The Daily Press is summarizing the year’s news as it was covered in our pages for the year. Today, we are covering the first four months of the year.

JANUARY

Target announced the opening of a store on Santa Monica Boulevard. near Bundy Drive. The news followed plans to open a store in downtown Santa Monica at 5th Street and Broadway.  Like the downtown Santa Monica store, the location at 11840 Santa Monica Blvd. is smaller than a typical Target at about 31,000 square feet. Both locations are part of the company’s nationwide push to open compact stores in urban neighborhoods.

Cedars-Sinai opened its first primary care practice in Santa Monica. The healthcare provider expanded its offices at the corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and 20th Street to add four primary care physicians, labs and X-ray facilities. The location will also hire specialists in hematology and oncology, neurology, cardiology and ear, nose and throat.

Several Santa Monicans were elected to the California Democratic Party. Fourteen locals formed a slate to run for delegate positions in the state party and 11 were elected Jan. 27 to represent Assembly District 50, which stretches from Malibu to Hollywood. The Progressive Slate included 10 Santa Monicans, including City Councilmember Sue Himmelrich, Rent Control Board members Caroline Torosis and Anastasia Foster and Santa Monica Democratic Club President Jon Katz. Three members of the competing Grassroots Slate were elected: incumbent delegate Steve Bott, Santa Monica College trustee Barry Snell and Tamara Levenson, who co-managed the Westside Democratic HQ.

Officials said Lincoln Boulevard will get its long-awaited streetscape makeover by early 2021. Construction on the Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor Plan (the LiNC) will start by the end of 2019 and last until early 2021, costing $5 to $6 million. The City of Santa Monica has been working on the LiNC since 2015 and has already installed a bus lane and planted 50 new trees along Lincoln.

City Council decided on a set of goals and values to prioritize in the city of Santa Monica’s 2019-2021 budget at its annual retreat Jan. 26. The new budget will organize the services the city provides under these priorities and include metrics that track their progress. City Hall will allocate more funding toward making Santa Monica a safer and more affordable place to live, reducing homelessness and addressing climate change.

The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors extended funding for homeless outreach in Santa Monica after Supervisor Sheila Kuehl recommended budgeting $300,000 towards the city’s Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team program. The county previously put $300,000 toward the program for the 2018 calendar year and the extended support brings the  total county contribution to $600,000.

Sun Scooter launched its app and deployed 100 bright yellow scooters around Los Angeles and 200 in South Florida. Although the company is based in Santa Monica, it cannot operate scooters within city limits because the city of Santa Monica only allows Bird, Lime, Lyft and Jump, which is owned by Uber, to do business in the city under its Shared Mobility program.

A reality TV director, an actor, and a former director of operations for events (such as the Academy Awards and American Idol) teamed together to create a Santa Monica-based comedy TV show about dating called ‘Swipe’.

Rent Control officials lost an initial battle over the fate of a former rent control property that had been brewing for more than 15 years. A judge ruled against the Rent Control Board’s efforts to bring a Mid-City apartment building in Santa Monica under rent control after allowing the owner to rent the 13 apartments at market rates since 1993. The board filed an appeal and ultimately won, bringing the building back under rent control.

A UCLA study categorized the injuries of scooter riders during the explosive growth of the industry and found that e-scooter riders are most likely to be hospitalized for head injuries and broken bones. The study surveyed Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center and UCLA Medical Center-Santa Monica from September 2017 to August 2018 and recorded 249 patients who visited the emergency room with injuries associated with e-scooter use.

City Hall moved to clarify the complaint process for the homeless shelters it funds in response to multiple Santa Monica Shelter residents alleging neglect from The People Concern staff.

City Council set priorities for the City of Santa Monica’s 2019-2021 budget using results from a community survey conducted over the last month. The 2,800 people who took the survey rated neighborhood safety, homelessness and affordability as their chief priorities. Transportation, environmental health and over-development were also common concerns.

The Pico Youth and Family Center held a fundraiser to raise money to repair the damage caused by a car that crashed into the center earlier this month. Two men in a rented Bentley were driving above the speed limit down Pico Boulevard when they lost control of the vehicle and spun around several times before careening into the building. No one was hurt, but the crash destroyed the building’s windows, several computers and office equipment and furniture.

City Council voted unanimously to designate a strip of Craftsman bungalows on 11th Street as Santa Monica’s fourth historic district. The decision went against a report city staff made to the Landmarks Commission in November that found the bungalows lacked historical merit. The district is composed of 10 buildings on 11th Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue, seven of which are Craftsman bungalows built between 1905 and 1925.

City Council appointed an activist from the Pico Neighborhood who serves on a city commission to the seat vacated by Tony Vazquez. The council chose Ana Maria Jara from a pool of 76 applicants. Jara, a 40-year resident of Santa Monica, served as vice chair of the Social Services Commission and previously served as chair of the Commission on the Status of Women. Jara took the seat as the city of Santa Monica battled a California Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed by another Latina resident of the Pico neighborhood, Maria Loya.

More than 300 volunteers walked down every street in Santa Monica to count the city’s homeless population. Santa Monica joined communities across the county in conducting the annual Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count. The count documented a three percent increase in homelessness.

Demolition began at the former Fred Segal building. The proposed replacement project is an 84-foot high building with 249 residential units. The ground floor will include pedestrian-oriented commercial uses, such as retail and restaurants. The project will also include ground floor open space, including a public plaza with seating, landscaping, outdoor seating for dining and widened sidewalks.

A vintage store opened on Pico Boulevard giving furniture, art and decor from old homes across California a new life. Almost everything in California Rediscovered is reused, whether it’s for sale or not.

The city of Santa Monica settled a potential lawsuit over payments for Section 8 tenants. A private housing provider had threatened to sue the city, alleging payments amounts for Section 8 tenants were too low for current tenants. The city disputed the claim and the settlement allows for higher payments for new tenants but retains lower payment amounts for existing tenants.

City Council authorized a renovation of City Yards. Construction on the 15-acre industrial site near Bergamot Station was scheduled to start in June. Most essential services the city of Santa Monica provides operate out of City Yards, including street maintenance, custodial services and traffic operations. It’s been awaiting a $115 million reboot since 2015 and the Planning Commission granted the project a development review permit on Jan. 16.

Santa Monica schools approved their own self-funded early learning program, eschewing Head Start. The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District school board unanimously voted to not renew a five-year contract through the Los Angeles County Office of Education for Head Start services.

A company that collects and inspects e-scooters overnight might be the answer to the safety issues that have followed them since they first hit the streets in fall 2017.  Sweep is a local company that evolved from a group of friends charging scooters on the Santa Monica Pier into a logistics machine that operates in cities across the United States and is planning a global expansion. The company dispatches teams at night to pick up scooters and trained mechanics run each one through a safety check, making repairs as needed.

Two parents accused SMMUSD of requiring some students to purchase their own educational materials and sued the district with the help of a lawyer already embroiled in a lawsuit against the city of Santa Monica. The district lost the case and settled with the plaintiffs.

The city released a ten-year projection of its revenues and expenditures. It will start spending more money than it takes in by fiscal year 2020-2021, and by FY 2028-2029 it could be in the red by up to $50 million if a recession affects revenues.

The Planning Commission voted to allow a pair of local philanthropists to turn a vacant apartment building into a garden that will teach children from local elementary schools and preschools how to grow and prepare produce – free of charge. Most of the corner lot will be filled with vegetable planters and fruit trees, with a low black building set far back from Montana Avenue housing a classroom and kitchen. City Council also approved the plan with restrictions.

The Arnold Strongman USA Competition came to the Pier, marking the competition’s first time in Los Angeles. The competition, hosted by Arnold Schwarzenegger, featured ten of the strongest men in the world, all competing for a spot in the Strongman World Championships.

An Expo Line train hit and killed a man at the 17th Street Station. The Los Angeles Sheriff ’s Department said a pedestrian on the platform of the 17th Street Station was hit by a train at about 8:20 a.m. The train came to a stop just before 14th Street and the victim was pronounced dead at the scene by the Santa Monica Fire Department.

A week of rain washed into the region bringing with it high surf, mudslides and some localized flooding. High surf produced localized beach erosion and dangerous swimming conditions including sneaker waves and rip currents. Mudslides also temporarily closed sections of PCH.

Silicon Beach Chamber Orchestra kicked off its 2019 Chamber Music Series with a concert at St Paul Lutheran’s church. The goal of these shows, the orchestra says, isn’t just to entertain, but to broaden audiences’ horizons while also developing a respect for the classics.

Developer-paid fees funded a preschool at Santa Monica College, low-flow toilets and new bike lanes. The city of Santa Monica collected $5,643,129 from developers in the 2017-2018 fiscal year and spent $2,520,596 on child care, transportation, affordable housing loans and water sustainability projects.

City Council increased the amount landlords must pay their tenants if they evict them under the Ellis Act or if the landlord or a family member moves into the unit. The increase is the first since 2011. It also raised the per diem evicted tenants get to temporarily stay in hotels while they find new housing from $165 to $292 per day.

The City Attorney filed a criminal complaint against the son of Santa Monica’s most notorious landlord. The city announced that it charged Adam Shekhter, Saul Reuben Robin, Edward Jose Valentin and several affiliated companies with tenant harassment, maintaining a public nuisance and violating local zoning laws.

Santa Monican Elizabeth Gelfand Stearns has spent years working to fight Alzheimer’s disease and the former Universal Studios executive recently helped champion a landmark bill that will allocate $100 million to fight Alzheimer’s disease over five years.

A Mid-City resident returned to his apartment near Santa Monica Boulevard and 26th Street at about 2:30 p.m. to find a woman sleeping on his couch. He had left for vacation on Dec. 23. He arrived at his apartment to find that someone had taken the screen off of a window and flipped the front door locks. When he opened the door, he saw a woman he described as about 30 years old and 5 feet 6 inches with blonde hair sleeping on his couch.

The Coastal Commission approved a rehabilitation project for the combined public safety center in Marina Del Rey. The facility is made up of two components, a shared land-based facility utilized by the Department of Beaches and Harbors, the Sheriff ’s Department for the Marina Del Rey Sheriff Station and a waterside dock utilized by the Lifeguard Division of the Fire Department, and the Sheriff Department’s Harbor Patrol Unit and storage.

Water rates increased nine percent in 2019 as the city of Santa Monica embarked on several projects to wean itself off of imported water. The average single-family home customer will pay about $4.33 more per month for water to fund the design of a larger, more efficient water treatment plant, the purchase of a new well and the cost of replacing the city’s aging water mains.

A man hijacked a Rapid Line 720 bus in Los Angeles and forced the driver to take him to Santa Monica. The man boarded the bus at Barrington Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard near the Sawtelle neighborhood, threatened the female bus operator with a knife and she hit the duress button inside the bus to alert law enforcement.

The Santa Monica Police Department received new body-worn cameras because the cameras officers were wearing proved unreliable and faulty. An unspecified amount of data recorded by the body-worn and in-car cameras, some of which did not work, was lost.

Developers were prohibited from satisfying their affordable housing requirements by including a very small number of extremely low-income units in market-rate buidlings. City Council voted to suspend the option as a means of increasing the number of low and moderately priced housing options in the city.

The city of Santa Monica held four family fun days at Reed Park to potentially discourage the criminal activity that has become widespread there this year. Meet Me at Reed started in summer 2017 and was held again this past summer after it proved popular with families.

Santa Monica experienced 8.8 percent more serious crime in 2018, including thefts, burglaries and aggravated assaults. The same category of crime rose by 12 percent in 2017 and 5.5 percent in 2016. Serious crimes have risen 29 percent in Santa Monica between 2015 and 2018 and law enforcement has maintained that legislation that has decriminalized certain offenses has allowed repeat criminals to return to the streets shortly after being sentenced.

Go-karts were temporarily zipping past electric scooters on the Santa Monica beach bike path, and both were operating illegally. A company called Gogogo began renting go-karts for people to drive along the beach, even though City Council outlawed all electric and motorized devices on the path. The company was shut down shortly after opening.

See below for more news:

February

Matthew Hall

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...

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