santa monica, california. if there is a heaven, i do believe it looks just like this town.

as most of those reading this know, i love it here. nestled between the pacific ocean and the city of los angeles. it’s small enough to have a hometown feel, but large enough not to feel isolated. laid back. relatively progressive. we’ve got our own college, markets, shopping centers, bus system – even free wi-fi in libraries, at city hall, and on 3rd st. promenade.

for the most part, if it’s not in santa monica – it probably doesn’t exist (or i don’t need it). it’s easy to avoid the freeways for my every day routine. my kind of town. there is, quite simply, no place else in southern california (or probably the nation), i’d rather live. the huge eyesore of santa monica, in my humble opinion, is it’s lack of diversity. fortunately, we’re surrounded by los angeles county and have lots of visitors, so we’re exposed to a bit more diversity – remember that lack of isolation I was talking about?

but, even heaven has its drawbacks.

most not familiar with our fair city (but familiar with it’s high housing prices for those not blessed by rent control), consider santa monica a relatively safe, unmarred area, free from the high crime rates of some other areas of greater los angeles county. and it’s not an unreasonable assumption. property values are high. the median household income is roughly $50,000 ($42,000 per capita), with roughly 10% of its population living below the povertly line. many celebrities and others with high incomes have chosen santa monica as their home, while others have lived here forever on more modest incomes with rents relatively fixed from the days of rent control.

so when the city began cracking down and taking a proactive stance on gang prevention, many laughed. guffawed even. “gangs in santa monica? what’s the crime – stealing silk scarfs? spending too much time at the beach?” seriously? a quick googles search easily puts it into perspective – including wikipedia, of course!

granted – we’re not south central and we don’t rival the bloods or the crypts…. not even close. nonetheless, gang rivalries are alive and well here on the westside – not just among the gangs in santa monica, but with rivals in neighboring venice, west la, and even culver city. people are getting shot. people are dying. young people are being trained how to shoot a gun, rather than get a job.

does it really matter if they are doing it by the ocean? or if it’s in a relatively middle class to upper middle class town? i think not. shouldn’t we take it just as seriously as issues happening across the county? do kids by the ocean deserve to be less safe and taken less seriously than others?

what’s my point with all of this? what brought this on?

i just read another article about another shooting. right across the street from the college. at eddie’s liquor – a favorite location for gang shootings, robberies, and other crimes.  eddie’s liquor is in an area that is considered a “ghetto” in santa monican terms – but isn’t really. i’ve walked that area many times when attending the college, or going to one of its events.  or passed by it on my way to the mechanic or the freeway.  and i’ve felt safe there. nearly as safe as i do 20 blocks away, on my own street, in my own apartment.

the article reminded me that violence happens everywhere. and we should be aware where ever we are – whether down the street or across town. it’s likely to happen where you least expect it. even in your own neighborhood. certainly, most of the activity here in samo happens just a hop, skip, and a jump from my neighborhood.

while i wish our world was violence-free (especially my little world) and i continue to do what i can to make it a better place, i can’t help but be reminded how the violence helps balance out the hollywood and big-money folks (the things I like the least about los angeles). it keeps me a bit grounded, humbled, and aware – and reminds me that I’m not untouchable. no matter what i like to tell myself.

and, that, my friends, is the beauty of santa monica.