Santa Monica Settles for More

Hush money: Playa Vista developer Maguire Thomas Partners has agreed to cough up a whopping $1.5 million for Santa Monica to use to deal with any traffic impacts caused by the huge project. And that's just for the first phase of city-within-a-city that will rise four miles down the road.

What traffic impacts? Good question. The project's environmental impact report didn't find many in Santa Monica, and said the few that were pinpointed could be fixed for $30,000.

Santa Monica planning officials, along with residents of two south Santa Monica neighborhoods, disagreed, and the city was poised to sue Maguire Thomas.

But Wednesday, the last day on which the city could sue to challenge the environmental report, the City Council emerged from closed session to announce the $1.5-million settlement.

How they got from $30,000 to $1.5 million is the stuff of closed-door negotiations. But this much has leaked out: A while back, the city was prepared to settle for a few hundred thousand, but the deal blew up because council members and community groups thought the sum insufficient. So Maguire Thomas representatives began meeting with council members and residents of the Ocean Park and Sunset Park neighborhoods, and the price of peace with the city went up.

Acting Santa Monica Planning Director Suzanne Frick said the money will be deposited in a neighborhood protection fund to deal with various traffic problems.

There's no word yet on how Culver City will react. Though much closer to the development, the city settled earlier with Maguire Thomas for what now looks like a skimpy $275,000.

Maguire Thomas senior partner Nelson Rising noted, however, that Culver City is also getting about $2.5 million worth of traffic mitigation for problems identified in the environmental report.

Rising said it is unfair to say that Santa Monica got the better deal. "You can't compare apples with oranges," he said.

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A plague of paparazzi : It was just another day at the Courthouse to the Stars, the Los Angeles County Superior Court building in Santa Monica.

In a first-floor courtroom Tuesday, attorneys wrestled over what was to become of the civil suit that accuses Michael Jackson of molesting a 12-year-old boy.

One flight up, actress Elke Sommer sat decorously in the first row of another courtroom, awaiting action on her defamation suit against Zsa Zsa Gabor.

So the entire building, of course, was crawling with reporters and photographers. Those in the latter group took turns aiming their powerful lenses through the narrow window slits of both courtroom doors.

And courthouse workers, of course, put on their best air of jaded contempt for the whole circus. After all, these things happen with such tedious frequency.

"They're scum, all of 'em," one clerk said of the media horde. "They don't give a damn if they walk over someone or not. Just watch."

Sniffed another veteran employee: "The last people I care about in the world are entertainers."

Still, the brouhaha had a way of interrupting the normal flow of business. Security guards working the metal detectors seemed particularly irked by all the extra traffic, and anxious attorneys checked their watches as the Jackson hearing dragged on before Judge David Rothman.

"Unless he takes us immediately after this is over, I'll be back after the lunch break," sighed Santa Monica Deputy City Atty. May Denitz.

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Going where the money is: President Clinton is coming to Beverly Hills Saturday for a $1,000-per-person Democratic National Committee fund-raiser at the Creative Artists Agency. What better time to rummage through the Beverly Hills presidential archives?

Clinton's idol, John F. Kennedy, held a similar function nearby on June 7, 1963: A DNC fund-raiser at the Beverly Hilton. The cost was $1,000 per couple--serious money in those days.

Luminaries attending included Jack Benny, Marlon Brando, Rock Hudson, Gene Kelly, Burt Lancaster, Dean Martin and a pair of performers who would later be known for their support of conservative causes and candidates--Charlton Heston and Jack Webb.

Party planning in 1963 wasn't the science it now is. Better-than-expected ticket sales caused organizers to move the dinner from the Star on the Roof and La Petit Escoffier rooms to the hotel's Grand Ballroom.

But oops! Less than three weeks before the event, it was learned that the ballroom was booked for the senior prom for Burbank's John Burroughs High School. Plans were quickly made to shift the prom to the Statler Hilton, but Kennedy's personal intervention restored both events to their original locations.

A few Republican anecdotes:

* In 1955, as vice president, Richard M. Nixon presided over the initial flag-raising ceremony at the Beverly Hilton, reminiscing about his boyhood days when the area occupied by the hotel was a barley field.

* In 1962, Nixon, who had moved to Beverly Hills after his loss to Kennedy in 1960, held one of his all-time-great news conferences at the Beverly Hilton. Winding up his post mortem of his unsuccessful gubernatorial bid against Edmund G. (Pat) Brown, he criticized newspaper coverage of the campaign and promised, "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore because, gentlemen, this is my last press conference."

* In 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower stayed at the Beverly Hilton in a suite that included three television sets, including a then-rare color unit.

* Then there was that Ronald Reagan fellow. He used to show up in Beverly Hills all the time. Still does sometimes.

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Seeking cutting-edge techies and masters of diplomacy: If two Beverly Hills councilmen have their way, a couple of new volunteer groups will make their debut soon, joining the 10 existing commissions and committees appointed by the council.

Mayor Maxwell Salter and Councilman Allan Alexander won tentative support at a recent council meeting for their proposals to create an office of protocol and a technology committee.

Noting that former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher recently passed through the city unheralded, Salter said a protocol office is needed to welcome and meet with dignitaries.

The city doesn't have the money or staff to devote to such hospitality efforts, but the benefits of a protocol office are both financial and social, he said.

Alexander, meanwhile, recommended that the council appoint a committee staffed by experts in technology to keep the city up to date.

Technology is developing that will allow residents and students to access the city's library from homes and schools, and interactive television will soon allow the community to express itself to the council on various issues, he said.

"We need to have the advice of experts to be ahead of other cities, he said. That can be accomplished, he said, "not by me and other council members reading articles (on technology), but by a committee" of experts.

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Contributing to this week's report were staff writers Nancy Hill-Holtzman and Steven Herbert and correspondents Jeff Kramer and G. Jeanette Avent.

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