2021: The middle of the year was a busy time with protests, covid, homelessness and graduation. SMDP File Photos

As the Broad Stage geared up for the return of in-person performances, it launched an interactive virtual series giving viewers an intimate look inside the creative journey behind its newly commissioned works. The series, which was entitled REVEAL, utilized many of the technological tools that the Broad Stage adopted during the pandemic.

A natural gas leak prompted the evacuation of residents in the city’s northeast corner, but those left behind were stuck in the dark, without power, searching for information. The situation started when a private contractor attempting to install fiber optic lines struck a gas main.

Downtown Santa Monica’s pedestrian counts were routinely surpassing 2019 levels on Saturdays and Sundays, sometimes by over 15 percent as visitors returned to the newly reopened retail area. 

Santa Monica’s first civilian police oversight body was selected. Council said they are eager to see how residents and local police officials adapt department policies to promote the best of community-oriented policing. The Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee later made a number of recommendations on how Santa Monica can reform its law enforcement practices and better promote equity in the city.

Facing a dearth of job openings in the pandemic economy, six LMU graduates decided that instead of seeing their youth as a weakness they would reframe it as their greatest asset. Together they launched NinetyEight — an advertising agency founded on the premise that only members of Gen-Z know the best ways to reach Gen-Z.

Almost 100 community members stood in front of a photo of Togo and lit candles at sunset in honor of the dog who lost his life in an early morning blaze believed to have been started by homeless individuals. The vigil was held on Venice Beach by friends of Togo and his owner Dr. Courtney Gillenwater.

SMC Trustee and Harbor UCLA physician Sion Roy threw his hat in the ring for AD50 Assembly Member, citing a need for more medical professionals at all levels of government. Roy suspended his campaign when district boundaries were redrawn at the end of 2021.

Local students were back on campus for the second week of full-time, in-class learning. After months of distance learning via Zoom, SMMUSD brought preschoolers, high-schoolers and everybody in between back to campus.

Malibu City Manager Reva Feldman officially resigned from her post in a deal that avoided the threat of a lawsuit. Malibu City Attorney John Cotti said the city would launch a national search for Feldman’s replacement “very soon” and Steve McClary, a former city manager in Ojai, was named as Interim City Manager. 

Santa Monica police officers arrested a pair of individuals in unrelated cases that both involved a gun. Officers arrested one suspect for assault with a deadly weapon after an altercation in a liquor store and the second after trespassing in a carport.

When the election to represent California’s 50th Assembly District was still 18 months away, the race was already heating up with candidate Rick Chavez Zbur clinching an influential endorsement from U.S. Senator Alex Padilla. AD50 has been represented by Richard Bloom since 2012, who previously served on Santa Monica City Council for 13 years. In January, Bloom announced that he is running for the L.A. County Board of Supervisors in 2022, freeing up his assembly seat for a political newcomer.

After a stirring speech by labor leader and civil rights activist Dolores Huerta, L.A. City Council voted unanimously to approve the installation of a monument to Mexican American traquero workers in Venice. This vote marked many months of hard work from community volunteers to establish a monument celebrating the often unacknowledged history and contributions of Mexican Americans in Los Angeles.

As the dust began to settle around the economic carnage of COVID-19, it appeared that small businesses were amongst the city’s greatest casualties. A study by accounting software service QuickBooks, identified Santa Monica as one of the US cities where small businesses revenues plummeted the most during the first year of the pandemic. Their team calculated that the median small business in Santa Monica experienced a $26,000 revenue decrease from April 2020 through March 2021. 

A long-awaited after-action report on Santa Monica’s response to the May 31 protests and riots became available to the public and made 44 recommendations to prevent future trouble while outlining the many ways local officials botched the response last year. The report detailed and analyzed what transpired on May 31, 2020, and how the Santa Monica Police Department could better respond to similar incidents in the future.

A 16” inch gas main spewing methane and other natural gases in Santa Monica was sealed thanks to the teamwork of local residents and public and private agencies who united in an effort to avoid a catastrophe.

After use plummeted during the pandemic, micromobility trips rapidly rose prompting questions about whether more devices and companies will be allowed to enter the city. Shared mobility trips doubled since the start of the year, going from 44,799 trips in January to 88,023 trips in April. In popular areas like Downtown, numbers tripled.

A small bright side to the pandemic was an uptick in participation at public meetings due to emergency rules that allowed public comments via phone or other digital submission and some officials looked to make the changes stick. 

In a never before attempted feat, outdoor enthusiast Jesus Leon took it upon himself to traverse the 78.6 mile distance from the Santa Monica beach to the summit of Mount Baldy and back down. In this daring sea to summit journey Leon was on his feet for over 21 hours, braved 35 mph winds, and descended the steep mountainside in the dark — all without any assistance.

Sirens filled Santa Monica’s Downtown area after a head-on collision just south of the California Incline shut down traffic in both directions on Pacific Coast Highway. An investigation revealed that a silver Honda traveling northbound on the PCH swerved into the southbound lanes for an unknown reason and collided head-on with a black Jeep traveling southbound. North and Southbound lanes of the PCH were closed for approximately three hours. 

A man was arrested for the attempted murder of his girlfriend after he attacked her with a knife. According to the Santa Monica Police Department, officers were called to the 1900 block of Cloverfield Blvd. where the victim reported that her boyfriend, identified as Jeremy Gonzalez, a 29-year-old Hispanic male, attempted to stab her with a large knife.

After cycling 2,500 miles, conducting 100 interviews, and fixing five bike breakdowns, award-winning journalist Michael Comerford arrived in Santa Monica. With him he carried a one-of-a-kind oral history record of how Americans across the country were living through the pandemic.

After dire warnings of multi-year shortfalls just last year, City Hall released a new budget that projected no deficits in coming years. The City of Santa Monica released its proposed Biennial Budget for Fiscal Years 2021-23, and Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said Santa Monica’s long term goals were still attainable due to a combination of budget cuts and rebounding revenue streams.

Bird e-scooters got their wings clipped. The Santa Monica-based company was not selected to participate in the City’s second shared mobility pilot program and told to remove all devices from the street by July 1. The City approved Veo, Spin, and Lyft for the second pilot program.

A section of the westbound I-10 Freeway was closed while police investigated a suicide. Officers were called to the scene for what witnesses described as a man jumping onto the freeway. Witnesses saw a man at the overpass hugging the guardrail. The victim then jumped over onto the westbound lanes, striking a vehicle as he landed.

Santa Monica covered a pair of 1930s Stanton McDonald Wright murals located at the entrance of City Hall before beginning a community engagement process to allow local residents an opportunity to share their opinions on the matter.

Coastal Commission granted the Santa Monica Beach Club a permit to carry out significant renovations under the condition that the Club remedies practices that commissioners felt impeded public beach access. With the Commission’s go-ahead the Beach Club was allowed to undertake a seismic retrofitting of the entire building and remodeling of two kitchen areas and an employee service area.

A proposal to convert several local beach lots into temporary housing cleared its first hurdle when the City of Los Angeles’ Committee on Homelessness and Poverty voted to authorize a feasibility study in a 4-1 vote.

Coastal Commission approved the demolition of Parking Structure 3, allowing the City to advance its efforts to build an affordable housing development on the lot. The decision, which was met with opposition from some community members and Downtown business owners, granted the City permission to demolish the structure, repave the land and install a fence around the Property.

Coastal Commission granted approval for Malibu to expand its regulations on pesticides with a focus on limiting the use of rodenticides that have wreaked environmental damage. The updated land use policy strengthened Malibu’s restrictions by expanding the areas where they apply, explicitly banning rodenticides, and promoting non chemical methods for dealing with invasive species.

While fully vaccinated Angelenos were eager to tear off their masks following the CDC’s updated guidelines, they had to remain patient. Following the State’s recommendation, L.A. County did not update its mask requirements until June 15 in order to give a greater proportion of the population time to get vaccinated.

A coalition of SMMUSD stakeholders formally opposed the effort to recall School Board members Jon Kean, Laurie Lieberman, Maria Leon-Vazquez and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein. Co-chaired by former Santa Monica Councilmember Ted Winterer, Santa Monica-Malibu Classroom Teachers Association Vice President Claudia Bautista-Nicolas and parent activist Nicole Faries, the Stop the SMMUSD Recall campaign hoped to educate voters on the deeds of the local School Board and the motivations behind the recall. 

The homeless man accused of starting a Palisades fire was arrested after officers in a helicopter saw him starting additional fires in the already burning brushland. Ramon Rodriguez Flores was identified and held on $75,000 bail. According to LAFD, Flores was seen actively starting several fires.

A second Notice of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions were filed in the Los Angeles County Registrar’s Office against Santa Monica School Board Member Laurie Lieberman, but the longtime trustee said the document includes little more than false and misleading information. Recall proponents originally filed four Notices of Intention to Circulate Recall Petitions against Lieberman and her fellow board members Maria Leon Vazquez, Jon Kean and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein.

A woman was arrested for firing a gun during an argument with a homeless man.

Faced with a drastically slashed budget, the Santa Monica Public Library announced a self service model at the Ocean Park Branch to bring as many of its in-person services back to the public as possible. 

Outdoor activities at Marina del Rey became a haven for many locals during the pandemic and as restrictions eased, the harbor relaunched a host of affordable summer events from drive-in movies, to weekly food truck gatherings, to free fitness classes and $1 water taxi rides.

A thief targeted a string of local businesses by stealing personal possessions from employee areas during business hours. 

SMMUSD’s latest budget revision predicted the district would see millions of dollars in COVID relief funds that will help bolster reserves in light of a $1.9 million expected decrease in property tax revenues.

In an attempt to increase diversity and representation, Santa Monica Housing Commissioners explored the possibility of a lottery system that would help the local commission systematically appoint more diverse members. The proposal came from the Commission’s Diversity Subcommittee.

With businesses preparing to ditch the mask and open at full capacity, public health officials hustled to get as many shots into arms as possible. COVID-19 rates had dramatically dropped but unfortunately so had vaccination rates. While the County was administering over 450,000 doses a week at the beginning of April, weekly doses dropped to around 100,000. 

While the pandemic receded, a more insidious epidemic continued to spread unabated on the streets of L.A. — that of mental illness. Climbing rates of mental illness fueled and exacerbated the City’s homelessness crisis. With the problem only worsening under the isolation and financial pressure of the pandemic, local organizations realized it needs to be tackled with the same vigor and resources as physical diseases.

Fed up by months of finger pointing and excuses, Venice locals lead the charge to address the rapidly deteriorating state of the Boardwalk. Organizing under groups called Friends of the Venice Boardwalk, Team Venice, and the Boardwalk Action Committee, residents successfully pressured government officials to take several concrete actions. Their efforts contributed to the clearing out and reopening of the Boardwalk handball courts in April and the removal of encampments in the artist vendor spaces in May.

In the midst of his sixth term, Councilmember Kevin McKeown unexpectedly announced his retirement during a City Council meeting. The meeting focused mostly on the City’s proposed budget, but the night took a turn just before its conclusion when McKeown raised his hand to speak after hours of questions and public comments and said he would be stepping down. 

The date on the calendar was closer to election day 2020 than election day 2022, but that didn’t stop candidates from declaring their intent to run for County Supervisor. Current Los Angeles Controller Ron Galperin announced that he is entering the race. Galperin joined Assemblymember Richard Bloom and West Hollywood Mayor Lindsay Horvath in competing for the seat held by Sheila Kuehl.

The Los Angeles City Council voted to move forward with a feasibility study on the possibility of housing homeless people at several parks and beach parking lots in Council District 11. Councilman Joe Buscaino voted against the motion saying the sites included in the study “are not feasible’’ for homeless housing.

Council commended staff for bringing forward a balanced budget that included funds for economic recovery efforts and other Council priorities. Residents pleaded with city officials to fully restore the recreation services they became accustomed to throughout the years. Thanks to the painful but necessary budget actions taken throughout FY 2020-21, the FY 2021-22 General Fund budget was $349.5 million, almost $100 million less than the FY 2018-19 General Fund.

One year after the devastating downtown looting, local businesses continued to feel the physical and psychological scars. For some the material damage wrought was too much and they shuttered doors forever. For others, the repair process took weeks, months, or even a full year and came at the cost of personal and business savings.

After several months of community engagement and discussions, Santa Monica’s Housing Element was released to the public for review ahead of a Planning Commission discussion. State law requires the City of Santa Monica to update its Housing Element every eight years since the mandated document serves as the City’s future housing plan and sets clear goals and objectives that will help local leaders meet the housing needs of all segments of the city’s population and prevent the displacement of existing residents.

After 14 months of closures local theaters came back to life, luring cinephiles with the promise of fresh popcorn and strict safety protocols. While the Arclight theater permanently closed, the AMC Broadway 4, AMC Santa Monica 7, Laemmle and Aero theatres all reopened or announced plans to do so.

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