The Santa Monica Police Department added a new canine to the team that will allow it to conduct sweeps for guns and other explosive devices like never before. Jack, SMPD’s newest canine recruit, can sniff out weapon parts, ammunition, carbon, gun oils, cleaning solvents, fireworks, black powder and several other components related to firearms from nearly 50 yards away.

As daily COVID-19 case rates reached record highs, L.A. County issued new health orders closing playgrounds, limiting business capacities and banning all gatherings between households.

Winterlit returned to Downtown Santa Monica. On Promenade, residents could see tens of thousands of lights illuminating the outdoor retail and dining storefronts. Holiday-inspired art installations came to life in window displays and through the murals that were created by local artists who were asked to interpret what the holiday season means to them during an unprecedented year.

The City of Santa Monica looked to raise $30,000 to support families who face food insecurity.

The SMMUSD Board opened applications to fill the vacancy left by Oscar de la Torre, who was elected to City Council in the November election. Board members will appoint one of the applicants during a public meeting on Jan 14, 2021. The new member will serve out the remaining two years of de la Torre’s term and will be eligible to run for the full four-year seat in the November 2022 election.

The Keep L.A. County Dining Program came in the wake of a controversial decision to shut down outdoor dining for three weeks, and provided a limited number of restaurants with funds for payroll, operational expenses and adaptations to COVID-19 restrictions.

Local artist Yossi Govrin filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Monica and Mayor Kevin McKeown alleging that his studios and artist community were seized through a corrupt bidding process.

Opposition to the recent closure of outdoor dining drove several Los Angeles area cities to consider abandoning the County’s Health Department in favor of a new agency and Santa Monica officials said they were open to discussing the idea. Lancaster, Beverly Hills, West Covina, Whittier, and Hawaiian Gardens all discussed forming new departments or made an official statement opposing County operations.

After 13 years of service, Ralph Mechur stepped down from SMMUSD Board of Education and said he looked forward to ushering in new leaders to continue pursuing excellent equitable education for all students.

The Venice Chamber of Commerce hosted its annual Holiday Sign Lighting virtually, ensuring everyone could eat, drink, and be merry from the comfort of their homes.

The newest members of City Council were sworn in along with their fellow winners of the November election.

Comedians and Ocean Park residents Jake Johannsen and Cristela Alonzo paired up for a special fundraiser in support of GRID Alternatives Greater Los Angeles, an organization that uses a volunteer model to install solar panels in underserved communities at no cost.

With little relief in sight, restaurants organized in an unprecedented collective effort to fight what they perceive as a senseless and hypocritical ban on outdoor dining. From a grassroots petition by a Santa Monica restaurant manager, to a City wide restaurant coalition and a County level lawsuit, hospitality workers are worked together to advocate for their industry’s survival.

Santa Monica’s sixth Housing Element was discussed by Planning Commissioners and the community. The document dictates how the region will meet affordable housing needs in the next decade.

New Roads School invited Professor Ibram X. Kendi to engage the school community in a critical conversation on teaching anti-racism.

Educators attempted to adapt to the times to provide their kids with holiday cheer. Santa Monica High School teacher Guadalupe Mireles-Toumayan helped her students set up the Christmas decorations that now adorn a storefront on 3rd Street Promenade.

Los Angeles County tallied 10,000 coronavirus cases in a 24-hour span for the first time ever.

A group of families fought against the playground closure by organizing a petition to the County Board of Supervisors and exercising their right to protest in Douglas Park. The movement was led by local parents Jill Savoy, Laura Tabano, and Monzerrat Brunkhorst who believe playgrounds are a relatively safe activity that is very important for children’s physical, emotional, and social wellbeing.

The 12th annual Santa Monica Pub Crawl returned to spread some much-needed holiday cheer, but utilized a new virtual and social-distanced experience, which organizers said evoked the same spirit of crawls from years prior and allowed residents to support local restaurants.

Local high school senior Michael Major challenged the public to ‘change the climate’ on a 50 foot sign above the freeway. The giant banner hung on the side of a clean energy office building at 3402 Pico Blvd directly facing the I-10 freeway, causing thousands of drivers to reflect on what it means to change the climate.

Councilmember Sue Himmelrich was selected by a 5 – 2 vote margin to serve as Mayor for two years breaking with the previous precedent of year long terms. Himmelrich told the Daily Press she would only accept a two year term as she believes the job requires continuity in leadership and because she needs a longer term to justify cutting back from her important work at the Western Center on Law and Poverty.

The Santa Monica Police Department arrested a shotgun-wielding bank robber at the Wells Fargo Bank, 170 Pier. Officers conducted a high-risk traffic stop at the intersection of Neilson Way and Bicknell. 

A U.S. government advisory panel endorsed widespread use of Pfizer’s coronavirus vaccine, putting the country just one step away from launching an epic vaccination campaign against the outbreak that has killed close to 300,000 Americans.

SMMUSD Facilities Improvement Projects staff shared a plan for using $98 million of measure SMS funding for a first round of renovations to Santa Monica elementary and middle schools. The team proposed three major moves to provide new buildings at Rogers, McKinley, and Roosevelt elementary schools, two medium sized moves to improve facilities at Grant and Franklin elementary schools, and smaller improvements at John Adams.

L.A. County recorded a new daily high of 13,815 cases entering what health officials called “uncharted territory” that could put serious strain on hospital capacities in coming weeks. The County passed the alarming milestone of half a million COVID cases and the ongoing surge does not currently show signs of stopping.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System has $6 billion worth of investments in fossil fuels and Samohi’s Team Marine wants every dollar divested. After making a compelling presentation to the Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association, the student environmental group succeeded in getting their divestment resolution passed with a unanimous vote.

Santa Monica High School graduate and Jazz musician extraordinaire John Beasley earned four Grammy nominations, placing him in the top tier of nomination-getters tied with popstars Justin Bieber and Billie Eilish. Beasley received two nominations for his 16 piece Jazz Ensemble MONK’estra, one for Best  Jazz Vocal Album for conducting, and one for Best Arrangement Instrument and Vocals.

The Planning Commission approved a plan to replace a pair of commercial spaces with a mixed use project including 30 residential units. The project site is two adjoining lots (combined 15,000 SF) located on the eastside of Lincoln Boulevard between Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway.

Providence Southern California, which operates St. John’s hospital in Santa Monica, began administering vaccines to frontline caregivers this week. Between the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines, Providence expects to offer initial vaccine doses to all 20,000 of its high risk caregivers by the end of the year.

Interim City Manager Lane Dilg announced her resignation from the City of Santa Monica. According to City Hall, Dilg informed the City Council and City staff that she will leave the City of Santa Monica in Spring 2021 as her family relocates for public service outside of Santa Monica.

Former Mayor Bob Holbrook died. Holbrook was a Santa Monica native, born at the now defunct St. Catherine’s Hospital on 4th Street and educated in Santa Monica schools including Roosevelt, John Muir, John Adams Middle, and Samohi. He attended Santa Monica College. 

From the hardship of COVID restrictions artists discovered an exciting new canvas — street side K-Rails. Up and down Main Street, the concrete barriers installed for al-fresco dining were adorned with vibrant artwork in the latest installment of Santa Monica’s “Art of Recovery” initiative, which employs artists in service of the City’s recovery efforts.

Months after restarting talks with developers of the Santa Monica Plaza project the Santa Monica City Council once again ceased all negotiations relating to the project.

L.A. County hit a record 131 daily deaths and reported that only 102 of 2,500 adult ICU beds remained available, with capacities projected to be overwhelmed in the coming weeks. Officials also reported an all time high of 21,411 new daily cases, although this number was inflated by a backlog of approximately 7,000 cases.

For 47 years, dancers at Westside Ballet of Santa Monica have captivated audiences over the holidays with a production of “The Nutcracker”. Per tradition, Westside Ballet students have selected pieces from the beloved score but this year the performances will be viewed virtually in an abbreviated showcase titled “Kingdom of the Sweets”.

Conflict broke out in a School Board meeting when City Council member Oscar de la Torre attempted to continue serving as a Board member and was told he could only speak as a member of the public. The District believes that per Government Code Section 1099, which prohibits elected officials from holding “incompatible offices”, de la Torre forfeited his Board position when he assumed a seat on City Council on Dec. 8. De la Torre disagrees and said it is up to a judge and not the District to decide whether the positions are incompatible.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District Board of Education approved a “Distance Learning Plus” model for when L.A. County enters Tier 2 of COVID-19 restrictions. Distance learning will serve to maintain educational consistency and prioritize safety, while the ‘plus’ will create opportunities for students to have two valuable in-person experiences a week.

Dozens of local landlords and property managers filed a complaint suing the City of Santa Monica in hopes of overturning a ban on short-term rentals throughout the city.

Few art forms have been as crippled by the pandemic as the performing arts, which necessitates an audience by nature. Diane Collins of DC dance, however, has decided that the show must go on and stretched the company’s creative capacities to safely film a 30 routine dance show.

The Venice Mexican American Traquero Monument Committee and the American Veterans Post 2, led by Venice resident Laura Ceballos and Santa Monica resident Frank Sr Juarez, received approval from the Venice Neighborhood Council to place a Mexican American monument at Windward Circle. The sculpture would be the first monument to Mexican Americans on the Westside.

Caltrans announced that The McClure Tunnel and several nearby ramps will temporarily close in January to facilitate upgrades to the freeway.