Crime: Incidents in Downtown Santa Monica became a topic of conversation. SMDP Photo

JUNE

Despite the rise of remote work and pandemic closures, Santa Monica’s office rents didn’t hit rock bottom. Companies fled Santa Monica offices in higher numbers than the rest of LA, spiking vacancy rates and causing rental prices to drop for the first time since 2010. However, rents didn’t fall by as much as they had during past events and experts said Santa Monica’s rental market was poised for a strong recovery due to its desirable location and constrained supply.

SMMUSD announced students would return to campus in June for an in-person graduation ceremony that celebrates graduates in the Samohi’s Greek Theater for the first time since 2019.

A 91-year-old man died after being struck by a rented electric scooter piloted by a suspected drunken driver who had a passenger on board.

Santa Monica Travel and Tourism estimated that hotel occupancy rates ran in the 90 percent range over Memorial Day. Visitor levels mirrored those of 2019 but SMTT said visitor numbers and occupancy rates would not return to normal until 2023 due to the loss of the international market, labor shortages and California’s stringent COVID-19 restrictions.

Despite more reopening efforts, officials warned locals that some COVID-19 safety measures, including masks and distancing, may persist. Specifically, workplaces had to follow rules set by Cal/OSHA that continued to call for the now normal practice of masks and distancing, especially when co-workers are not vaccinated. 

After a muted 2020, Santa Monica Pride returned with colorful events offering a range of in-person and virtual experiences to celebrate and advocate for the LGBTQ+ community. The month included special lights on City Hall, an installation on the Promenade and panel discussions. 

A Los Angeles man was arrested after shooting a homeless man in the face with a BB gun causing a “catastrophic” eye injury.

Council approved a multi-million dollar contract for the demolition of Parking Structure 3. Plans for the demolition of PS3 stretch back more than 20 years. The site was initially earmarked for a retail and cinema development, but that plan failed to materialize and in 2018 Housing Commission prioritized PS3 for a future affordable housing site. 

An art gallery popped up featuring photography, painting, and handcrafted goods from Pico and Los Angeles based Latinx artists. Spearheaded by the Pico Improvement Organization, the initiative sought to use art to propel the neighborhood’s economic recovery and showcase the area’s Latino heritage.

With more than 30 years of experience, Jim Harris was tapped for a second tour of duty as Interim Executive Director of the Santa Monica Pier taking over an organization with a reduced budget and a radically different vision. 

A homeless woman was arrested after pulling a knife during a press conference at the Venice Boardwalk. Los Angeles City Councilman and mayoral candidate Joe Buscaino held the conference announcing his plan to address the city’s homelessness crisis.

In a break with jurisdictional tradition, L.A. County Sheriff Alex Villanueva announced his intention to clear the Venice Boardwalk (in LAPD’s territory) of its unhoused population by July 4. The effort was controversial not just for its breach of protocol but also for its effectiveness. While some residents praised any efforts to establish a sense of order on the Venice encampment, the Sheriff’s efforts were seen as grandstanding by established entities who said few people were actually moved into housing as a result of his patrols. 

A pilot program providing free bus and train rides for low-income riders and K-12 students in Los Angeles County was extended. The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority unanimously voted to approve the development of the pilot program. Transit officials touted the elimination of fares as a way to help Los Angeles emerge from the pandemic, put money back in the pockets of those who need it the most, and increase ridership.

Santa Monica tried to hire René Bobadilla as the city’s newest City Manager but Bobadilla rejected the offer after his name was leaked to the press prior to the job offer. 

Plans to redevelop the grocery store at Lincoln and Broadway went before the Planning Commission. The property is currently home to a Von’s store with an above ground parking lot but the proposed project would redevelop the site into a mixed use concept with parking, ground floor retail (grocery store) and several levels of housing. The project calls for a new 53,500 square feet grocery store on the ground floor with 1,500 square feet of outdoor dining space and additional below-grade storage. An additional 34,000 square feet retail/ restaurant/ fitness uses is part of the plan with approximately 523 bicycle spaces and 354 vehicle parking spaces.

A feud between County Sheriff Alex Villanueva and other electeds over who has the authority over and correct approach to Venice’s homelessness crisis escalated. County Supervisors and Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin criticized the Sheriff’s intervention and said his track record made him unqualified to insert himself into Los Angeles City’s problem. 

Pandemic-era changes to support economic recovery were extended with a pilot program called “Santa Monica Outdoors.” The one-year pilot allows for the continued use of parklets, streets, sidewalks, and public spaces in areas like the Santa Monica Pier and Third Street Promenade for uses relating to outdoor dining, retail, and fitness. Fee waivers associated with temporary use permits were extended through the rest of 2021.

City Councilman Oscar De la Torre asked the Council to recognize the 30-year anniversary of an unsolved 1991 act of hate that saw a racist letter sent to students at Santa Monica High School. Councilmembers agreed to acknowledge the harm caused by the incident and expressed regret that the investigation did not produce justice for those affected in a unanimous vote.

Rent increases for rent controlled units were limited to 1.7% with a maximum monthly increase of $39.

City Hall developed a new code of conduct that more clearly applied to elected officials and increased enforcement provisions. 

Businesses across Santa Monica were able to reopen to 100 percent capacity and masking became optional for vaccinated residents in most settings. Dr. Mark Ghaly, the State’s Health and Human Services Secretary, outlined three mask policies businesses could choose to adopt going forward: asking all patrons to continue wearing masks, asking for proof of vaccination, or relying on an honor system. Eventually County regulations would establish the rules for local businesses including requiring masks in most indoor settings. 

Tensions over tennis courts flared with hundreds of dedicated Pickleball players asking for recognition and a space of their own to play. There are no permanent pickleball courts in Santa Monica, however there are four tennis courts in Memorial Park that are striped for pickleball. Rights to use the courts were in dispute and Pickleball players were disappointed when Council didn’t take any action to prioritize their needs in planning and budget processes. 

Custodians, supervisors and classified staff in SMMUSD received Hero Pay compensation. After months of negotiations, a Memorandum of Understanding was ratified making union members eligible to receive up to $2,000 depending on their assignment during the pandemic.

Council sent its draft Housing Element to the California Department of Housing and Community Development for review. In order to comply with state requirements this cycle, the City must build 8,895 units — 69% of these must be affordable.

A recall was filed against Los Angeles Councilmember Mike Bonin. Recall Bonin 2021, the group looking to unseat the councilmember, mailed Bonin an intent to recall letter by certified mail and said he had failed to keep promises to the district. 

Santa Monicans were eager to celebrate Juneteenth in person. The term Juneteenth is a blend of the words June and nineteenth and recognizes the date the last group of former slaves learned of the Emancipation Proclamation. Santa Monica recognizes the date with an annual celebration. 

In a celebration of nature, Pride, and queerness, Heal the Bay hosted a performance packed and environmentally engaged aquatic drag show. The first ever “Queers on Piers” event was live streamed using a blend of wit and cheer to weave together the marine themed drag acts and informative segments on environmental issues and queerness in the natural world.

COVID-19 infections in Los Angeles County were increasingly contained to unvaccinated individuals and officials said they were concerned a more dangerous variant could spread if vaccination rates continue to decline. Officials said the Delta variants first began infecting Los Angeles residents in the beginning of April and since then, there have been 64 known cases of Delta variant infection in the county.

City Council approved an updated FY 2021-23 biennial budget that projected no deficit. This budget signified a marked improvement from staff’s early pandemic predictions, which projected an annual General Fund deficit of $48 million, $102 million and $74 million over the coming years. The overall budget is $705.5 million in FY 2021-22 and allowed the City to ramp up several services that were cut back during the pandemic. 

Businesses and hotels in Marina del Rey sounded an alarm against what they perceived as an ill-advised proposal to convert a parking lot in the marina into a homeless camping site. The proposal was submitted by CD-11 Councilman Mike Bonin who identified Fisherman’s Village as one of several seaside locations where County-owned parking lots could be converted into safe camping or tiny home sites for unhoused individuals. The Marina del Rey Convention and Visitors Bureau sent a letter to Supervisor Janice Hahn on behalf of the local business community urging her to oppose the proposal, which they feared could deter tourists and jeopardize their economic recovery.

City staff concluded anything but the most basic of Pier Bridge replacement options would jeopardize funding from state or federal sources while also delaying the process by an additional two years, which could push the construction timeline into the Olympics. To meet its various goals, the City will jettison several ideas for an offset pedestrian walkway and eliminate any possibility of installing elevators to improve access. Planners are now pursuing three basic options: widen the bridge slightly on the left, widen it slightly on the right, or do nothing.

The Santa Monica Democratic Club hosted District Attorney George Gascón and members of the City’s newly formed Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission for a virtual conversation covering efforts to reform the criminal justice system and local police departments.

The Annenberg Beach House hosted a masquerade ball bringing LGBTQ+ youth together from across the Westside. The event, known as Queer Prom, has been running in Santa Monica for 10 years and is organized by Samohi’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance in partnership with the Church in Ocean Park. 

SMPD arrested a Long Beach man after a fight on the Promenade turned deadly. According to SMPD, officers were called to the 300 block of Broadway for reports of shots fired where they found a man with a stab wound to the neck. The victim died at the hospital. Officers learned that an altercation between the victim and suspects began near the Santa Monica Pier and ended downtown where the fight occurred. 

SMMUSD received millions of dollars in COVID-19 relief funds, which helped bolster reserves in light of an expected decrease in property tax revenues. An increase in redevelopment agency funds paired millions in relief funds to provide a much-needed boost to district reserves. 

Council formally approved the contract of former City Manager John Jalili, who began serving as interim city manager when then interim manager Lane Dilg left.

Los Angeles Councilman Mike Bonin outlined his six week “Encampment to Home Program”, which planned to utilize government agencies and local non-profits to offer a “pathway to permanent housing” to almost 200 people living along Ocean Front Walk. Bonin explicitly stated that his operation would not use the LAPD and his plan followed a challenge by the Sheriff to clear the camps more quickly. 

The burgeoning labor shortage had very different impacts on local hospitality businesses. Santa Monica’s hotels found themselves uniquely poised to weather the labor shortage. Hotels had several factors working in their favor — a more gradual ramp up in demand, strong worker recall laws, a pre-existing employee pipeline and the ability to offer competitive wages. In contrast, local restaurants continued to struggle with some saying hotels were actually poaching employees. Restaurant owners said ongoing boosts to unemployment benefits were encouraging potential employees to stay home and small restaurants found themselves competing with much larger entities for a limited pool of workers. 

The community bid an emotional farewell to Interim City Manager Lane Dilg as she prepared to leave the city for Washington D.C. Dilg arrived in Santa Monica as City Attorney in 2017 before taking over as Interim City Manager when Rick Cole resigned. She left as her family pursued other career opportunities. 

Santa Monica extended the City’s Eviction Moratorium until Sept. 30, providing relief for tenants and frustration for small landlords. The City did so to align with an extended County moratorium and to give landlords and tenants time to apply to the statewide rental assistance program, which was reported to have over $5 billion dollars in rental assistance funds available. City Hall began a communications campaign to inform renters and landlords about the extended eviction moratoriums.

Republican challenger John Cox drove into town to deliver his case as to why voters should choose him over Gavin Newsom in Newsom’s recall election. Cox passed through Santa Monica several times during the campaign but failed to garner significant support as other Republicans overtook him in the race and Newsom eventually prevailed. 

The Los Angeles Police Department said a suspect in a Venice murder was been arrested. Pacific officers arrested 38-year old Michael McClain, of Venice, who was booked for the murder of 49-year-old Michael Hall. Both the victim and suspect were homeless.

The family of former Los Angeles Angels pitcher Tyler Skaggs filed lawsuits in Texas and California charging the team and two former employees with negligence in his drug-related death two years ago. The lawsuits — filed by Skaggs’ parents in Texas and his wife in California — name the Angels organization as well as former Los Angeles communications directors Tim Mead and Eric Kay as defendants. Neither complaint specified how much money the family is seeking. Kay was indicted by a federal grand jury on drug charges for allegedly providing Skaggs with the drugs that caused his overdose death.

MAY

JULY