quality of life for the citizens."
Which "community members?" McDevelopers who have taken over the city and its officials? For the real community, Vidiots and other mom-and-pops, with their personal touch, are part of what makes Santa Monica such a great place to live. Is an insipid, Americana at Brand version of the city what officials call "quality of life?"

As written before, the City of Santa Monica has embarked on a smorgasbord of development and gentrification, with generic projects that slowly but surely deface the fabric of the city. In the process, the very character of Santa Monica, its edgy mix of bo-bo and cool, i.e. what people move in for, is being destroyed. Craftsman cottages and funky stores are disappearing at a frightening pace. Friendly neighborhood coffee shops are turned into anonymous raw food deluxes. "Vernacular" places like Vidiots are being challenged. Neighborhoods are loosing their personality, turned into bland, boring, Stepford versions of themselves.

For those want to make a point, save Vidiots' window displays and keep Santa Monica "in character," the store has a petition on the counter; you can also write to the editor of the SMDP, and to the City Manager of Santa Monica.
photos LA Frog

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