I live in Santa Monica, which seems like it should be a fantasy. The iconic pier of Los Angeles beaches and I only live a block from the ocean! Panoramic views from the ferris wheel, bike paths accessible from Venice as far as Malibu. Shopping, restaurants, and more attractions from Ocean Avenue, 3rd Street Promenade and Main Street. I’m a minute drive from the ramp to Pacific Coast Highway and I have an ample amount of parks and scenic views only a walk away. All of this in addition to the friendships I’ve built in my neighborhood, my local Pilates studio and the dog park next door are what grip me tight from ever straying too far away. However, my reality is not what you would imagine or expect.
Santa Monica has been weighing heavier on the negatives as of late. It’s not the dream I wish it to be. I got to the point where the decision to stay or go confronted me daily. I’m usually the type of person to make a change if something isn’t working for me. Bored of Boston? Move to California. Someone’s energy brings me down? Stop spending time with them. What about when those decisions aren’t as black and white? What about when the decision means leaving behind so much that I still love?
Santa Monica has been invaded by homeless transients. Gunpoint muggings in broad daylight. Hundreds of crime reports daily. Heroin needles, human feces, dirty homeless shouting, naked and squatting everywhere you look. Public sex with no discretion, cars broken into, bikes and packages stolen from your locked lobby areas. There hasn’t been a day in the three years I’ve lived here that I haven’t dealt with harassment in some form. I’ve received several subpoenas for witnessing and being victim to the crimes of my city. One of which was when I saved my apartment’s security from an intruder by calling 911 for him. He was helpless in the attack and he was supposed to be protecting me. Along with trespasser attacks, you can expect robberies as well as intruders who make themselves at home, in your home. Sleeping on your patio, making their way to your kitchen, your bedroom, your children’s bedroom. My neighbors recently opened their blinds to a man peeing on and stabbing the pillows on their deck. Rape and murder threats are something I deal with daily. Drugged up strangers running at me with their hands in the air, ready to beat me AND my dog. Public bathrooms available to anyone who needs yet blatantly ignored by the janky. Our streets are their public bathrooms now. Their waste picked up by the mouths of our pets. If they don’t care about privacy, the rest of us are forced to witness whatever foul indecency surrounds us. The homeless population live above the law. Pepper spray is an everyday accessory and I wouldn’t dare leave my apartment when it’s dark out. How scary it is when a criminal screams to let you know they’ve been out of jail 18 times already in the past year. That they can rape you, go to jail, and be out tomorrow to do it again. They know. They know they can get away with it and they don’t care who witnesses. Do you really want to be the one responsible for putting someone away when they will be back to the same spot, and the same crimes tomorrow? See something sketchy and call it in…if you want to make yourself more vulnerable to danger.
I’ve made visits to City Hall, spoken with the homeless division, the sanitation division, Santa Monica PD and more. “It’s an almost impossible problem to solve” is not even close to acceptable or true. I once had an officer tell me they can’t arrest for public indecency or intoxication because then they’d have to arrest everyone. If everyone is breaking the law, please, arrest everyone! The homeless division provides resources the homeless don’t want and the sanitation division cleans up after the deeds are done. No prevention and no law and order. “No camping” signs planted between tents, diseased mattresses, and suitcases of drugs. Only the dogs who belong to paying residents get kicked off the beach and ticketed. Homeless people stealing dogs outside supermarkets to have an excuse to be even more untouchable by the law than they already are. Untrained Pit-bulls let loose in the dog parks you bring your vetted, vaccinated pets. I’ve seen firsthand a homeless man bring two of his Pit-bulls into my local dog park and attack an innocent puppy AND his owner. The owner got torn apart, his arm bitten open protecting his dog. Where was the homeless owner? Walking away, calling us “pussies” demanding US to leave if we can’t handle it. Cops were called but the man walked free. If they can’t afford a ticket or be kept in jail then why enforce the law, right? If Santa Monica doesn’t get paid, our concerns don’t matter.
Santa Monica has all the potential to be the best city in the world. There is no where else I’d like to live more. Is there more I can do to fight for justice? A possibility for the residents and tourists to walk around feeling safe, filtered from violence and profanity? Hope for peace? Everything and everywhere has its downfalls. Is my safety a sacrifice I’m willing to make for the accessible and scenic location? Even when the scenery is tainted by the ugly, horrific images we must now all put up with?
When making a big decision, I really try to imagine my life post change. I’ve tried picturing my life in Malibu. Too secluded, no nearby Trader Joe’s. Gyms, Pilates studios, shops and restaurants out of walking range. I’m a city girl and I love the accessibility that comes with my neighborhood. I see myself being lonely in Malibu, regretting that move. I think about Manhattan Beach. Clean, suburban vibes, but surrounded by heavy traffic. Stuck in a bubble. I’d be removing myself from the community I’ve made such a big part of my life. My community is most important to me. Pros and cons lists are one thing, but cherishing my top priorities while finding ways to accept and challenge those cons seem to encourage me more. If I have what I NEED, what’s MOST important, my attitude can overcome what’s negative.
Pepper spray, perhaps a taser, Krav Maga classes and awareness of my surroundings will help me stay safe. I can stay alert, use the buddy system when walking around, feel confident in my self defense. Stay smart, build strength. I can proactively protect myself and make steps towards transforming my city back to the safe, beautiful city it once was. I can be part of the difference. Stay and fight for what I love instead of crack under the pressure of something bigger than me. I want to make a difference and I want to live where I love. I think in this scenario, I don’t need to change where I live because it isn’t working for me. Instead, I can change my attitude. Improve my ability to defend myself, strengthen my courage and strive for more accomplishment. Change not just for me, but for my neighbors as well. Staying means a chance to alter so much more than just my situation. I choose to stay and quit complaining. Unsafe and miserable is a choice. Unsafe and positive is a better one. That is what I will change. How can I enjoy my life when I’m stuck fantasizing about one that does not exist? My reality can be rewritten instead of ditched. Happiness is always my choice, and one I will choose forever.