This is part two of our annual Year in Review. SMDP staff have summarized the year’s news as was covered on the front page of the paper. Part three, covering the final four months of the year, will run in the paper of Dec. 26.
A bill to phase out single-use plastics by 2030 passed in the state senate and its companion bill passed in the state assembly. Sen. Ben Allen, who represents the Westside, Hollywood and the South Bay in the California State Senate, introduced legislation in February requiring all single-use packaging and products to be reusable, recyclable or compostable by 2030.
As the county’s homelessness crisis continued to grow, agencies that have traditionally operated outside the social services field were forced to realign their organizations and assume leadership roles normally reserved for large municipalities. Metro, the county’s transportation agency, moved to the front lines of the fight against homelessness with an expansion of outreach teams traveling on buses and trains and plans to provide new shelters for homeless individuals who currently use transit as a form of temporary housing.
Sumo Dog closed its doors after only nine months in Santa Monica. The restaurant was known for its Asian fusion hot dogs.
Bird announced it would launch a new vehicle this summer. The Bird Cruiser can accommodate two adults and resembles a moped with two large wheels, a padded seat and handlebars. Riders can use the vehicle’s electric-assist pedals or rest their feet on pegs. It includes hydraulic disk brakes, a 52 volt battery, an LCD display and a motor that handles hills easily, according to a press release.
Parts of the Santa Monica Airport runway were removed, almost two years after City Council decided to replace the excess pavement with a grassy area. The airport was intermittently closed to aircraft in the summer as construction workers removed pavement from both sides of the runway. The runway was shortened to 3,500 feet in 2017 after the city of Santa Monica entered into an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration to close the airport by 2028, but the parts of the runway pilots no longer use have not yet been removed.
Santa Monica’s homeless population grew 3%, far more slowly than the rest of Los Angeles County, which spiked back up this year alongside other counties across California. Homelessness grew 12% countywide and 16% in the city of Los Angeles, according to the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA), which released the results of its annual homeless count. The number of individuals on the Westside grew 19%, the largest increase of any region, after it fell 19% last year. Santa Monica conducts its own count and recorded only a three percent increase in 2019, counting 987 people this year versus 957 last year.
Santa Monica’s most challenging homeless residents had fewer interactions with police officers, firefighters and emergency room doctors since the city invested in an outreach team that connects them to treatment and housing, according to a RAND Corporation study. The study found that the group of 26 chronically homeless individuals were less likely to come into contact with police officers and firefighters after working with the Homeless Multidisciplinary Street Team, saving the city time and money.
Santa Monica will spend more on homelessness, raise parking rates and cut some childcare programs in the next two years following a seven hour budget discussion. City Council reviewed a proposed budget that offsets additional investment in homeless outreach workers and subsidies for rent-burdened seniors by cutting some poorly attended extracurricular activities and raising parking meter rates by 25%. The council decided to spend more on homelessness than City Manager Rick Cole proposed, allocating an additional $350,000 for a six month pilot program that would deploy hospitality ambassadors in Reed Park.
Will Rogers Elementary School students combined their creativity with the information they’ve been learning all year to create sustainable engineering projects and a student built cardboard arcade. Students showcased and demonstrated their engineering projects to parents and community members at the annual Will Rogers Learning Community STEM Open House.
The personal home of one of Los Angeles’ most formative architects triggered a protracted landmark dispute. John Parkinson built Los Angeles’ City Hall, Coliseum and Grand Central Market, but he made his home in Santa Monica. In 1920, he built his two-story Italian Renaissance-style home, Woodacres, north of San Vicente Boulevard and lived there until his death in 1935. The homeowner disputed the landmarking of the building but was eventually overruled at City Council.
Santa Monica lost its only free mental health program for seniors. Seniors had been able to enroll in individual and group therapy for the past 30 years through WISE & Healthy Aging, the main service provider for older adults in Santa Monica. The program, which employed psychology graduate students and fellows to provide therapy under the supervision of WISE psychologists, ended June 30.
Six people were selected to create economic development projects through the city’s Wellbeing Microgrants program, which launched last fall with a focus on building community in the historically underserved Pico neighborhood. The second round of projects includes jewelry-making classes, a pop-up beauty supply store and hair parlor, and economic empowerment workshops for middle schoolers.
Small public seating areas could replace parking spaces in downtown Santa Monica and along Montana Avenue. The city installed three parklets along Main Street two years ago with the goal of making the area more lively and pedestrian-oriented. Holy Guacamole, Ashland Hill and Jameson’s, formerly Finn McCool’s, are now taking over maintenance of the benches, tables and chairs stationed on wooden platforms outside their storefronts. Council voted to expand the program to other streets.
Santa Monica’s largest homeless shelter will be renovated as the city considers replacing the facility that was built as a temporary structure 25 years ago. City Council voted on a $669,000 renovation of Samoshel, an aging structure constructed as an oversized tent that sleeps 70 people and contains restrooms, showers, a kitchen and an HVAC system. Originally run by the Salvation Army, it has been operated by The People Concern since 2005. The city funds 60% of its budget. Santa Monica has decided to renovate and eventually replace the shelter as it grapples with a 33% increase in homelessness over the past five years.
With just a few days left in the school year, the John Muir / SMASH school campus was vandalized with “significant” damage that took several days to repair. According to the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District, the damage occurred in classrooms, the library, cafetorium, stage, teacher’s lounge, bookroom and exterior areas.
Two separate facilities use agreements between SMC and SMMUSD were tabled due to concerns over contract language and community concern.
The Gallery opened several restaurants on its ground floor in a space called SocialEats — a food hall within a food hall. Fuku, a fried chicken restaurant from celebrity chef David Chang, anchors the lineup, which also includes Supertoro, a build-your-own bento concept, Adelaide, a daytime cafe and nighttime wine bar, Street Noods, an Asian street noodles restaurant, and Cada Vez, a tapas counter.
The Landmarks Commission tied 3-3 on whether to recommend City Council approve a proposed historic district, an effective denial of the Conservancy’s application. The denial aligned with the findings of city staff, who said the buildings vary in architectural style and are similar to other small groupings of early 20th-century homes in Ocean Park.
The 27th annual Juneteenth Festival was celebrated at Virginia Avenue Park, a festival commemorating the Juneteenth holiday, which commemorates the ending of slavery in the United States.
Chef Bryant Ng opened Cassia’s Rice & Noodle Kitchen, a restaurant within a restaurant that will be available exclusively for takeout or on food delivery apps. The kitchen will be whipping up rice bowls and noodle soups with the same ingredients used in the main restaurant.
An independent parent group recently relaunched at Samohi had an immediate impact on the high school’s student body. During Samohi’s Class of 2019 graduation, multicolored sarapes — a shawl worn over the shoulders — visibly popped amongst a sea of Samohi Vikings blue and gold. The colorful shawls were representative of Padres, Estudiantes y Maestros Asociación, an independent group within the district which seeks to empower Latino students with a family-like touch, provided to PEMA students at the first Latino PEMA graduation celebration.
Los Angeles took steps to improve the county’s severe housing crisis. The “Source of Income Protection” ordinance was approved by the Los Angeles Board of Supervisors. The new chapter prohibits landowners from discriminating against potential renters based on their income or housing assistance needs of any kind, such as Section 8 vouchers.
Chef Jeremy Fox, who built his career at Rustic Canyon, moved to his new restaurant, Birdie G’s, but not before Rustic Canyon won a Michelin star. The Michelin Guide honored Santa Monica’s Dialogue and Rustic Canyon with a Michelin star for their high-quality cuisine and dining experience in the Guide’s 2019 return to California.
Summer Soulstice returned to Main Street, bringing with it the live music and shopping, event-goers have grown accustomed to. This year’s 19th iteration of the event was Summer Soulstice’s largest in both scope and size.
Leslie Paonessa, a longtime resident of Santa Monica known for her supper club died. She moved to Santa Monica in 1985 and worked as a script consultant and later a private chef.
Real estate giant Boston Properties bought half of Colorado Center in 2016 as its first overture into the Los Angeles market and unveiled a new $40 million plaza and a food hall to serve both the public and tenants such as Bird and Kite Pharma. The company also recently completed streetscape improvements to the Santa Monica Business Park, which houses Snap and Activision Blizzard, after acquiring it last summer.
Officials revisited development standards in Santa Monica’s single-family neighborhoods to discourage developers from replacing small homes with mansions. In the city’s four single-family neighborhoods — Sunset Park, North of Montana, North of Wilshire and a small part of Pico — new development is typically double or triple the size of existing homes, according to the city of Santa Monica’s analysis of recent building permits.
The Santa Monica International Teen Film Festival returned for its 14th iteration. The festival showcased 60 second to 15 minute film submissions from teens around the globe ages 13-18.
The Board of Supervisors approved a motion to explore a model that uses motels to house the homeless. The county will identify at least one motel in each of the county’s eight regions that could enter into master lease agreements to shelter homeless individuals. It will also consider allowing people living in their vehicles to park in the parking lots of the motels. While people stay in the motels or the parking lots, caseworkers would work closely with them to find permanent housing, according to the plan.
The man who made Santa Monica a leader in sustainability and helped the city prepare for climate change retired. Dean Kubani, the city’s chief sustainability officer, was responsible for Santa Monica’s reputation as a laboratory for innovative environmental policies that larger cities across the nation and world adopt and build upon.
The Big Blue Bus announced a new Route 45 that traveled between downtown’s most popular destinations between. Route 45 traveled in a loop around Colorado and Ocean Avenues, Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway but was discontinued in the autumn. Officials said the route performed poorly in terms of ridership.
A cocktail lounge with live music and cabaret shows is landing in downtown Santa Monica. Canary moved into the low-slung black building West End occupied at the corner of 5th Street and Arizona Avenue (1301 5th Street).
Santa Monica’s 2019-2021 budget is 7% or about $108 million smaller than its last biennial budget, marking the beginning of a decade where the city will have to pay down a $448 million pension liability while adjusting to tepid revenue growth. Although the city is tightening its belt, the almost $1.6 billion biennial budget City Council boosts funding for homeless services, rental assistance for low-income seniors and a new website officials call a “digital City Hall.”
Water quality at California beaches sunk across the coast this season, but increased at Santa Monica Pier Beach. For the first time since 2013, the Santa Monica Pier Beach didn’t make Heal the Bay’s Beach Bummer List, which ranks the most polluted beaches in California based on the level of harmful bacteria in the water. Santa Monica Pier has appeared on the list six times in the past decade.
A new fast-casual burger chain opened on the north end of the Promenade. Burgerim, an Israeli burger chain known for their customizable burger sliders, held a grand opening. Hollywood Burger also announced it would open in Santa Monica at the former home of ChouChou Cafe / Z Garden on Wilshire.
The first luxury hotel to arrive in Santa Monica in more than a decade hosted its first guests. Proper Santa Monica has been in the works for about 15 years, during which time the local tourism industry has swelled to almost 9 million visitors each year, according to Santa Monica Travel & Tourism’s annual reports.
Erin McKenna opened a new iteration of her vegan and gluten-free bakery on Montana Ave. Erin McKenna’s Bakery serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in addition to the sweet treats that have made McKenna’s Larchmont Village location a cult favorite among Angelenos in search of vegan brownies and bagels.
Santa Monica College hosted its Celebrate America fireworks show, a patriotic event filled with food, music and more, all in the name of celebrating the nation’s independence.