MAY

 

The Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor Plan (LiNC) added a bus lane to the street from I-10 to the city limits on Ozone Avenue during rush hour. The plans call for adding a bus lane during the rush hour commute by eliminating parking between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. for westbound traffic.

A driver hit a pedestrian walking across Montana Avenue at 15th. Police said the driver was making a left turn onto Montana when his car hit a woman walking northbound in the crosswalk. The driver was traveling under 15 miles an hour when the crash happened and the pedestrian was alert when she was taken to the hospital.

A former landlord paid the City $30,000 to settle a tenant harassment lawsuit involving a rent-controlled apartment on Ocean Avenue. The harassment was alleged to have begun after the new landlord purchased the building in 2015.

Santa Monica parents, educators and concerned residents were invited to educational events about the current realities of underage drinking and drug use at teen parties. The events followed a pair of local youth deaths tied to drugs.

The City passed a new ordinance to maintain water neutrality – meaning thousands of new showers and toilets would not increase Santa Monica’s overall demand on water resources. The rules will require all new developments to be water neutral: meaning the new structures must stay within the same water usage as previous use of the property or pay a fee.

Major cell phone providers approached the City to install so-called “small cells” throughout the City. The Public Works department is processing 136 applications, anticipating as many as 300 over the next two years and 600 over the next five years. The small cells convert slow radio waves to fast light waves improving reception in the city.

For the first time in nearly 70 years, western snowy plovers nested on Los Angeles County beaches. The first nest was found on Santa Monica State Beach, followed by discovery of a nest on Dockweiler State Beach on and two nests on Malibu Lagoon State Beach  Following their discovery, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists installed small wire cages around each nest to protect the eggs from predators and human disturbance.

The Bay Foundation and the City completed the Wild Beach Restoration Pilot Program along a section of local beach. The two organizations held an opening ceremony for the project and have been working to ensure the pilot project would highlight the coastal ecosystem.

The Tinder Box closed. The store lasted nearly 90-years and its neon sign was moved to Las Vegas where it will be repaired and restored and placed in the museum.

Santa Monica’s tourism industry continued to grow and officials framed the hospitality industry as a reproach to national/international fears of discrimination. Total visitor spending increased by 1.6 percent in 2016 to $1.87 billion according to the annual report by Santa Monica Travel and Tourism. Of the visitors coming to the city, 47 percent are international and 53 percent domestic. The top five markets visiting Santa Monica are Australia/New Zealand (12.9 percent), England (10.2 percent), Canada (9.4 percent), Mexico (7.5 percent) and Scandinavia (7.5 percent).

Santa Monica High School canceled a series of planned assemblies presented by The Foundation for a Drug-Free World after concerned parents learned of the nonprofit’s affiliation with the Church of Scientology. The foundation had already conducted two assemblies for 9th and 10th grade students when the controversy reached a breaking point, causing the principal to cancel the next three assemblies in the series.

Los Angeles resident Sherwin M Espinosa was arrested for the murder of Juan Sebastian Castillo, an 18-year-old Santa Monica High School graduate who was shot and killed in the Pico Neighborhood. Investigators said Espinosa, a convicted felon, had an Uzi pistol in his possession that matches the weapon used the night of the shooting.

Bourget Bros celebrated its anniversary. After a $300 investment to start the business in 1947 the company remains a family operation.

A homeless man was sentenced to 20 years in state prison for the 2016 stabbing of an employee at Pier Burger. Calvin Earl Gullett, 34, entered no contest pleas for two counts of assault with a deadly weapon and one count of second degree robbery. Gullett entered Pier Burger in 2016, demanded free food and when he was denied, he walked into the restaurant’s kitchen and assaulted an employee.

Community Corp of Santa Monica announced plans to retrofit some ocean view apartments it purchased from the City to be zero-net energy. Along with plans to open up some walls, seismically retrofit and make 1616 Ocean Avenue ADA compliant, plans for the refurbishment include installing solar panels on the roof that will power the residences and common areas. Council voted to contribute $50,000 toward the $200,000 cost.

Santa Monica’s population grew by just 309 residents in the last year according to numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau. According to the estimates, Santa Monica’s population increased from 92,169 to 92,478 as of July 1, 2016. The City had a population of 89,736 at the time of the 2010 Census. Santa Monica’s small numbers are in contrast to the 27,173 individuals that moved into the city of Los Angeles growing their population to 3,976,322.

A Federal District Court judge dismissed an elderly woman’s lawsuit against Santa Monica’s restrictive AirBnb ordinance Wednesday, further delaying the case that objects to the law under the California Coastal Act. The plaintiffs retained the right to refile the case.

 

JUNE

 

Brian Morgan was charged with the attempted murder of two Santa Monica residents related to home invasion robberies in the NOMA neighborhood. Morgan was charged with three counts of first-degree residential robbery, assault with a deadly weapon – a hammer – and first-degree burglary among others. The incidents prompted neighbors to increase private security patrols in the city’s richest area.

The Santa Monica Police Department concluded the pilot program for body worn cameras and entered a research phase to determine if cameras should become standard equipment for all officers. During the trial period, officers participating in the program were encouraged to activate their cameras anytime they felt it was appropriate including any major incident, searches of people or property, during adversarial encounters or during large crowd control operations.

The iconic Santa Monica High School SS Viking, a symbol of graduation for years, sailed into the sunset. Every year a group of men have worked together to construct the 28 feet tall and 34-foot long blue and gold ship but after two decades of work and no kids of their own left to graduate, the tradition retired this year.

A local woman received help from a local company after installing a security device on her apartment door. The woman installed a Ring security camera and the company CEO stepped in to help fund her defense after her landlord threatened legal action over the device. The landlord ultimately backed down and the camera remained in place.

Plans for redeveloping Bergamot Station returned to Council. Council discussed the conceptual plan for the site, extended the negotiation agreement with the developer while an arts center management plan is developed and entered into an interim agreement for the master ground lease. However, all three decisions were described as part of preliminary steps that would take several years to complete.

Some students on the Westside, including students at Palisades High School, Marymount, and Santa Monica High School had to retake the ACT test. The students took the test in Los Angeles but test organizers lost at least some of the answers from one day of test.

The Rent Control Board voted unanimously to pass a $40 amount cap on rent increases for the year. The Board set the 2017 General Adjustment at two percent. The adjustment is calculated to be 75 percent of the annual change in the Consumer Price Index for the greater Los Angeles area which the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported was 2.7 percent.

A Santa Monica man ended up with a gunshot wound to his face outside a local bar. The strange call reached police when a friend of the victim living in New York called NYPD to report his friend had been shot. Investigators concluded the man shot himself in a nearby apartment and walked out onto the street to receive aid.

Two people were taken to the hospital after a bizarre series of events in downtown Santa Monica that started with road rage and ended with a carjacking and then an arrest. A driver exited his vehicle to argue with a bicyclist but left the car running. The suspect then jumped into the car and hit the car’s owner and an unrelated pedestrian while trying to escape.

A federal judge allowed a RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) case to move forward against NMS Properties, its CEO Neil Shekhter and his wife, Margot. The RICO case is currently on hold while a dueling lawsuit makes its way through local courts but will resume when it’s over. The judge denied NMS’s three motions to dismiss and stayed the corruption case until a separate lawsuit involving NMS and a hedge fund works through an appeal in Los Angeles Superior Court.

As has become an unfortunate habit, a pair of local beaches continued to score poorly for their environmental health. Heal the Bay’s annual Beach Report Card rated the Santa Monica Pier and a beach in Marina Del Rey poorly due to perpetual concerns. Beaches were ranked according to levels of harmful bacteria found in the water.

Santa Monica’s historic Post Office building was put up for sale again. SkyDance Productions purchased the property in 2014 for about $27 million and has received entitlements to modify the building. However, the company said it had already outgrown the space and won’t occupy the site. The company had received permits to expand the site but put the building back on the market before significant construction work began.

Two men were arrested following a violent altercation at a downtown parking lot that left the victim hospitalized with several stab wounds. The victim was identified as someone affiliated with the Alt-Right movement and social media reports suggested he was stabbed for his race or political views but SMPD said the attack was a result of a traffic accident.

A lawsuit challenging the way voters choose their Councilmembers in Santa Monica continued, despite a City effort to have the suit thrown out of court. A Superior Court judge overruled the City Attorney’s objections that the suit based on the California Voting Rights Act (CVRA) is invalid. The Pico Neighborhood Association brought the lawsuit against the City in 2016 in an effort to force Santa Monica to change to district-based elections.

Santa Monica Police Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks said the popular Twilight Concerts had become a safety hazard. The Chief said the events have grown beyond the capabilities of local agencies and she requested a security analysis from the Department of Homeland Security to help guide security plans at future shows. Concert organizers disputed crowd size estimates and said the shows are a safe, responsible public event.

The Santa Monica Police Department moved forward with plans to purchase body cameras for the force. The overwhelming majority of officers in a pilot program saw a significant benefit to the technology and officers thought the presence of the cameras improved both citizen’s behavior and their own.

Council chose to move forward with a temporary field at the Civic Center Auditorium with plans to explore additional field space at Memorial Park. A unanimous council picked the temporary field from among six options at an estimated cost of $8.6 million with about a 10-year lifespan. The proposal’s largest problem, removal of hundreds of parking spots, will be discussed with the various constituents.

Police investigated a reported stabbing near the intersection of 5th and Santa Monica. Officers found a victim at the intersection, conscious and breathing, who was transported to a local hospital.

The Santa Monica – Malibu Unified School District Board of Education appointed Dr. Ashley Benjamin the new McKinley Elementary School Principle.

Santa Monica hired Lane Dilg as the new City Attorney following the retirement of former City Attorney Marsha. She formerly served as Senior Counsel to UCLA, spent four years as an Assistant United States Attorney in the United States Attorney’s Central District Office in California and served as Counsel to the United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary. Her experience also includes time as a civil litigator at the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and Susman Godfrey, LLP.

City Council unanimously approved a $774.9 million budget for fiscal year 2017/18 and $802.8 million for the next. Council funneled money toward specific priorities including parks, homeless services and pedestrian safety. Pensions and worker’s compensation were the most significant pressures on the budget.

 

JULY

 

Six acres of airport land were reopened to the public following the removal of aircraft parking from the site. City Hall has approved plans for a 12-acre redevelopment at the airport and one six-acre lot was opened while the larger plans work through the regulatory system.

The Big Blue Bus moved forward with new rates aimed at incentivizing cashless payment across the system. The changes include reducing the regular one-way trip from $1.25 to $1.10 for customers who use a TAP card instead of cash, a new Annual Pass for $500, introduction of Blue to Business – BBB’s Employer Annual Pass Program, discontinuation of single-use tokens and introduction of a new 1-Ride Pass that is TAP enabled. The changes come as ridership continues to decline on bus systems and staff said incentivizing the TAP card over cash improves service overall.

A pair of local memorials to veterans of World War I and World War II were restored thanks to efforts by Squadron 283 of the Sons of the American Legion. The Pacific Palisades based organization held a rededication ceremony for the WWI memorial and the refurbishment is part of a national effort by veterans’ organizations to maintain the memory of soldiers who fought more than a century ago.

The City Council accepted a $10 million payment to conclude a longstanding settlement between the city and the former owners of the Paper Mate factory. Proctor & Gamble had been making annual payments and had up to 22 years to pay off the entire sum but chose to make a single payment to conclude the case.

Los Angeles and Paris agreed to a plan for hosting the 2024 and 2028 Summer Olympic Games. Paris will host the first games and Los Angeles will host in 2028. Local Olympic organizers plan to use a variety of existing venues for the various events and Santa Monica is envisioned as a host for beach volleyball with construction of a temporary stadium next to the pier.

City Council approved the Downtown Community Plan. Council kept a trio of opportunity sites earmarked for larger development, maintained ground level commercial use in the downtown area and streamlined housing development up to 75,000 feet. The new rules specify individual projects in the Downtown must set aside up to 35 percent of their total units as affordable housing depending on the size and location of the project. Under the new rules, projects of less than 50 feet will have a 20 percent requirement for onsite housing and 25 percent for offsite. The percentages increase by one percent per two foot in height and any project between 70 – 84 feet will have to provide 30 percent onsite or 35 percent offsite.

A former Santa Monica resident brought his air travel company back to the city. Blackbird offers Three services at several California airports available to users who download an app for a smartphone. The first service offers a single seat on a specific route. The second service crowdsources customers for a custom charter. The third is a standard charter rental.

Artist Bumblebee’s Santa Monica family grew with a temporary art installation on Colorado near the former Sears building. The installation is the first part of a two phase revitalization of the area begun by Council when they approved two pilot programs in partnership with Downtown Santa Monica Inc. In addition to rotating art by Sears, public art is installed along the Promenade.

The nation’s toxic racial politics came to Santa Monica. The problem started small with about five individuals making racist and anti-Semitic at a meeting hosted by The Committee for Racial Justice. CRJ reexamined how they conduct their events with an eye towards greater security but their next event drew significantly larger protests. However, the Santa Monica community rallied and the third consecutive event was overwhelmed by locals rejecting racism. The event drew a large, preemptive police response but a rumored crowd of far right, anti-Semitic and racist protesters did not materialize leaving the park almost entirely to a boisterous group of locals and some bewildered spectators.

Beautify Earth was honored with the Cultural Tourism Champion Award from California Travel Association. The award highlights the impact on tourism through either performance art or visual arts. Previous Cultural Tourism Champion winners include San Francisco Museum of Modern Art and Laura Zucker of the Los Angeles County Arts Commission. The award recognizes an entertainer, musician, event, festival or individual artists in ceramics, painting, printmaking, design, photography, video, filmmaking, architecture or a related institution. The award recognizes an entity or artist significantly impacting the building of the California Brand and visitation through the Arts.

City Hall approved a new program to help some of the city’s most at need renters stay in their homes. The Preserving Our Diversity program will provide financial aid to low-income, long-term residents, aged 62 and older, who live in rent controlled apartments.

 

AUGUST

 

The city’s electrical vehicle community rallied in opposition to the proposed construction of several charging stations in the city’s beach adjacent lots. To qualify for a pilot program with Southern California Edison the city has to install chargers in the Civic Center parking lot and in the beach lots but local drivers want more chargers in neighborhoods.

Whole Foods Market opened their new store at Pico/Cloverfield. The Pico store replaced the location at 5th/Wilshire that closed at the same time. The new Pico store is part of Whole Foods’ 365 concept and differs from the established Whole Foods model offering a mix of grab-and-go prepared foods and grocery items. The location also includes a Groundwork coffee bar and Asian Box, which offers 100 percent gluten-free, Asian-inspired street food.

A local man was assaulted at the beachfront chess park as the location became a hotbed of crime. Drug sales became a common feature of the park as did lewd activity and threats of violence. Problems at the park have persisted despite attempts by officials to clean up the area.

The Huntley Hotel received one of the largest fines in state history for violating election law. The hotel had to pay $310,000 for 62 violations pertaining to political fundraising in the 2012 and 2014 elections. According to the FPPC, the Huntley engaged in a pattern of behavior to support candidates and causes that it hoped would oppose development at the neighboring

Fairmont Hotel. The Huntley illegally channeled donations through employees and affiliated businesses over several years totaling more than $97,000. The issue prompted Council to ask for a review of the way donations are handled in the city.

A 47-year-old homeless man, Christopher Charles Davis, was shot by police after shooting and killing a second man near the intersection of Main Street and Strand Street. Davis survived and was arrested for murder, attempted murder and being a felon in possession of a firearm.

Big Dean’s Ocean Front Café received approval for an expansion. The work includes an expansion to its bar, additional restaurant seating and an upgrade to its kitchen facilities. The restaurant’s expansion followed an application by Starbucks to occupy the opposite side of its retail block.

The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District worked through the summer on multiple renovations to improve various facilities. The district did major construction at eight school sites, all funded by Measure BB and ES. Overall the Maintenance Department completed over $600,000 in maintenance projects.

Officials approved establishing a new bus-only lane on Lincoln Blvd. with the hope of sparking regional interest in the project. The dedicated lane will operate on weekdays only. The right lane on Lincoln will be cleared of traffic/ parked cars from 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. northbound and 4 – 7 p.m. southbound from Ozone to Bay Street. Staff said the restrictions could decrease travel times by up to eight minutes.

St. Monica High School kicked off the new school year with new principal James Spellman. Former principal Michele Rice worked at SMCHS in a variety of administrative and student support roles for two decades, including the past two years as principal. She now continues her support of students as a program director for Onward Scholars, working closer to home.

Locals gathered at Virginia Ave Park to witness the solar eclipse. The Pico Branch library provided spectators with special eclipse glasses but many showed up with a variety of home-made viewers for what became and impromptu astronomy lesson.

Carlo’s Bakery, a Hoboken business run by Buddy Velsastro and his family who star on the TLC show, “Cake Boss” announced plans to open on the Promenade. The bakery’s arrival aligns with city efforts to encourage restaurants to open locations with outdoor seating in downtown Santa Monica. Later in the year, the bakery was joined by another celebrity shop when Taylor Swift opened a pop-up store on the same street.

Santa Monica’s public safety employees had a tragic and busy week including a deadly crash on the Pacific Coast Highway, a train vs. car accident on Colorado and the arrest of an individual connected to a year-old fatality also on the PCH. In the first incident, a pedestrian was killed when he walked onto the busy freeway, in the second a car made an illegal left turn in front of a train but no-one was hurt. In the third incident, officers arrested a man for vehicular manslaughter in connection with a 2016 crash.

City Hall obtained an injunction against a local property manager accused of harassing a disabled tenant. The lawsuit alleged the landlords tried to disrupt the already-challenging daily routine of a mother taking care of her severely developmentally disabled daughter.

Gilead Sciences paid $11.9 billion in cash to buy Kite Pharma and plant a stake in an emerging area of cancer treatments that train a patient’s immune cells to attack tumors. Kite’s portfolio of potential treatments includes one for the blood cancer lymphoma. The local company specializes in developing treatments that are custom-made to target a patient’s cancer.

The Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office secured a $3.6 million settlement with a local company accused deceptive sales practices. According to the settlement, $1,289,500 will be paid to the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office and another $1,289,500 will go the Santa Monica District Attorney’s Office for penalties and investigative costs.

 

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