School: Students returned to school with mask mandates and testing requirements. SMDP Photo

AUGUST

Safe Place for Youth expanded their services aimed at helping pregnant and parenting couples. Their program provides youth ages 18 to 24 with 36 months of free housing, personalized case management, education and employment training, and supportive family services.

Samohi graduate Anastasia Khromova released her debut children’s early chapter book, titled “Stella” detailing her puppy’s inspiring journey overcoming Swimmer Puppy Syndrome.

The U.S. finally reached President Joe Biden’s goal of getting at least one COVID-19 shot into 70% of American adults — a month late and amid a fierce surge by the Delta variant that swamped hospitals and led to new mask rules and mandatory vaccinations around the country.

The Santa Monica Police Department said it accepts responsibility for and is learning from its poor initial response to the May 31 events following the release of an independent report into the incident. The OIR (Office of Independent Review) report specified 44 recommendations for the SMPD, principally focused on the areas of transparency, leadership, communication, operational and process issues, use of force, reviewing and updating policies, and training. SMPD’s 19 page response posited a plan for implementing the recommendations, focusing on leadership planning, use of force, and the mental wellbeing of SMPD officers. Of those 44 recommendations, 35 had already been implemented according to the report, and the vast majority of the rest were in progress.

The fallout over a sewage spill into the Santa Monica Bay reached federal lawmakers with Congressman Ted Lieu asking for the Environmental Protection Agency  and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to open an investigation into the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant. The plant discharged about 17 million gallons of raw sewage into the waters near Dockweiler beach after debris clogged its system and operators had been criticized for failing to notify anyone of the spill in a timely manner and for subsequent continued discharge of partially treated wastewater into the ocean.

Elemental Music, a non-profit organization that offers after-school music programs for elementary and middle school students, resumed in-person rehearsals with a newly developed Chamber Music Institute for intermediate and advanced musicians who are interested in playing in small ensembles.

A Culver City man was arrested for murder following a fatal hit-and-run incident at Busby’s Restaurant/Bar. Nicholas Ralph Sloan was charged with murder, assault with a deadly weapon and DUI after he drove his car into a man in the parking lot, killing the victim. 

Positioning himself as the polar opposite of controversial L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, LAX Police Chief Cecil Rhambo entered the race for Sheriff and gained the backing of several other elected officials. Rhambo billed himself as a pro-reform and pro transparency candidate. 

For the first time in 15 years, the Cotsen Foundation, a professional growth program for teachers, is working with SMMUSD schools. Beginning the 2021-2022 school year, Cotsen will take up a two year residency at Roosevelt and Will Rogers Elementary schools, where six to seven teacher fellows will work with one mentor at each school.

While Santa Monica residents consistently surpassed county and national averages for COVID-19 vaccinations, rates among the local workforce lagged behind. About 81 percent of Santa Monica residents had at least one dose of a vaccine. Statewide, about 65 percent of Californians had at least one dose. However, several sections of the Santa Monica economy and workforce had significantly lower vaccination rates.

DTSM released more details on plans to revitalize the Promenade. The plan seeks to modernize and elevate the Promenade as a dining, entertainment, and retail destination with a more diverse range of businesses and experiences that will appeal to both locals and visitors. There are calls for rooftop bars and restaurants, speakeasy style entertainment in basements, activations of alleyway spaces, a new cultural center and the creation of a car free town square. 

The SMMUSD Board approved the final settlement amount with America Unites for Kids ending a six-year legal battle with Malibu activists concerning the removal of toxic Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) from Malibu High School (MHS) and Juan Cabrillo Elementary School (JCES). The parties reached a settlement in the amount of $950,000 for recoverable attorney fees and costs.

Leading the early fundraising charge among three candidates for Supervisor was former Santa Monica Mayor and current State Assemblymember Richard Bloom, who had raised $501,575. He was trailed by West Hollywood Mayor Lindsey Horvath, who had raised $275,175. LA City Controller Ron Galperin raised $255,841. 

The number of county residents hospitalized with COVID-19 nearly doubled in two weeks with the vast majority of cases found in unvaccinated individuals.

With CDC, State and local eviction moratoriums forming a complicated web of overlapping rules, Santa Monica proposed a $55,000 plan to inform everyone of the resources available to keep people housed and pay necessary bills.

The California Department of Public Health mandated all hospital visitors show proof of vaccination or proof of a negative result on a COVID-19 test administered within 72 hours prior to their visit. The move came as some local businesses started asking for voluntary vaccination proof and officials at varying levels began tightening rules regarding vaccination requirements for a variety of businesses. 

In an effort to minimize the spread of COVID-19 on campus SMMUSD went beyond county requirements and instituted outdoor masking and weekly testing as part of its reopening plan.

Los Angeles’ Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) recommended the City of L.A. abandon tiny homes or safe camping sites at Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades, at Dockweiler State Beach in Playa del Rey, or at a privately owned lot at 5000 Beethoven Avenue in Del Rey. It also recommended against using part of the West LA Municipal Building for interim shelter. Councilman Bonin requested the feasibility study of temporary housing in Westside park and beach parking lots.

County officials said unvaccinated people were more likely to engage in risky behaviors that could contribute to the spread of COVID-19. Officials said a higher portion of unvaccinated people engaged in activities that increased transmission risk, including going out to bars/clubs (42 vs. 37 percent), going to other people’s residences (70 vs. 62 percent), attending large gatherings (43 vs. 36 percent) and taking mass transit (18 vs. 10 percent).

A U.S. Army veteran was convicted for attempting to bomb a Long Beach rally as part of a conspiracy that targeted several locations in Southern California including Long Beach, the Santa Monica Pier, Huntington Beach and Los Angeles freeways. Mark Steven Domingo, 28, of Reseda, was found guilty of providing material support to terrorism and attempting to use of a weapon of mass destruction this week according to the U.S. Department of Justice. 

SMMUSD said the arts, extracurricular activities and sports would make a full return to campuses across the District albeit with additional safety precautions. The changes followed a prolonged period of digital only activity that made it difficult for many students to stay engaged. 

Autonomous vehicle company Motional announced plans to bring driverless taxis to local streets as part of an expansion for the Boston based company. The company doubled its 100 person Santa Monica workforce as it geared up operations across the state and tested their latest vehicle. Motional has had a presence in Santa Monica for over five years and officials said the area is perfect for their industry.

A year and a half after the lights went out at the Broad Stage, a traveling, whimsical, outdoor opera marked the theater’s return of live performances. Staged in a parking lot in Downtown Santa Monica, Birds in the Moon was performed in a decked out shipping container with an LED screen, light and sound.

The Venice Family Clinic vaccinated more than 100 people as they recognized National Health Center Week at their Santa Monica clinic. Through a partnership with DoorDash, they applied and obtained DoorDash gift cards to help encourage patients to receive the vaccine. 

Westside dog owners were alerted to higher-than-average numbers of cases of Leptospirosis (Lepto), a pathogenic bacterium, in dogs, as well as an outbreak of canine influenza. Pet owners were encouraged to get their pets vaccinated against the diseases that spread quickly through the community. 

A panel of artists discussed the inequities embedded in the landmark designation process, how society dedicates ‘significance’ or ‘meaning’ to landmarks and how we can shift our mindset to analyze how and why we assign historical and cultural significance to landmarks, in the context of the Pico Neighborhood. The discussion was organized by The 18th Street Arts Center as part of ongoing work studying the area. 

The start of school brought with it warnings about renewed traffic. SMPD said the traffic patterns looked very similar to patterns experienced pre-pandemic, with congestion clustered around all schools and particularly around large campuses such as Samohi in Downtown. 

Four people were wounded in a shooting in Playa del Rey. Two suspects, described as a female and male, fled in a vehicle after the shooting.

DTSM shared plans for its proposed modifications to Lincoln Blvd. The DTSM project is separate from the existing The Lincoln Neighborhood Corridor Plan (The “LiNC”) project in scope and location. The City’s LiNC project covers a section of the road south of the freeway and includes a $5.5M investment in Lincoln with new medians and crosswalks, lighting and landscaping. The Downtown project runs from Wilshire to Olympic and will try to create an inclusive, walkable corridor that serves as a gateway to the Downtown area.

Only around 4,000 of SMC’s 25,000 students registered to take classes in-person, and in order to do so had to prove vaccination status or a valid health or religious exception. While some general lecture courses took place on campus, the majority of in-person offerings were classes that benefited most from hands-on learning such as science labs, PE and the arts. 

The recall effort for Governor Gavin Newsom generated confusion among voters who questioned how the ballot would be organized and what could happen as a result of the election. Despite questions over the timing and process, Newsom ultimately retained his office. 

The staff at Providence Saint John’s Health Center helped grant Nina Heard’s dying wish: to witness her daughter Noel walk down the aisle. Saint John’s caregivers transformed the hospital’s chapel and board room for a wedding ceremony and reception venue so Nina’s daughter So Noel and her fiancé Jacques Arzu could bring their wedding to Nina at the hospital.

After two aborted seasons, SMC men’s volleyball coach Liran Zamir began charting the successful history of the team as means of preparing for the return of live sports. With seven national titles, seven state championships, and 17 conference championships, the SMC men’s volleyball team has one of the best records in the nation and has vastly exceeded athletic expectations for a community college.

A pair of deadly accidents rocked Venice after a woman was killed by a hit and run driver and multiple overdoses sent several teens to the hospital where one died. 

Jason Scott Walsh took a guilty plea over accusations he fired a gun into his neighbor’s garage. Walsh was arrested after a neighbor heard popping sounds. The neighbor, who was having a gathering in his backyard with eight guests, including children, noticed a hole had been shot through his garage and called the police. Officers discovered a bullet on the garage floor. While on scene, SMPD also heard what sounded like suppressed gunfire coming from Walsh’s residence and arrested him on multiple charges. 

SMMUSD launched a weekly COVID-19 testing program for around 9,000 students and 1,300 staff members. Although County health protocols only required schools provide testing for symptomatic individuals, SMMUSD planned to carry out weekly surveillance testing in the belief that it would better allow the District to remain on top of outbreaks and keep children in the classroom.

Anti-vaccine protesters gathered near the Santa Monica Pier as part of an international movement against COVID-19 restrictions. While rumors of violence spread before the event, the protest was peaceful. 

The City settled additional claims related to abuse at the Police Activities League for $54.9 million. The settlement resolved all claims and lawsuits brought by 61 individuals who alleged that a PAL volunteer sexually abused or attempted to sexually abuse them between the late 1980s and early 2000s when many were youth participating in the Police Activities League program. 

Council reconsidered a motion to ban items that can be converted into weapons during large protests. The original motion failed in April but in August a reconstituted Council voted to ban an extended list of items during protests including items such as poles, plastic pipes, or wooden sticks. 

Council unanimously adopted new rules to prohibit dumping of commercial trash in City receptacles, dumping of liquid waste on public rights of way on or onto the Pier or Beach, or into storm drains and the use of combustible fuels on or in close proximity to the Pier. The rules were designed to address public health and safety problems caused by illegal street vendors on and around the Pier.

Youth sports were identified as the leading culprit for COVID-19 outbreaks at schools. Of all the school outbreaks that occurred in August, half were associated with school sports. County officials said sports pose heightened risk of transmission as students travel together for competitions, come in close contact with each other, and breathe heavily due to physical exertion.

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