JANUARY

Community advocate Mary Marlow and Councilwoman Sue Himmelrich filed a ballot initiative for the 2018 election to limit councilmembers to three terms. The measure provided individuals with up to 12 years (three terms of four years each) over the course of their lifetime and only applies to Council as elections for school board and the SMC college board are governed by state law. Limits begin from the time the measure was approved by voters allowing current councilmembers to serve an additional 12 years. The measure was approved in the November election.

The Rent Control Board limited pass-through charges for tenants in rent controlled buildings. The surcharges will also end for new property owners, meaning they can no longer pass massive tax increases down to tenants when buildings turn over. The decision was not retroactive, meaning tenants who are currently paying surcharges will continue to do so unless their building is sold to a new owner.

SMMUSD established a standard for termite treatment in schools. The District wants to use non-toxic/low toxic methods for spot treatments as well as whole-building treatment when justified.

City Hall began debates over replacing the Pier bridge. The City weighed three options to replace The Pier’s 1939 seismically unsafe bridge from Ocean Avenue. A report found the current bridge would likely incur significant damage during a major earthquake and cannot safely manage the sheer amount of car and foot traffic it sees on a busy day. All options require demolishing the current bridge and replacing it with a wider span. City staff prefer the an option that replaces the 34-foot wide bridge with two separate bridges: one for cars and one for everyone else.

Free tickets to a City-sponsored screening of An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power disappeared in a matter of minutes as Santa Monica’s sustainability-minded citizens jumped at the chance to attend a Question and Answer session with former Vice President Al Gore himself.

The City increased Community and Cultural Service Department fees. The increases impact programs offered by the Human Services, Community Recreation and Cultural Affairs departments for activities such as renting a city field, joining a sports league or and send kids to after school or weekend programs.

The Planning Commission approved two, new mixed-use developments headed to the corner of Broadway and Cloverfield Boulevard in a largely commercial area near the Department of Motor Vehicles and Colorado Center. The two lots combined will bring 59 new apartments to the area and nearly 90 parking spaces. The Planning Commission also approved a four-story, mixed-use development plan for 47 apartments and 17,000 square feet of commercial space at the southern edge of the city at 2903 Lincoln Boulevard. Plans include a two-level underground parking garage with enough room for 151 parking spaces. The development will replace an auto repair shop located a half mile up the street from the Whole Foods in Venice.

A national interest group that criticizes labor unions began a Santa Monica campaign against Unite Here Local 11, the union that represents hotel workers throughout the region. The Center for Union Facts is an advocacy group founded by lawyer and former lobbyist Richard Berman. His other nonprofit organizations include the Center for Consumer Freedom and the Employment Policies Institute, a fiscally conservative think tank that focuses on employment issues. CUF, a 501(c)3, is responsible for anti-union advertising across the country that depicts unions as threatening organizations trapping members into paying dues ultimately spent on political issues.

The Santa Monica Fire Department rescued two dogs from a structure fire that broke out when the homeowner was on her way to the airport. SMFD said the first responders were on their hands and knees crawling under the smoke when two small dogs ran over to them.

Dating website eHarmony agreed to change its website and sales practices after a $2.2 million settlement with a task force of local prosecutors that included the city of Santa Monica. The lawsuit alleged that eHarmony failed to provide copies of contracts to subscribers and disclose their right to cancel. Under the settlement, eHarmony will reimburse California subscribers enrolled in automatic renewal or continuous service plans between March 10, 2012 and Dec. 13, 2016 who were either charged without their consent or after they tried to cancel.

At least 13 people were killed and homes were torn from their foundations in Santa Barbara County as downpours sent mud and boulders roaring down hills stripped of vegetation by a gigantic wildfire that raged in Southern California a month earlier. Residents of the Montecito area were particularly hard hit by the disaster.

The Santa Monica Police Department stepped up enforcement related to e-scooters for violating state traffic laws. Traffic cops were already conducting education efforts to tell riders they must wear a helmet and stay clear of city sidewalks to avoid receiving a hefty citation. The cost of the ticket depends on the violation. Riding a motorized vehicle without a helmet was a $190 fine as was riding on the sidewalk.

Bergamot Station founder Wayne Blank officially left the property Jan. 1 and the Worthe Real Estate Group became the new landlord for the five-acres of City-owned property adjacent to the Expo Light Rail stop on the east side of the city. While Blank closed his gallery, the others remain open and the property continues with plans for its redevelopment.

A grandfather’s desire to share a ride on the carousel with his grandson prompted the lawsuit behind a $108,000 settlement with the city. City Council voted to settle with resident Barry Atwood and make the Pier more accessible for handicap visitors. The City agreed to construct and install a portable ramp and wheelchair-accessible chariot on the carousel, replace deteriorated wooden planks on the deck, add signage and install guard rails.

Public attendees were still skeptical of a presentation by world renowned architect Frank Gehry regarding his proposal for a new project in Downtown Santa Monica. However, the reception was far more optimistic than for other recent downtown developments and a revised version of the project was warmly received when presented to city officials later in the year.

The Big Blue Bus reported losing 12 percent of its overall ridership, according to a year-end performance report on fiscal year 2016-2017. While ridership has declined across agencies in Los Angeles County, local analysts said the biggest competition in Santa Monica came from the Expo Line. BBB routes that run parallel to light rail lost 1.5 million passengers year over year, accounting for 46 percent of ridership loss system wide. The report also blamed changes in demographics, income, car affordability, low gas prices and Uber and Lyft, for declining ridership.

Tommie Smith, known for his silent protest during the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City was inducted into the Santa Monica College Sports Hall of Fame. After his protest, Smith played professional football. Ten years later, the only man to hold 11 world records at the same time became a Santa Monica College professor and coach. Smith coached young athletes here for nearly 30 years before retiring with his wife to Georgia in 2005.

The City Council approved a 5 percent water rate increase. The money will help pay for a Sustainable Water Master Plan update and other facility upgrades and studies needed for the city to reach its goal of water self-sufficiency by 2020. With the increase, the average bi-monthly residential bill rises from $91.64 to $96.27, according to staff estimates.

Michael Ferguson faced attempted murder and assault with a deadly weapon charges after allegedly firing a gun at his neighbor on Stanford Street. No one was hurt when neighbors say the bullet flew into an outside wall of the apartment complex courtyard. Ferguson had a history of mental illness and was violating the law by possessing a firearm. Police say Ferguson barricaded himself inside his own apartment with his family members before he eventually surrendered and was taken into custody.

A 90-year-old tenant at The Shores apartment complex died just days after a homeless man broke into her apartment while she was sleeping. A neighbor interrupted the break-in when he heard banging in the middle of the night. Police found the suspect, Anthony Aikin, walking around the property when they arrived.

SMMUSD board member Craig Foster called for the retirement of fellow board member Maria Leon-Vazquez during a review of findings concerning a conflict of interest. Leon-Vazquez has been accused of voting on contracts with companies that employed her husband, Santa Monica councilman Tony Vazquez. The couple have denied they were intentionally trying to circumvent ethics rules and Tony stated the votes were the result of his wife failing to fully read dense agendas. Board member Laurie Lieberman condemned Foster’s statements, stating comments such as his create distrust of government.

City hall passed an emergency ordinance to halt the “mansionization” of Santa Monica by reducing the maximum size of new houses in residential neighborhoods by twenty percent. The City Council voted 5-1 to approve the interim ordinance, which was valid for 60 days. The rules restrict the height of new homes to 28 feet, the maximum parcel coverage to 50 percent on a sliding scale with a maximum of 20 percent on the second floor and limits the square footage of second floor decks and balconies.

Two years after a zoning code change allowed preschools to open in single home (R1) neighborhoods, a group of residents appealed to keep the first one from opening on Delaware Avenue in the Pico Neighborhood. Council ultimately approved a 20-student early childhood education center would operate out of a remodeled 1,500 square foot house near Ishihara Park.

The Zimmer Children’s Museum announced plans to leave Museum Row in Los Angeles for Downtown Santa Monica. When it opens the museum is expected to attract 250,000 visitors a year to the third floor of Santa Monica Place,

The Los Angeles County Fire Department Lifeguard Division held a recognition ceremony at Lifeguard Headquarters in Santa Monica to highlight five rescues from 2017, including one on the Santa Monica beach. Chief Deputy David R. Richardson Jr. said there were 16,000 medical responses on Los Angeles beaches last year and 9,800 rescues.

In the wake of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements, Santa Monica had a weekend devoted to feminine empowerment. Two events, ‘Me Too: Art and Feminism Now’ and Beautify Earth’s ‘Every Woman Mural Painting Event’ provided thought-provoking art and discussion.

Santa Monica scored well for its anti-smoking efforts according to the American Lung Association (ALA). The ALA releases an annual report grading states, counties and individual cities. Santa Monica received an “A” for its Overall Tobacco Control this year.

Santa Monica saw a 12 percent increase in serious crime in 2017, with 5,076 “Part 1” incidents, which include murder, arson, burglary, assault and grand theft auto. The spike follows a 5.5 percent increase in the same crimes in 2016. Similar to the year before, property crime has driven much of the increase, with 86 percent of serious incidents related to theft. There was also a 3.8 percent increase in violent crime year over year, a statistic which includes homicide, rape, robbery and assault.

The National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against J.W. Marriott Santa Monica Le Merigot Hotel on Ocean Avenue alleging management threatened employees, reduced their hours and reprimanded them for attempting to organize.

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1 Comment

  1. Matt,

    Thank-you for these comprehensive monthly reviews. They’re great! Do you do these every month during the year and I just missed them? If you would send these out every month during the year that would be great! If you already do this, my apologies for missing them. Thanks for your efforts on reporting the news of Santa Monica!

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