The Year in Review: December

House Democrats ushered in a new generation of leaders with Rep. Hakeem Jeffries elected to be the first Black American to head a major political party in Congress. Local congressman Ted Lieu was appointed to the fourth highest position.

Santa Monica’s beleaguered Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission (PSROC) updated Council on the progress of their work and while the vast majority of reforms were complete or underway, the organization itself continued to experience tension with the local police officers union. A former member of the commission released his own report that criticized the city for not moving more quickly on the potential reforms.

The Santa Monica Pier parking deck reopened on a limited basis. The deck closure was initially due to the COVID-19 pandemic, when the entire Pier closed for almost three full months, then the City continued with the closure for construction, greatly fortifying the entire Pier Parking Deck.

Following a contentious election season, Council sought to clarify rules surrounding local neighborhood associations’ ability to endorse candidates, by requiring these organizations to provide a disclaimer that their views do not necessarily reflect those of the City of Santa Monica and assert that no City funds were used for their political actions.

Santa Monicans gathered on the Promenade for the city’s official tree lighting ceremony. The event included a visit from Santa, performances from local musicians and a sprinkling of artificial “snow.”

Boy Scout Troop 2 reopened its Christmas Tree Log new location this year, at the corner of 19th and Santa Monica Blvd.

Santa Monica further cemented its status as a biotech hub and pioneer in cancer treatment with the announcement that multinational pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca will acquire Santa Monica-headquartered Neogene Therapeutics for $320 million.

For the first time in Samohi’s Cross-country history, the Varsity girls traveled to Fresno this past weekend and ran into the Division 1 State Finals. Phoebe Benun placed 6th overall in a time of 17:40 for a 5km and led the team to 11th place beating some big Div 1 teams in the State.

Beach: Former Mayor Rex Minter died when the plane he was hit the beach. SMDP photo

While the housing element debacle blew up development plans in the city, Council did officially pass a housing element and officials began implementation work on document that included streamlined approval and design review for certain housing projects, incentivizing housing projects on surface parking lots in residential zones and Establishing a Moderate Income Housing Overlay (MHO) to create more housing, specifically around Expo stations.

Animal agencies asked for urgent food donations to feed sheltered pets and many county shelters reached capacity with requests for residents to help fund, foster and feed shelter animals.

Santa Monicans gathered at City Hall to welcome the winners of this year’s election. The official ceremony saw successful candidates take their oath of office. The meeting also marked the departure of outgoing council members Sue Himmelrich and Kristin McCowan who both gave emotional speeches thanking their friends and family for their support during their terms in office. Councilwoman Gleam Davis was appointed Mayor for the next year and Councilman Phil Brock will be Mayor in 2024. Councilwoman Lana Negrete will be Mayor Pro Tem for both years.

A mountain lion tracked by biologists in mountains near Los Angeles gave birth over the summer to four healthy kittens, officials said this week. However, the happy news was offset by the death of P-22, a mountain lion that had achieved celebrity status in the area. P-22 was suffering from disease and had been hit by a car. Authorities captured him for an evaluation and euthanized him after determining he couldn’t survive any longer.

A recently agreed upon increase in teacher salaries left the School District (SMMUSD) in the red by about $20 million this year but school officials said the overall budget projections were mixed with some increases in revenues offset by costs. The District’s overall budget was about $106 million due to its status as “basic aid” meaning it receives more money from property taxes than it does from state aid.

The Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles honored the Scali Rasmussen law firm with its Pro Bono Law Firm Award in recognition of a yearslong effort to find justice for a group of Santa Monica residents displaced from their homes.

The window for sexual abuse victims of former Santa Monica City employee and volunteer Eric Uller to file a claim with the City closed at the end of this year when the statute of limitations for the case expired. In the four years since the first allegations of sexual abuse were made against Uller in October 2018, close to 100 victims have come forward and the City has paid out a total of $107.3 million in settlements. Due to the ongoing litigation, the City declined to comment on the precise number of victims and their claims.

The Marina Del Rey Boat Parade returned to the water this year with a variety of illuminated watercraft, fireworks and celebrations at Burton Chase Park.

Santa Monica celebrated the Festival of Lights with nightly menorah lightings.

The Ballona Creek Trash Inceptor 007, a floating, automated, solar-powered boat-like device located in the middle of the creek was successfully put to the test after rainstorms sent 49,845 pounds of trash into the local waterway in a two-day span.

Mel’s Drive-in celebrated its 75th anniversary with decorations and a special 75% off deal on select menu items. The restaurant chain opened its Santa Monica location in the iconic building at the end of Route 66 in 2018 and has become a fixture for locals looking for classic diner food and tourists interested in some Americana.

A motorcycle rider injured in a collision with a Big Blue Bus received a total of $7 million after settling his case with the city but Santa Monica will only pay $1 million of the total with the rest coming from insurance.

As 2022 came to an end, several Santa Monica businesses celebrated new beginnings with grand openings and ribbon cuttings. Santa Barbara-based McConnell’s Fine Ice Creams debuted a new location on the Third Street Promenade, marking its seventh shop since its founding 70 years ago. The Tavern on Main Street, which opened in the former location of Rick’s Tavern earlier this year held its official Chamber of Commerce Ribbon cutting followed by a Young Professionals mixer. Grab-and-go health-focused food store Everytable also came to Santa Monica with a new storefront on Wilshire Boulevard. The Santa Monica Tennis Center opened a new pickleball facility at its 2501 Wilshire Boulevard location.

Magic returned to Downtown Santa Monica with the opening of the Illusion Magic Lounge in the location that used to be Magicopolis, following the retirement of the founders who had run the venue since 1997. The new owners, fathers and son duo Randy Sinnott Sr. and Randy Sinnott Jr. took over in August 2019 and used the pandemic as an opportunity to remodel the space, revamp the food and drink menus and set up a new rotating cast of magicians to perform.

Council chose a vendor for a proposed digital kiosk system but not before hearing accusations of wrongdoing from a failed bidder. BIG Outdoor received the contract after promising vastly more revenues to the city but a competitor accused the bidder and the city of wrongdoing in the process. Council rejected those accusations and approved BIG in a 5-2 vote.

SMMUSD appointed Mark Kelly to the role of interim superintendent.

The highest tides of the year rolled in with the holidays. Known as king tides, the natural phenomenon occurs when a new or full moon coincides with the moon reaching its closest point to earth in its elliptical orbit, resulting in a stronger gravitational pull.

A former mayor, Rex Minter, died when the small plane he was traveling in crashed on the Santa Monica beach.


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