Harbor: Officials were unable to find a victim after receiving reports of a person in distress. SMDP Photo

JULY 

City Council appointed Lana Negrete as two-time former Mayor and longtime City Councilmember Kevin McKeown abruptly retired in early June. Negrete is a small business owner who said she would prioritize safety and economic recovery. 

Santa Monica-based Bird was shut out of the City’s mobility system after the company received the final ‘no vote’ from Council. After Bird was rejected from the second mobility pilot program in May it filed an appeal alleging that the City did not follow a fair selection process, denied Bird the opportunity to comment on recommendations and didn’t disclose all selection criteria. Bird’s appeal failed by a 3-2-2 vote, with Councilmembers De la Torre, Gleam and McCowan in favor; Brock and Parra in opposition; and Himmelrich abstaining from voting as competitor company Lyft is a client of her husband. Councilwoman Lana Negrete, who took her seat that night, also abstained citing a lack of time to learn about the issue. A four-vote majority was needed to overturn the decision. 

Black Lives Matter Los Angeles filed a complaint against the City and former Police Chief Cynthia Renaud in response to alleged unconstitutional use of force and arrests during protests last year. The complaint was filed by plaintiffs BLMLA and three protesters, who seek to turn their suit into a class action case that applies to all protesters who were detained by the police or subjected to excessive force.

SMPD officer Joaquin Vega was remembered at a funeral at St. Monica’s church. Vega was hired with the Santa Monica Police Department on October 14, 1985. He worked and supervised a variety of assignments including the Field Training Officer program, 3rd Street Bicycle Unit, Pico Neighborhood Unit, the Gang Unit and was a member of the original Metro Team (SWAT). He was promoted to Sergeant on October 24, 1999. He retired from the department on his birthday December 16, 2014. He acted as a mentor to many and always made time to share his knowledge and experiences with those less tenured than him. Vega grew up in Santa Monica and was very involved in the community.

Celebrity businesswoman Tyra Banks opened a retail ice cream store inside the Santa Monica Place Mall. The location closed in December. 

The Ocean Park Association’s highly anticipated Fourth of July Parade evolved with ongoing COVID-19 concerns to a mobile event with festive trucks heading down major streets as opposed to the usual route along Main Street. 

The Venice homelessness crisis spilled over into Santa Monica with an increase in unhoused individuals setting up on local beaches. Several agencies that work with the local homeless population reported more people living on the streets near the south end of the beach and the spike in homelessness came as Los Angeles officials began to tackle the recently overrun Venice Boardwalk.

Heal the Bay released their annual beach report card for 2021. Only one L.A. county beach made the beach bummer list, Marina Del Rey’s Mothers Beach. Santa Monica Pier evaded the beach bummer list, but historically scores low water quality averages, and is currently listed at a “D” rating at best. 

In a movement spurred by the locally-based Kite Pharma, a growing number of biotech businesses and research institutions set up shop in or near Santa Monica, creating exciting benefits for the local economy as well as for students, job seekers, and patients. Santa Monica became a hub for a type of biotech research known as cell therapy, where cells can be grown and genetically engineered and then injected into patients to generate a medicinal effect. Local research has already achieved significant results in using engineered T cells to fight cancer.

The tragic collapse of a condominium in Miami prompted locals to question if local structures were safe. Officials said residents should take comfort in the strength of local construction codes, but also take the initiative to verify maintenance in private buildings.

The Pier began restructuring operations and management as it grappled with dramatically reduced funding. The City’s grant to the Pier Corporation went from $746,402 in FY 2019/20 to just $200,000 for FY 2021/22. The City initially cut the Pier’s grant during last summer’s pandemic budget restructuring and further reduced it by $50,000 this fiscal year.

After the city’s libraries received a funding boost, more services were added to locations and several that had been closed since the pandemic saw a resumption of some in-person services. 

Santa Monica’s drinking water continued to meet or exceed all safety standards but the persistent drought was an ongoing concern for local water officials.

The July 4 holiday was a return to almost normal activity for police officers and firefighters who said tourist hubs were busy and total calls into the emergency services were on par with years past. Local hotels were at or above 90 percent capacity over the weekend and areas along Main Street, downtown and the beach had significant visitor traffic.

A homeless man identified as Preston Rochon, accosted a couple in a downtown parking garage and threatened to assault the female victim. When the male victim intervened, Rochon was able to steal their vehicle and backed over the male victim causing life-threatening injuries. Rochon then crashed the car into barricades near the Pier and was arrested.

As Executive Director of Santa Monica based non-profit Happy Trails for Kids, Lindsay Elliot provides outdoor learning and extracurricular activities to around 400 foster youths each year, including a highly anticipated summer camp at Big Bear Lake. Over the past year, she used the online hangouts and activities provided by Happy Camper Live to keep campers connected through the pandemic and beyond.

Companies proceeded cautiously when returning employees to in-person locations as they tried to balance declining COVID-19 infections against a potential backlash by workers who are not ready to return. Tensions spilled into the public eye at a few companies where some staff organized petitions or even walkouts to protest being recalled to the office. 

Gov. Gavin Newsom asked people and businesses to voluntarily cut water use by 15 percent as the Western United States weathered a drought that rapidly depleted reservoirs relied on for agriculture, drinking water and fish habitat. Water conservation was not mandatory, but it demonstrated the growing challenges of a drought that worsened throughout the summer and fall and was tied to more intense wildfires and heat waves. 

L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva toured Downtown with a group of business owners offering suggestions on actions they could take to address issues around crime, homelessness, and trash. He suggested Santa Monica businesses hire Sheriff deputies to patrol select areas of Downtown and augment the security efforts of the Santa Monica Police Department. Santa Monica officials criticized the visit and the insinuation that SMPD was unable to handle the situation saying Sheriff deputies were bound by the same restrictions and laws as local officers. 

Santa Monica resident Mike Sullivan, known professionally as The LA Car Guy opened a Genesis dealership in Santa Monica, his sixth in the city and 13th overall. He now employs more than 600 people with 300 in his local dealerships.

City Planners approved plans for a micro-hotel project at the existing Shore Hotel property that includes 34 beds inside a 14 room concept as part of an ongoing settlement issued by the California Coastal Commission due to the unpermitted construction of the original building. In 2008, Sunshine Enterprises L.P., the development company owned by the Farzam Family, obtained a permit from the California Coastal Commission to construct a low-cost hotel, with room-rates as low as $165 per night. The permit to construct the low-cost hotel expired in 2011, when Sunshine Enterprises failed to fulfill the special conditions of their Coastal Development Permit (CDP). The development firm then constructed the 164-room, boutique, luxury Shore Hotel with rooms going between $300-$800 per night. Sunshine Enterprises received a fine of $15.5 million from the California Coastal Commission over the work and a requirement to build the low cost rooms. 

After being selected by the City as one of two cannabis companies in a 2018 licensing application process, CPC Compassion Inc. secured a location at 925 Wilshire Blvd. and submitted its application for a Conditional Use Permit for a medical marijuana business. 

Several local beaches closed to swimmers and surfers after 17 million gallons of sewage spilled into Santa Monica Bay from the Hyperion Water Reclamation Plant due to a mechanical failure. The spill led to months of ongoing bacterial testing in local waters and near perpetual warnings along some sections of the coast. However, experts said the bacteria levels found at local beaches were probably unrelated to a recent sewage discharge and were more likely the result of perennial factors like storm drains. 

Santa Monica’s 9-1-1 system was disabled by a utility company’s construction error. Frontier Communications was responsible for the disruption. Service was disrupted for several hours as some calls were routed to other nearby agencies or answered after a delay. 

Global health experts said efforts should focus on getting vaccines to unvaccinated people rather than begin boosting already vaccinated people. Many said worrisome coronavirus mutants wouldn’t be popping up so fast if more of the U.S. and the rest of the world had gotten the initial round of shots.

Santa Monica resident Yule Caise fought off a homeless man who charged at his front door after Caise interrupted two individuals rummaging through trash and stealing items from his alley. 

The Santa Monica Conservancy held a virtual silent auction, Plates in Places, in honor of the city’s food legacy. The conservancy is a grassroots non-profit organization founded in 2002 with an emphasis on the cultural, social, economic and environmental benefits of historic preservation. 

Santa Monica beachgoers noticed several planes bearing artwork by Shephard Fairey, the artist behind the iconic Obama “Hope” poster and the OBEY Giant campaign. The Fairey design flying above Santa Monica was created for Power to the Patients, a grassroots movement that began in March to inform patients that they now have the right to know the price of healthcare before receiving it. 

Los Angeles County residents were again required to wear masks indoors regardless of their vaccination status — a new mandate that health officials hoped would reverse the latest spikes in coronavirus cases, hospitalizations and deaths caused by the Delta variant. California saw a steady rise in virus cases since the state fully reopened its economy on June 15 and did away with capacity limits and social distancing.

The chair of former President Donald Trump’s 2017 inaugural committee was arrested on charges alleging he conspired to influence Trump’s foreign policy positions to benefit the United Arab Emirates and commit crimes striking at what prosecutors described as “the very heart of our democracy.” Tom Barrack, 74, of Santa Monica, was among three men charged in federal court in Brooklyn, New York, with conspiring to act as an unregistered foreign agent as they tried to influence foreign policy while Trump was running in 2016 and later while he was president. Besides conspiracy, Barrack was charged with obstruction of justice and making multiple false statements during a June 2019 interview with federal agents. 

With violent smash-and-grab shoplifting costing California businesses millions of dollars annually, Gov. Gavin Newsom signed a law aimed at curbing organized retail theft. The law reestablishes the crime of organized retail theft, which lawmakers first created in 2018 but allowed to lapse as of July 1. Prosecutors could again seek to charge the crime as either a misdemeanor or a felony. It applies to those who work with others to steal merchandise either from brick-and-mortar stores or online, with the intent to sell or return the merchandise.

For several weeks, the two blocks between Hill and Kinney streets became a pedestrian friendly marketplace where the public could safely enjoy al fresco dining and family activities with local businesses. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the City’s economic recovery efforts to reopen Santa Monica included repurposed travel lanes and converted parking spaces to allow businesses to temporarily launch outdoor dining, shopping, and recreation. As an extension of this concept, the Main Street Business Improvement Association and Ocean Park Association initiated the Sharing an Open Main Street, which was approved by City Council on a pilot basis.

Congressman Ted Lieu alongside California Senators Dianne Feinstein and Alex Padilla, introduced the Fighting Homelessness Through Services and Housing Act. This bill would authorize $1 billion in grants annually for five years for local governments to spend on supportive housing models with comprehensive services and intensive case management. Lieu said that if the bill passes, the City of Santa Monica would be an excellent grant candidate, because of its “track record of being aggressive on dealing with homelessness” and its “very competent staff.”

Council selected David White, formerly the deputy city manager for Berkeley, as the new city manager for the City of Santa Monica.

A judge agreed with a majority of Santa Monica councilmembers that current Councilman Oscar de la Torre was conflicted over the City’s defense of the California Voting Rights Act lawsuit filed by his wife and the Pico Neighborhood Association. Council made the decision to exclude de la Torre in January by a 4-2-1 vote. However, the judge reversed his decision later in the year and did not dismiss the case, instead scheduling a hearing for oral arguments. 

A first of its kind dog agility park and shaded picnic area was announced for a strip of 7th Street. The project will be located along the eastern perimeter walls of the Big Blue Bus depot, near the Post Office, creating a long linear area for dogs to go off leash. The space will include four fenced dog exercise areas designated for large dogs, small dogs, and in-training/injured dogs as well as a picnic area with trees, tables and chairs.

The Santa Monica Police Department, Fire Department, County Lifeguards and the Coast Guard searched the water near the Pier following reports of a swimmer in trouble. A witness reported a woman in the water clinging to one of the Pier supports but no one was found when officials searched the area.

A man arrested by the Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department (LASD) for allegedly selling drugs to homeless people in Venice claimed the entire incident was falsified in retaliation for an earlier complaint filed against the department. Sheriff’s Deputies said they arrested Gary Featherstone recovering PCP, Methamphetamine and more than $15,000 in cash. Featherstone said the drugs were found along a wall area near his tent that is used by several homeless residents. He said the cash was a combination of money withdrawn from the bank and winnings from a poker game. Featherstone said the arrest was part of an election strategy by the Sheriff himself to demonize homeless people and was the result of a previous complaint Featherstone filed against the department. 

A homeless man was charged with a hate crime after attempting to rob a woman of Korean descent in Downtown Santa Monica. SMPD said the victim and a family member were parking her car on the 1500 block of 2nd Street and when the victim went to pay for a meter, the suspect approached, asked for money and questioned the victim’s ethnicity. When he was not given money, the suspect began yelling racial slurs, ranting about the Coronavirus and attacked the victim. 

Mayor Sue Himmelrich spoke at an event celebrating the installation of eight new EVgo electric vehicle charging stations at Downtown Lot 29. The public fast chargers provide zero emission charging and are part of the City’s plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by promoting electric vehicles

The City of Santa Monica considered vaccine requirements for the municipal workforce. No mandate was issued but City Hall held ongoing negotiations with several unions over the issue. 

After successfully steering the City’s public libraries through a year and a half of extreme financial turbulence, Patty Wong departed for a position as Library Director in the City of Santa Clara.

As a result of the City’s failure to issue tax forms to attorneys for certain settlement payments, an IRS audit sought over $3 million from the City, but the issue was resolved with a $116,416 payment.

A man was killed in Venice as the result of a car-to-car shooting. No arrests were made immediately following the incident and LAPD continued to investigate the incident.

JUNE

AUGUST

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...