The fountain at Ken Genser Square in front of City Hall reflects the sunset. (File photo)

FEBRUARY

The City of Santa Monica spent about $97 million and committed another $88 million to near-term spending on 233 Capital Improvement projects last year according to the year-end report. The projects were spread across several categories including General Government, Community & Economic Development, Public Safety, Recreation and Culture, Mobility, Big Blue Bus, Water and Wastewater, Airport and Pier.

California rapidly plunged back into drought, with severe conditions in Santa Barbara, Ventura and Los Angeles counties — home to one-fourth of the state’s population, a U.S. agency said. The report released by the U.S. Drought Monitor also showed 44 percent of the state was considered to be in a moderate drought.

Contentious talks of how to effectively exterminate termites in Santa Monica and Malibu schools dominated a Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District board meeting. The Board was presented with a recommendation to make full-tent fumigation the standard for termite extermination, as opposed to low to non-toxic procedures such as spot heat treatment, but some Board members questioned the validity of applying the recommendation districtwide.

Negin Singh began her tenure as the new director of the Santa Monica Pier.

The Planning Commission debated allowing homeowners to build car elevators in their houses as they look at proposed changes to the zoning code. Multiple residents had been denied their proposals to use mechanical parking systems like stackers and turntables in their single-family houses because it goes against the rules,

Two proposed mixed-use buildings along Lincoln Boulevard went before the Planning Commission. They were the latest properties bringing hundreds of new apartments and thousands of square feet of commercial space to one of Santa Monica’s busiest boulevards. Both properties are owned by WNMS Communities, a spin-off of NMS Properties, the largest manager of apartment complexes in Santa Monica.

Firefighters responding to medical emergencies had a new ambulance company following them to the scene. The City switched to McCormick Ambulance Services after five years with Ameri-Care Ambulance. While the city does not pay the ambulance services, a city contract can be lucrative to the paramedic companies.

Billionaire medical entrepreneur Dr. Patrick Soon-Shiong purchased the Los Angeles Times from Tronc Inc. for $500 million for the newspaper and the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Santa Monica Place poached another high-profile tenant with plans for a Tesla dealership within the mall. The store took several spaces in the mall parking lot and will move from the Promenade.

City Hall began debates over the “retail apocalypse” and ways to address the decline of stores throughout the city. Hotel tax revenue for the city has increased at an average annual rate of nearly ten percent over the past seven years. While beds are full, sales tax growth has not kept pace, growing less than three percent a year.

Bird spread its wings to neighboring communities. The company rolled out its electric vehicles in several new markets near and far including the UCLA campus and San Diego. At the same time, they announced a new round of investment.

The Council allocated $19,000 of discretionary funds to help Beautify Earth paint murals at seven more locations in the city. The funding helped paint two large murals at Franklin Elementary, two murals at SMASH and one at both Grant Elementary and Roosevelt Elementary. Three new Pico Boulevard murals were painted on Speak Easy Cocktail, Grey Block Pizza (two walls) and the Subway restaurant across from Santa Monica College.

Santa Monica High School’s Riha Prasad defeated Clare Garcia, of San Marino, in the 111-pound finals at the CIF Southern Section Girls wrestling championships at Eleanor Roosevelt High School in Eastvale to advance to the state championships.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District adopted a framework / action plan to instill a sense of social justice in students. The Social Justice Framework plan is part of SMMUSD’s three pronged approach to achieving “excellence through equity” including creating a culture of shared accountability, teaching cross-cultural/socio-economic skills and engaging in constant self-reflection around the issue of equity.

The City Council approved a $105,000 contract to design digital signs for 18 city streets and seven parking garages to help visitors quickly find parking spaces when they come to the city. The signs will be integrated with the City’s parking availability system and will display messages directing motorists from the freeway-off ramps to available lots. The signs will also display custom messages during special events, planned closures or unexpected incidents. They are similar to the 21 digital signs the city installed in 2014 to direct drivers to open beach parking.

Cold temperatures and windy conditions complicated rescue efforts for firefighters Monday who searched for a man who jumped off the Santa Monica Pier and battled an early morning brushfire above the Pacific Coast Highway. A Los Angeles County helicopter eventually located the body of the missing swimmer 600 yards south of the Pier and officials declared the man dead on scene.

Police searched for suspects connected to a shooting in Downtown Santa Monica. According to SMPD, officers received multiple calls regarding an active shooting at the West End located at the corner of 5th and Arizona. When officers arrived, they found a man lying on the street and determined he was the victim of a fistfight. However, officers found a second victim with a gunshot wound to the ankle. Police charged Carl Marcel Nelson with attempted murder, assault with a deadly weapon and felon in possession of a firearm.

Despite strict laws and a dedicated enforcement team, Santa Monica’s battle against illegal short term rentals was essentially a game of whack-a-mole, according to a report by city staff. Online violators used an array of tactics to outwit investigators, including deleting listings during City Hall business hours and manipulating addresses to appear to be in Los Angeles. The report said it is difficult to know the exact number of illegal listings because platforms like AirBnb refuse to provide data to code enforcement on the number of listings within city limits.

The Lincoln Collection, a pair of apartment buildings that will total about 280 units broke ground and joined the existing construction of an affordable housing project, The Arroyo.

Rashad Devon Harris was arrested for a violent home invasion attempt near Santa Monica High School. Officers were called to the 1700 block of 5th Street (between Santa Monica High School and the Doubletree Hotel) for an “unknown trouble” call in an apartment complex. Officers found a woman suffering from stab wounds and determined a male suspect had broken into her home while she was sleeping. The woman fought off the man who left a trail of blood along local streets during his escape.  

The Santa Monica-Malibu Education Foundation saw donations and participation increase as a result of stronger outreach to parents and corporations to fund schools.

A Canadian addiction center that relies on medication and therapy to treat alcohol use disorder opened its first U.S. clinic in January with a discreet office in Santa Monica. A small group of doctors and therapists meet with patients all over California while quietly disabling a century old tenet to recovery: that abstinence is the only way to go. In their approach, continued drinking is key to regaining control.

The Gateway Virtual Reality Showroom opened on Colorado Ave. to develop and showcase virtual reality (VR) technology. The venue offers a number of experiences, regardless of the customer’s technological skill level, physical mobility or interests.

An update to the Big Blue Bus operating budget showed the service could figuratively run out of gas by 2021, as declining ridership will exhaust BBB’s reserves over the next few years if the Council does not implement a major overhaul.

Plans to rehabilitate the former Sears building in Downtown Santa Monica were approved by the Coastal Commission. Conditions of approval include a parking plan, limits on landscape design, environmental concerns and limits on future construction. Construction began on the project later in the year.

The Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) made an arrest in connection with the January 1 murder of Santa Monica resident John Hautz. Roy Antonio Davis, a 26-year old man from Los Angeles, was arrested and charged with the murder of the 88-year old Hautz. Davis was already in custody in Los Angeles for an unrelated robbery.

In the wake of the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida, the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) will adopted a resolution in support of common sense gun laws. The resolution “reaffirms and demands that all students have the right to attend schools that are safe from the threat of gun violence.”

 

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