The Albright celebrated its 40th anniversary. The restaurant was founded in 1977 as Santa Monica Pier Seafood and is now owned by the second-generation Greg and Yunnie Morena.

The City Council added rabbits, rats and spiders to the long list of animals banned from performing at popular tourist areas in the city. The exotic animal ban includes areas at the Beach, Ocean Front Walk, the Pier, the Third Street Promenade and Transit Mall. Exotic animals were first banned in 2015 following public outcry.

The Santa Monica Police Department deployed an additional team of officers to the downtown area because of a sharp increase in theft downtown. Property crimes increased in the downtown area and the police action was the first of the year in what became an ongoing trend.

Twenty development projects in Santa Monica’s eight square miles changed hands after the city’s largest apartment builder announced a major split. NMS Properties ceded managerial and operational control of all pending market-rate and affordable housing developments to a new company, WNMS Communities, Inc. NMS’s former Executive Vice President, Scott Walter was named CEO of the spin-off company. NMS Properties and CEO Neil Shekhter continued to manage existing buildings but was not part of the new company.

Santa Monica College (SMC) released a new round of information about their proposed Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) at the Civic Center site. The college said it had chosen Growing Place as the operator of the Santa Monica Early Childhood Lab School. Growing Place is a nonprofit organization based in Santa Monica that already collaborates with SMC on the SMC Teacher Academy. Officials said their goal is a minimum of 30 percent local enrollment and at least 15 percent enrollment for low income families.

Jon Kean formally took his seat as the newest member of the SMMUSD school board. Kean along with re-elected members Maria Leon-Vazquez and Ralph Mechur took the oath of office for a four-year term last month and while Vazquez and Mechur were incumbents in the election, Kean is new to the leadership role. Kean was the only challenger to qualify for a vacant seat on the board last year. He was appointed to the position and the district chose to cancel the 2016 election.

Santa Monica’s largest apartment owner fired another shot in the battle over ownership of nine luxury properties in Santa Monica and Los Angeles, accusing Boston based hedge fund AEW Capital Management of a “sophisticated conspiracy” to steal the properties. NMS Properties’ CEO Neil Shekhter accused AEW of conspiring with real estate investors to eventually “flip” the buildings to make more than $100 million in profit. The buildings were developed as part of a joint venture between Shekhter and AEW in 2010 and remain at the center of a complicated web of lawsuits, contracts and judgements.

Longtime Santa Monica philanthropist Louise B. Gabriel died. Gabriel spent more than 50 years giving back to the community with a particular focus on preserving local history including founding the Santa Monica History Museum and donating profits from her two history books to the organization. Louise worked alongside her husband, Bob, to bring the Santa Monica History Museum into existence as a place to display the city’s history.

Council adopted new language that requires homeowners using services like Airbnb to publicly register with the city. Prior to the new rules, home-shares had to register with the City but could opt out of publicizing their decision. The public list is part of an effort to track down and cite illegal online vacation rentals. In 2015, City Hall outlawed converting residential homes into vacation homes but allows homesharing where the host remains in the house while guests stay.

Despite rainy weather and news of the drought tapering off in Northern California Santa Monica managed a 23 percent savings in water use compared with the year before, putting the city’s cumulative savings at 20 percent. The city enjoyed more rainfall over the winter months than it had in previous years. While Los Angeles remained exceptionally dry, less than 60 percent of California was in a drought for the first time since April 2013. A parade of Pacific storms filled rivers, dropped snow in the Sierras and filled major reservoirs in Northern California, effectively ending the drought for those areas.

Santa Monica High School graduate Tessa Vinson became part of the prestige, history and tradition surrounding the office of the President thanks to her role with “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. Staff Sgt. Vinson is the oboe player for the band and it’s part of her job to provide music for the United States President including at inaugurations, state events and receptions. Vinson grew up in Santa Monica attending Franklin, Lincoln and Samohi.

The city of Santa Monica hired Lindsay Barker as Chief Resilience Officer (CRO). The new position has a long list of responsibilities: emergency management, overseeing the 911 dispatch center, planning for unexpected disasters, and addressing long-term stresses on the City. To create the position, Santa Monica eliminated the Emergency Services Manager who would traditionally oversee operation of the 911 call center and plan for unexpected emergencies.

City Council voted to allocate $22,000 in matching funds to mural projects led by Beautify

Earth. The non-profit started as a local effort to beautify Lincoln Boulevard, but has since expanded to a global force. Beautify Earth had painted 50 murals in Santa Monica and the city approved enough money to do five murals in the Mid City area on Broadway and Colorado Boulevard and five on Pico Boulevard.

The City Attorney’s office issued a $500 fine to Councilman Terry O’Day over campaign contributions made during the 2016 election. Local watchdog organization, The Transparency Project, filed two complaints against O’Day alleging he accepted money from individuals who received contracts from the Council while O’Day was behind the dais. Both contributions were for $340 and both were ruled a violation despite O’Day returning the money.

The Sears store at 302 Colorado Ave. announced it would close in April. The closure followed the sale of the location to a real estate investment company in 2015.

The YWCA property near Pico and 14th was sold to Santa Monica College (SMC). The SMC Board approved $5 million for the purchase. The Santa Monica YWCA closed in June of 2016 due to a persistent funding shortfall.

Santa Monican Stephen Miller made headlines as a senior advisor to President Trump. The former local made headlines for his antics at Santa Monica High School and later anti-immigrant statements as part of the administration.

Santa Monica reported an increase in serious crime. Part 1 crimes (including murder, arson, burglary, assault, and grand theft auto) increased 5.5 percent in the city, to a total of 4,515 incidents in 2016. Nearly 90 percent of those incidents are property related and the City’s downtown business area is seeing the most concentrated problem.

For the first time in its history, the Santa Monica Homeless Count had to close registration early because of a flood of volunteers who wanted to help with the annual count that takes place on Wednesday. The City had no problem recruiting 250 people to count the homeless well before the Jan. 18 deadline to sign up.

JetsuiteX announced plans to start charter jet service at Santa Monica Airport. However, the City of Santa Monica opposed the plans and the service eventually abandoned Santa Monica after the city voted to shorten the runway.

The City of Santa Monica negotiated the authority to close the Santa Monica Airport on Dec. 31, 2028. Council announced a deal with the Federal Aviation Administration and the United States government that dissolved all pending legal disputes between the agencies and sets a date for closing the facility. The agreement itself has been the subject of continued legal wrangling since its creation.

Some business at Bergamot Station began the New Year on shaky ground. The new landlords began passing through higher property taxes for tenants on the privately owned portion of the complex. Some tenants ultimately closed while others either shouldered the new costs or filed hardship cases. The passthroughs occurred after longtime property owner and Bergamot Founder Wayne Blank sold his stake in the project after becoming disenchanted with the City’s plans for the site.




The City moved forward with plans to improve data and metrics across departments as part of an initiative to measure wellbeing and improve Santa Monicans’ daily lives. The Wellbeing Index began with a $1 million grant from Bloomberg Philanthropies and guidance from the RAND Corporation and expanded in 2017.

Parts of California saw the wettest January in 112 years of record. The city kept current drought restrictions, including penalties for overuse. While the picture improved statewide, Los Angeles County remained in extreme drought.

Santa Monica based Westside Rentals was sold to the CoStar Group, operator of Apartments.com. The new owners said the local company will keep its Santa Monica headquarters. The company said it would decrease focus on its brokerage sales and leasing services to maximize its inventory of available rental properties.

An alcohol use permit became a source of controversy as Planning Commission debated allowing a restaurant inside the Shore Hotel. The Commission questioned if the license would contribute to concerns over the hotel’s permitting but the permits were eventually issued. The decision was appealed to City Council who also sided with the restaurant.

The School District handled a contagious illness outbreak. Public Health officials suspected the symptoms could have been caused by Norovirus. Children and adults began showing symptoms after returning from a field trip and the disease spread to other schools over several weeks. Some extracurricular activities were suspended for several weeks.

The City of Santa Monica hired Ayde Gonzalez as the new Neighborhood Preservation Coordinator for the City of Santa Monica. The job is a full-time city position designed to help keep local renters in their homes.

A hedge fund accused NMS Properties of acting like a “criminal enterprise” that operates through forgeries, lies, threats and sham lawsuits. The lawsuit filed by AEW alleges NMS’s CEO Neil Shekhter’s misdeeds go far beyond submitting forged documents to the court. The lawsuit claims he has sent fake contracts to banks and lenders to confuse the terms of a joint venture agreement (JVA) between the two companies worth more than half a billion dollars.

A report showed the City of Santa Monica struggled to meet its affordable housing quota, a ratio set by voters back in 1990 when they passed Proposition R. During the 2016 fiscal year, developers built seven new apartment buildings in the City. Prop R requires thirty percent of all new multi-family housing go to middle or low income households. With 175 new apartments open for rent in 2016, only 34 of them were below market-rate, or just 19 percent. This was the third year in a row the City has failed to meet the benchmark.

The City Council reviewed new rules to streamline the building of accessory units and bring local ordinances into line with a new state law. The law, Assembly Bill 2299, aimed to address the housing shortage in California cities by making it easier for homeowners to build additional units in their backyards and rent them out.

Santa Monica High School senior, Kelly Cano died from an unspecified medical condition. Cano was 18 years old, on the swim team and sang for the school’s choir.

The Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation received $161,801 from 588 different donors during a five-day drive to meet a $25,000 matching gift from Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows/ MSD Capital. The drive ended the same day the Ed Foundation’s annual parent pledge campaign. The community contributed over $100,000 on the last day of the match alone.

Officials reviewed a huge development near Lincoln and Olympic. A massive new apartment complex is scheduled to replace the JoAnn Fabrics and the old Wertz Brothers furniture store (1613-1637 Lincoln Boulevard). The apartment complex will be flanked by two other new buildings also in the works: a 90-unit complex at Lincoln and Colorado and a 66-unit complex at the current Aaron Brothers lot on the other side.

In a show of support with activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Santa Monica City Council moved forward with plans to end the City’s banking relationship with Wells Fargo bank. The bank said divestment would have no impact on the pipeline but City Hall withdrew its investments anyway.

The City Council moved forward with a massive seismic retrofit ordinance that could impact as many as 2,000 buildings in the eight-square-mile city. The potential flood of construction brings a wide array of concerns spanning from scammers taking advantage of condominium owners to lengthy delays caused by the sheer amount of paperwork.

After seven years of planning, meetings, debate and construction, the long-awaited Ishihara Park opened to the public. The new park occupies about 2.35 acres between Dorchester Ave. and Stewart St. The park’s official purpose is to shield the nearby homes from the activities at the Expo facility and the park is divided into different sections with multiple uses.

Santa Monica declined to become a Sanctuary City but did pass rules that would prohibit companies from gathering information on any client’s religion, immigration status or sexual orientation in the City or sharing the information with other entities.

Santa Monica resident Juan Sebastian Castillo was shot and killed on 16th Street. Castillo was a lifelong Santa Monica resident who attended Will Rogers, John Adams and graduated from Santa Monica High School in 2016.




Santa Monica activist Oscar de la Torre pursued his lawsuit against the City. De la Torre is the board co-chair of the Pico Neighborhood Association, which has sued Santa Monica over the City’s use of at large elections. The suit claims that citywide elections violate the California Voting Rights Act, which prohibits at-large elections if they can be shown to racially polarize voting.

The virus outbreak at local schools declined, but persisted. Confirmed cases of the stomach illness dropped from a districtwide peak of 147 to 23 and officials announced plans to return to normal operations.

Snap Inc., a social media company that started in Venice priced its initial public offering of 200 million shares at $17 each. That was above the expected range of $14 to $16. Snap is expected to start trading on the New York Stock Exchange. The stock sale made millions for early investors and brought a new round of concerns about gentrification to the community.

Bus ridership dropped while Expo ridership increased. While the light rail through Santa Monica averages 45,000 daily riders during the week and 34,000 on the weekend, Big Blue Bus ridership is down roughly 12 percent with about 14.98 million passengers every year,

The popular Twilight Concert Series announced its return with June with an abbreviated schedule as an effort to cut back on the exponential costs of the Santa Monica summer series. There were eight concerts that started earlier in the year. Organizers got a late start booking bands after on-going discussions with the City put an emphasis on a need to save money.

The Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) is sought help identifying a hit-and-run driver that critically injured a man on the 2400 block of Neilson Way at about 1:50 a.m.

City Council pivoted away from an outright ban on recreational marijuana businesses opting instead to direct staff members to consider all options. Voters in Santa Monica overwhelmingly voted for Proposition 64, which legalized possession of up to an ounce of pot for anyone over the age of 21. Consumption is allowed in private homes and individuals can cultivate their own plants. However, businesses looking to open under the new law will have to get both a state and local permit.

City Council passed a controversial exemption to the noise ordinance that will allow loud protests on public property between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. as long as it is not near a residential property, hospital or school. The exemption does not include the Santa Monica Pier or the Third Street Promenade where the City regulates performances. The hotel workers union Unite Here and local activists supported the new exemption.

City code enforcement officers got new tools to go after vacant buildings in Santa Monica. City Council approved new measures that would force buildings owners to either get to work or tear down a building or pay a fine. The ordinance also allows code enforcement to go after deteriorating properties, hazardous trees and overgrown vegetation. A report found 29 vacant properties in the 8-square mile city at the time of the meeting.

Development plans along Lincoln Boulevard continued with discussion of a five-story, 191 apartment building near the corner of Lincoln and Colorado Boulevard. When adjoining properties are finished, Lincoln Court will extend from Olympic to Colorado with the three mixed-use developments. Developers chose to meet affordable housing requirements by providing a smaller number of units at the lowest possible affordability levels.

The Courtyard Marriott Hotel, a six-story building at the corner of 5th and Colorado opened.  The three-star hotel was the first of a new pair of hotels to open next to the Downtown Expo station.

Andre Zuczek, a freshman at Santa Monica High School, died from major brain trauma after trying the drug LSD and jumping from a third-floor balcony. Zuczek’s mother and school officials used the tragedy as an opportunity to educate students about the dangers of drug use.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom (D-Santa Monica) and two other legislators from the Bay Area, Rob Bonta (D-Oakland) and David Chiu (D-San Francisco), introduced new rules that would allow local jurisdictions to set rent control rates for vacant apartments and expand the number of units that fall under Rent Control. Santa Monica’s Rent Control Board backed the idea but the potential repeal of the 1996 Costa-Hawkins Act did not become law.

Santa Monica firefighters responded to an apartment fire Tuesday afternoon and were able to resuscitate a dog that had stopped breathing due to heat and smoke. The story made national news with photos of the canine CPR winning hearts all over the internet.

A pedestrian was killed after being hit by a car in the Civic Center parking lot. Tewelde Kidane was charged with one felony count each of gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated, vehicular manslaughter and resisting an officer. The death contributed to a growing trend of pedestrian deaths in the city.

The City’s review of contracts with NMS Properties concluded. The report found NMS in compliance with development agreements and contracts concerning the 23 buildings they own and manage in Santa Monica. The audit spanned three departments: the City Attorney’s office, Planning and Community Development and Housing and Economic Development.

The City’s newly formed Vacation Rental Enforcement Task Force scored a major win against a Los Angeles-based vacation rental operator. A court affirmed 35 out of the 36 charged violations against Globe Homes for violating the City’s vacation rental rules.

The Santa Monica City Council declared the former Home Savings of America branch office at 26th and Wilshire a City Landmark, overriding a denial by the Landmarks Commission. The decision ended half a decade of back and forth over the building, which has been both granted and denied landmark status over the years.




An affordable housing and school tax passed by voters in Santa Monica went into effect raising the sales tax by half a percent to 9.75 percent. Measures GSH raises money for affordable housing, reducing homelessness, school repairs and improvement, education and other general fund services. Measures GS and GSH replace lost funding from the dissolution of redevelopment agencies to use toward affordable housing and other City improvements. Santa Monica’s sales tax increased by half a percent again in July as a result of Measure M, a separate tax increase passed by Los Angeles County Voters in November. At that point, the sales tax in Santa Monica reached a state mandated cap at 10.25 percent so the County approved Measure H did not raised taxes any more.

A Santa Monica resident was killed when she was struck by a car at the intersection of Santa Monica Blvd. and 18th St. The accident was the fifth time a pedestrian has been killed by a car in under a month following deaths on March 4, 5, 16 and 21.

A new Big Blue Bus program encouraged riders to ditch cash and instead pull out their smartphones when they board a bus. Bus riders can participate by downloading the Token Transit app on their phones and buying bus tickets electronically.

The City continued to defend its vacation rental ordinances against two lawsuits. A District Court judge allowed an 82-year-old senior citizen to continue with her lawsuit based on an alleged violation of the Coastal Act. Meanwhile, rental giant Airbnb has also challenged the ordinance based on Federal Laws.

Avedis “Avo” Guerboian went into business for himself after formerly working at the family’s Readers Fine Jewelers. Guerboian opened his custom business inside the Fairmont to capitalize on his growing celebrity clients and the appeal for his unique works.

After a decade-long relationship between American Flyers and the City of Santa Monica at SMO, the fixed-base operator (FBO) closed. The departure was part of the ongoing upheaval at the location that included the City taking over some operations, the runway being shortened and sections of the airport being repurposed away from aviation uses.

The Long Beach Police Department (LBPD) is invested the death of a Santa Monica teen as a potential drug overdose. Leslie Hernandez was identified by the Corner’s Office after several weeks of investigation by local officials.

The United State Geological Survey (USGS) released a new report showing the possibility of 31 to 67 percent of Southern California beaches becoming completely eroded due to rising sea level and climate change. The simulation results indicate the current rates of beach nourishment to be insufficient in order to keep pace with potential long-term erosion

More than 150 people gathered for the official release of the Downtown Community Plan (DCP) The plan encompasses the City’s urban core from Wilshire Boulevard to the north to the I-10 Freeway to the south and dictates development standards including density, height and community benefits.

The New York based on demand helicopter service, Blade, began brokering trips to Palm Springs, Ojai, Santa Barbara and San Diego out of the Santa Monica Airport. Blade will not schedule regular flights out of SMO but flights are booked on demand through the Blade app.

The City’s Code received training to begin pursuing tenant harassment violations. Under the previous system, the City Attorney’s Office was solely responsible for reviewing and possibly prosecuting all allegations of landlord harassment.

Designs were presented for the city’s 23rd Starbucks. The shop at the corner of Ocean Front Walk near the Pier will retain the character buildings by the pier and it replaces the former Carousel Café. The property gained Landmark status in 2016 but tenants and businesses were displaced by a fire.

An off-duty Santa Monica Police officer caused an international incident when she boarded a flight from Los Angeles to Taiwan with a handgun in her carry-on bag. The Transportation Security Administration missed the personal weapon during the inspection at LAX and the officer was temporarily barred from leaving Taiwan while the incident was investigated.

Animal Kingdom expanded into the space previously occupied by Viditos. The local pet businesses was able to take over the neighboring store front following the departure of the video store and grow its services.

A 9-year-old Santa Monica resident helped catch a thief. The young man had been helping his family paint a fence when he reentered the home and saw someone break in on a security monitor. The boy alerted adults and was rewarded with ice cream from the Santa Monica Police Department.

An Orange County man was sentenced to ten months in prison for flying a plane out of the Santa Monica Airport without a license. The pilot was convicted of making two flights with passengers aboard despite lacking a license.

A former Michelin star chef, Joe Miller, took over the closed IHOP kitchen at the corner of 20th Street and Santa Monica Boulevard for his new diner “Rudy and Hudson.” However, the eater didn’t make it to the end of the year before closing.


Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...