With the return of Jazz on the Lawn, Santa Monica’s annual summer concert series, I wanted to share our pointers for a successful outing.
Free: Because there is no guilt in bailing if the concert was free.
Bring the stroller that has a tray. This is the only way I can compel Wilshire to eat. Otherwise there’s too much going on.
Finger Foods are Picnic-Friendly Foods! Think: Crudites with peanut butter and/or hummus; cheese; crackers; cold cuts, including salami or smoked salmon; diced fruit. Not: Rice, pasta, takeout from the Ralphs hot food bar (we’ve done it, it doesn’t end well).
Bring Friendsand Neighbors – or better yet, bring grandparents! Outdoor concerts like Jazz on the Lawn are all-ages, and therefore suitable for the grandparents! And I appreciate having the extra set of hands to follow kids around.
Bring a Blanket: This functions as an anchor for food and drinks.
Bug Spray: Not required for Santa Monica, but in many parts of the US, these outdoor concerts are during sunset, which is when bugs become abundant.
Vaccination rates are up overall in California (yay) – but not in Santa Monica. The number of kindergartners enrolled in school in Santa Monica actually fell this past school year (2018-2019), according to the Santa Monica Daily Press. This is disturbing. But a classic parenting approach calls for doling out praise as positive reinforcement. Therefore, Wilshire and I wish to thank the families who have taken shown the conviction to fully vaccinate their kids, and taken the time to report it properly to their children’s schools.
I also want to call out some impressive turnarounds from the 2017-2018 school year.
SMASH: This past year, over 95% of your kindergartners were properly vaccinated, up twenty entire percentage points. This is really interesting to me because it means I can actually seriously consider sending my child to your school.
Citizens of the World/Mar Vista: Your rate is up from 66% to 92%. While not at herd immunity, you’ve made major progress! You guys are doing something different.. Fewer than 10 kids in your kindergarten class are not fully up-to-date on vaccines. It’s still about 5 too many, but I am still impressed and wish to commend you for all your hard work.
I am not sure what happened here:
Garden of Angels, a private school north of Wilshire Blvd. Their rate is under 60%. They enroll 30 kindergartners, of which only half provided records to prove they received all of their vaccinations. The only upside is that 95% of their students have their MMR, so while it’s unlikely a measles epidemic can explode at this school, the same cannot be said for polio.
This is what Santa Monica preschool vaccination rates look like. Mt. Olive Preschool, a place I would’ve considered sending Wilshire to because they have a truly full day program, only has 70% of its students reporting as fully vaccinated. Perhaps there are more who are fully vaccinated but did not turn in their paperwork. Or maybe the school isn’t diligent in collecting and reporting this data. But given the kind of school-level scrutiny one can take here, it seems noteworthy to call out the schools that are actively trying to turn it around, like PS1 did a few years back.
Some other observations:
Which schools are more likely to lack herd immunity? Generally speaking, there’s a loose correlation between rates and wealth. Consider the story that can be told with these screengrabs from Santa Monica vs Van Nuys:
But there’s no fast-and-heavy rule about that.
What continues to be the only logical explanation for these disparities? It’s the State’s suspicion that there are families who are abusing the medical exemption provision of California’s current vaccination law – and doctors who are enabling this.
As I’ve written before, we know that California’s existing vaccination law has made a substantial difference in keeping Californians safe. Vaccines are critical to maintaining health and wellbeing. Vaccines prevent diseases that cause real harm. When families decide against vaccinations for their healthy children, they chip away at community immunity which protects our neighbors and friends who legitimately cannot be vaccinated. We continue to need the power of state government to close these loopholes before we have yet another outbreak, and I hope SB 276 passes really soon.
I recently sent this letter to support SB 276, a bill circulating through the California State Senate that would close the loophole that has been exploited by doctors who willingly sign off on unnecessary medical exemptions related to vaccines. The bill is presently with the Senate Appropriations Committee, which needs to receive our letters of support. And, frankly, if you live in a senate district like ours which lacks community immunity, you need to write to your State Senator too. He / she needs us our support as ‘cover’ for supporting a bill with very vocal opponents.
Dear Honorable Members of the California State Senate Appropriations Committee:
We are full-time working parents from Santa Monica who support Senate Bill 276, which would strengthen California’s existing vaccination law by allowing the state health department to vet medical exemptions filed by physicians to avoid vaccinating children.
SB 276 would further instruct the state health department to create a database of medical exemption requests. This would allow the state’s medical board to identify and investigate physicians who likely improperly granting medical exemptions.
We wish to register our support for SB 276.
SB 276 passed its first hurdle in late April and is now under review in the Senate Appropriations Committee. But we know that the voices of Californians opposed to SB 276 – can be deafening – even if they do not reflect the views of the majority.
My husband and I are seeing this first hand in our otherwise beautiful beachside community. Consider these geocoded maps of preschools (top) and kindergartners (bottom), distinguished by their vaccination percentages.
The worst offender west of the 405 freeway is Citizens of the World Charter School. In 2017, just 66% of their kindergartners had submitted documentation proving they had all of their vaccinations.
The second worst offender is the Santa Monica Alternative School House (SMASH), a SMMUSD public school.
The only logical explanation for these disparities? There are families who are abusing the medical exemption provision of California’s current vaccination law – and doctors who are enabling this.
We know that California’s existing vaccination law has made a substantial difference in keeping Californians safe. In the current measles outbreak plaguing our great nation (839 cases as of May 10, and sadly rising), just 45 cases have been reported here in California. New York City alone has over 300. We’ve come a long way from the 2015 outbreak. But, the number of cases in California should’ve been zero. As it stands, the LA County Department of Public Health had to order several hundred students and staff at two universities (UCLA and Cal State LA) to quarantine themselves to limit the spread of this highly infectious disease.
Lastly, managing these outbreaks comes at substantial cost to taxpayers. The LA Times reported on May 10 that the current outbreak has cost over $400,000 in staff time. According to Dr. Jan King from the LA County Department of Public Health, local municipalities can can quickly run up a bill that gets into several millions of dollars – dollars that could be better spent elsewhere.
Vaccines are critical to maintaining health and wellbeing. Vaccines prevent diseases that cause real harm. When families decide against vaccinations for their healthy children, they chip away at community immunity which protects our neighbors and friends who legitimately cannot be vaccinated. We need the power of state government to close these loopholes before we have yet another outbreak.
Please vote YES to advance SB 276 for a Senate-wide vote.
I recently wrote about the Big Blue Bus’s updated stroller policy for the City of Santa Monica’s blog. The policy is actually very progressive. Not only do you not have to fold your child’s stroller once on board, you can ask the operator to deploy the bus’s wheelchair ramp for you.
Santa Monica is now only one of three operators in the County of Los Angeles (out of almost two dozen) that do not require you to fold the stroller once on board. The other two are Los Angeles Metro and the Glendale Beeline.
By the way, the Glendale Beeline (nine fixed routes) actually has a dedicated page on their website which spells out how to ride transit with a stroller and I had no trouble locating this from navigating their website, which is excellent.
We stayed very local during the month of March, as our transit-oriented trips were limited to Downtown Santa Monica. Downtown Santa Monica is a world-renowned destination but there is still plenty of reasons to visit even if you live nearby.
Santa Monica Main Library to celebrate Read Across America and Dr. Seuss’s birthday
Each year, the library partners with our local Kiwanis club to celebrate Read Across America. Read Across America also coincides with Dr. Seuss’s birthday. In Santa Monica’s version, we welcomed a kid-friendly comic/magician, a volunteer agreed to dress up as the Cat In the Hat for photos, and Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis read her favorite Dr. Seuss book as part of her Let’s Read With Gleam! series. Our family took the Big Blue Bus to the Main Library so that we could enjoy the festivities and I could take some photos to post to social media.
Coming back, we rode the bus with my friend from work Robyn and her son. I was reminded once again that one of the benefits of riding transit with children is the opportunity to travel together with other families without the hassles of dealing with cars and car seats.
Fire Station BBQ
On March 17, the Santa Monica Fire Department threw a big party, complete with an elaborate Santa Maria-style bbq, to celebrate 130 years of service to the community at its fire station in downtown Santa Monica. Juan, Wilshire and I took the Big Blue Bus to check out the festivities. The event was free, so we invited other families from daycare, including Wilshire’s bestie Arabella. SMFD was so gracious in its hospitality. Their staff was super supportive when I gathered them for some group shots (the photos later made it into the City’s Instagram feed and this blog post).
Santa Monica Pier & Pacific Park
Big Blue Bus comes through for the Matutes once again, this time for breakfast at Jinky’s Cafe on 2nd St. and some rides at Pacific Park with family friends! Wilshire loved riding the iconic ferris wheel. He also wanted to be held like a baby.
We’re getting a children’s museum in Santa Monica! And it’s super accessible by both train AND bus!
The Cayton Children’s Museum (formerly known as the Zimmer Museum Presented by Sharewell) had its last day at its old location in Mid-Wilshire in late February. It is on track to open in its new location on the third floor of Santa Monica Place on June 1.
You should consider taking public transportation to visit the Cayton. The Cayton touts its proximity to Expo Rail, but what about those of us who live nowhere near a light rail station? The bus, I’m telling you!
Within one block of the museum, there are twelve bus routes operated by 3 agencies, providing one-bus access to communities as far west as Malibu; north as West Hills in the San Fernando Valley; east as Commerce and East LA, and south as LAX and Inglewood.
Big Blue Bus: 20 bus routes serving the Westside
Route 1: Westwood to Santa Monica via Santa Monica Blvd.
Route 2: Westwood to Santa Monica via Wilshire Blvd.
Wilshire Matute likes to walk in his neighborhood. He will walk with us to the park, CVS, daycare, the cleaners, and the mailbox. He likes walking to the bus stop and the Expo Line station too. But make no mistake: Wilshire is not a wunderkind walking enthusiast. These destinations fall neatly within Wilshire Matute’s Toddler Walkshed.
Eric Feldman, a DC-based urban planner, was probably the first to write about toddler walksheds, which he defined loosely as the distance that a curious and perpetually-distracted toddler can navigate city streets on foot in 10-20 minutes, all the while insisting that her parent pushes an empty stroller – and safely.
In my mobility planning circles, we talk about “pedestrian sheds” as a metric to evaluate a neighborhood’s livability and walkability. In drawing these sheds, we ask: What kinds of quality destinations can you reach within a five-minute walk? And safely too?
The racially and socioeconomically diverse San Fernando Valley neighborhood I lived in as a teenager puts this to test. It has many noteworthy destinations within a quarter-mile, including a full-service bank and grocery store. However, accessing them necessitates walking along a stretch of street without sidewalks and then along a busy boulevard lacking street trees, which is simply brutal in the summer heat the Valley is well-known for.
Things are different in the part of Santa Monica I am so grateful to call home.
Wilshire’s Toddler Walkshed is probably on the lower-end, an amorphous shape that is roughly ⅓ of a mile from home and roughly 5 to 10 minutes in any given direction. As Wilshire gets older, I am optimistic that his walkshed will get a little wider. (It has to. There’s a Trader Joe’s opening 0.6 miles away – although who am I fooling, we’ll probably use a stroller to haul the groceries home.)
Here are some field notes from walking around the neighborhood with Wilshire:
Did you know that kids can join the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) for free? Through its NextGen program, which is generously funded through private philanthropy, kids can get into the museum free until s/he turns 18. And, the membership includes one free general admission, presumably to allow an adult to accompany the child (this is worth $20)
We took the Metro 720 from the house to LACMA on a Saturday morning. The trip door-to-door, including a brisk trot to the bus stop, was about 35 minutes.
We spent about 90 minutes at the museum before finding lunch.. First, we went to the Boone Children’s Gallery, where Wilshire painted with Japanese water colors for about 40 minutes. Then, we checked out Metropolis, an intense, kinetic sculpture modeled after a high-rise city with lots of cars and TRAINS moving at speeds of up to 240 mph. Wilshire loved it.
Even with the NextGen membership, visiting LACMA can get expensive really quickly if you have to pay for adult admission, parking ($12/car) or for lunch. Save money by bringing in your own food, including your own milk. (A milk box is $4.) We took the bus, which worked out to $3.50 round trip for me.
Los Angeles County Museum of Art 5905 Wilshire Blvd. Los Angeles, CA 90036 www.lacma.org
Mayor Gleam Davis, herself a mom, wants to share her passion for literacy and education with the Santa Monica community. So, for the duration of her term as mayor, Mayor Gleam is going to read with us. Let’s Read will rotate on a monthly basis around all five branches throughout the City throughout her term in 2019, and will involve both adults and children.
Seuss-a-Bration Santa Monica Public Library – Main Library 601 Santa Monica Blvd. Saturday, March 2, from 10am – 12pm Served by Big Blue Bus 1, 2, 3, 5, 7, R7, 9, 18
P.S. Want to know how I keep up with cool happenings in Santa Monica? I’m subscribed to SaMoNews, the City of Santa Monica’s biweekly newsletter. It’s chock-full of cool, free events happening around Santa Monica.
UPDATE 5/19: Big Blue Bus has updated its stroller policy! BBB is Stroller Friendly! You can leave your kid in the stroller on a space-permitting basis!!!
At just under three years old, Wilshire Matute is a seasoned transit rider. Thank goodness. We live extremely close to multiple bus routes with frequent service, serving destinations I would rather not travel to by car, like my doctor’s offices, UCLA, and Downtown Santa Monica (only one of the best pedestrian environments in America.)
I wanted to put up a fun post about some of the places we take transit to. We live within walking distance to daycare, so most of our transit rides happen on weekends. Here’s a sampling of destinations within the past month.
Downtown Santa Monica
We often take the Big Blue Bus into Downtown Santa Monica to go shopping, eat out, or meet up with friends.
West Los Angeles Farmers Market
Located near the Felicia Mahood Senior Center, the West LA Farmers Market operates on Sunday mornings and is served by about 20 vendors. They have the best tamales and crepes. Wilshire also really likes the art table there, which always has a great supply of markers, crayons, paints, and glitter.
Trader Joe’s in West LA
The service on the route is not the greatest, but the wait is okay when you wait for the bus at the stop with a direct view of the Bundy Expo station, and 4 trains go by.
Note: I usually bring my City Mini stroller with me on these solo trips to the grocery store. I can’t risk Wilshire demanding to be carried while I am also hauling home a week’s worth of groceries. It is not easy to bring a stroller onto a city bus. But Big Blue Bus has made it somewhat easier because they do not require families to fold their strollers until after they have boarded the bus, and the drivers are usually gracious enough to kneel the bus or deploy the wheelchair ramp so I can push my stroller and groceries on board. I have done this often enough to always bring sturdy bags with zip tops, so I never risk items falling out.
Crafts classes at Michaels’
I discovered in late November that Michaels’, the nationwide arts and crafts hobby store, offers drop-in arts and crafts projects for kids on Saturday mornings for the modest price of just $2 for children ages 3-6 and $5 for children 6 and over.
To Grandmother’s House We Go
In our most ambitious trip ever, we took three types of trains – light rail, heavy rail, and commuter rail – from our home in Santa Monica to see my husband’s family. Wilshire stood the whole time.