Year in Review: September – Santa Monica Daily Press

Council continued making previously temporary measures prompted by the pandemic permanent. After formalizing parklets earlier in the year, they approved permanent changes to the way the city issues permits for outdoor fitness training programs in public parks.

Adam Shekhter, MySuite, LLC., 1238 10th Street, LLC., and 1433 Euclid Street, LLC, the defendants in a criminal case that alleged tenant harassment, public nuisance, and zoning violations at a pair of apartment buildings agreed to a 12-month diversion program to dismiss all charges against them if payments totaling $102,000 are made. 

A heat wave that coincided with the holiday weekend prompted SMPD to triple patrols throughout the city as visitors from the area flocked to local beaches. Officials warned residents not to take pets out in the high heat, especially on hikes. 

In an effort to create more affordable housing in wealthier, so-called higher resource neighborhoods, the Los Angeles City Council called for preparation of an ordinance that would incentivize affordable housing projects in such areas. The ordinance that would expand incentives for projects located on land already zoned for multi-family housing, with a focus on commercial zones, transit areas and corridors. The city would also incentivize projects on publicly owned land, parking zones and land owned by faith-based institutions.

A Los Angeles federal judge threw out an indictment charging a dive boat captain with manslaughter in the deaths of 34 people, including two Santa Monicans, in a 2019 fire aboard a vessel anchored off the Southern California coast. Charges would be refiled later in the year.

Los Angeles County officially entered into the “low community transmission level” for COVID-19 even as schools were back in session and extreme heat drove more people inside.

Alejandro Cantarero, known as Alex by those close to him, died. He was remembered fondly by friends and coworkers as a creative, funny and kind individual. Cantarero worked at the Santa Monica Daily Press from 2002 to 2007, starting as a production assistant and working his way up to production manager. 

The Housing Commission began work on a new Client Advisory Board that would give individuals receiving federal housing aid a larger voice in housing priorities throughout the city. 

An aging retail/commercial building on the Third Street Promenade was razed to make way for what developers plan will be a new, more modern three-story storefront.

California Coastal Commission delayed discussions of a new affordable housing project in Venice. If built, the project would bring 140 affordable housing units to Venice, with about half allocated to formerly homeless households, a quarter allocated to low-income artists and the remainder set aside for other low-income households.

Santa Monicans received another treatment option for cuts, coughs, sprains and other injuries and ailments. Exer Urgent Care, a Southern California-based urgent care company, celebrated the opening of a new location at the corner of Wilshire Blvd and 24th Street.

Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva returned to Venice Beach to tout the success of his department’s efforts to clear the area of homeless encampments but critics said his celebrations were both undeserved and unwarranted.

Flight instructor Christian West and student Jackson Nazario died in a single aircraft accident at the Santa Monica Airport (SMO). According to the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), West provided Nazario with about 45 minutes of basic ground instruction before their flight. The plane then departed at about 3:51 p.m. and flew along the coast until it reached Malibu where it turned around and came back to the airport. When the plane returned to land, it briefly touched down before suddenly pitching straight up and then plummeting to the ground killing both men.

With the summer heat easing, locals took advantage of a packed events schedule that included a pair of local car shows, the annual 9/11 memorials at local fire stations, the Santa Monica Classic race and a free concert.

What started as a hobby quickly became a viable business for Angel Vu, who got into candle-making for fun at the onset of the pandemic and began selling her creations online. Vu eventually opened her business, Blow Me Candle Co., in a physical storefront on Main Street 

A memorial for Queen Elizabeth II was set up outside of Ye Olde King’s Head, following the announcement of her death.

Taira Sakamoto, a senior at Samohi, traveled to the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina with her dad to compete in the Cadets World Judo Championship.

Council asked the County of Los Angeles to stop distributing free needles to drug users in Santa Monica parks and instead move their needle exchange program to an indoor facility. The move came after an overdose in a local park  but as the program was administered by a nonprofit provider, no progress was made on changing locations. 

Los Angeles County leaders announced a settlement agreement that committed hundreds of millions of dollars to expand outreach and supportive services for homeless residents, marking the potential end of two years of litigation.

For the first time in two years, hundreds of students spent the day helping to clean up Santa Monica beaches and learning about the local environment as part of Heal the Bay’s Coastal Clean-up Education Day. 

Kurt Gonska was unanimously appointed as an interim commissioner of the Rent Control Board last week to fill the spot left vacant when Board Member Naomi Sultan resigned her post after moving out of the city. 

After seven years, the development team behind a plan to convert 27.8 acres of prime Malibu bluff-top real estate into a sprawling cemetery attained its second two-year permit extension, citing difficulty security funding amid COVID-19 and given the unusual nature of the proposed project.

SMPD gained expanded power to remove people sleeping in the doorways of closed businesses along highly trafficked areas of town, following a unanimous city council decision. The change expands the 2002 defined area where police officers had previously been empowered to remove transients and other people who sit or sleep overnight in business doorways. 

Santa Monica High School’s class of 1972 celebrated its 50th reunion at the MdR Hotel in Marina del Rey. Lisa Lenes helped organize the event along with her sister Beatrice Lenes.

Sheriff’s deputies served a search warrant on the Santa Monica home of Los Angeles County Supervisor Shelia Kuehl in connection with allegations of wrongdoing over a contract on county trains and buses. The raid sparked strong criticism of the Sheriff who was accused of bypassing an existing judge’s order to execute the search and investigating claims already dismissed by other law enforcement agencies. Critics said he was targeting individuals who he saw as political enemies. Control of the investigation was eventually taken away from the Sheriff’s Department by state officials. 

The Gourmandise School hosted a MasterChef “Back to Win” Viewing Party with friends and family in the food and entertainment community. Guests gathered to cheer on Chef Dara Yu who teaches at The Gourmandise School. Yu won the television competition which brought contestants back to cook for Gordon Ramsey after past attempts on the show. Yu first competed in the Master Chef Junior show. In addition to Yu, fellow contestants, Fred Chang, Bri Baker, Samantha Daily, Amanda Saab, and Gabriel Lewis were at the event.

The State of California, County of Los Angeles and City of Santa Monica were all in the midst of an overdose crisis caused largely by the surging prevalence of fentanyl in recreational drugs in recent years. Warnings about the drug increased alongside youth overdoses but aside from education efforts, little was done to stop the drug from contaminating other the street drugs and fake prescription drugs that fueled the wave of overdoses. 

The American Institute for Stuttering (AIS) opened the doors of a new location in Santa Monica. The non-profit, which has been around for 25 years, offers therapy and other support services to people of all ages who struggle with stuttering. The Santa Monica office will be the organization’s first location on the West coast.

Amid national concern regarding loss of learning due to the COVID- 19 pandemic, SMMUSD reported the pandemic and transition to online learning had little to no effect on student performance outcomes based on standardized test results. District wide data from the California Assessment of Student Performance and Progress (CAASPP) from the 2021-2022 school year showed an increase of 1% in the number of students meeting or exceeding standards for English Language Arts at 75% and a 3% decrease for math at 58%, compared to scores from the 2018- 2019 school year.

The Pico Farmers Market celebrated Hispanic Heritage Month with dance performances and several tables highlighting the cultures of different countries.

Public safety officials pulled a man off the Pier bridge after he threatened to jump onto the street below. Officials closed the bridge and a section of the Southbound PCH for about an hour before police officers were able to secure the man, bring him over the rail and transport him to a local hospital.

Santa Monica Public Libraries joined book-lovers across the nation in celebrating Banned Books Week. The week-long event is intended to highlight works of literature that have been censored or banned from schools or libraries.

Neighbors who had been protesting the  Lincoln Center Project that will replace the Gelson’s grocery store in Ocean Park were told complaints over its size and appearance are unlikely to sink the large scale residential project because the inclusion of very low income units permits developers to exceed city zoning regulations. 

Bird, the scooter company that arguably started the micromobility industry left Santa Monica, the city of its birth and a shakeup at the executive level removed founder Travis VanderZanden from the CEO position.

The annual Montana Avenue Art Walk returned this year with more artists than ever, twice the amount of children’s activities and a full schedule of performances.

The City of Santa Monica and Caltrans released a Recirculated Draft Environmental Impact Report/Environmental Assessment for the Santa Monica Pier Bridge Replacement Project, signaling the next stage in the long (long, long) awaited plans to rebuild the crumbling bridge.

Face masks became optional on Big Blue Bus and Metro. The announcement by the two agencies came as the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health dropped mask requirements for public transit including buses, trains and airports.

Council restarted the expansion and redevelopment of Memorial Park by breaking the project into smaller pieces after the largescale project was derailed by the pandemic. 

While Santa Monica’s goal of water self sufficiency remained a dream, officials said the city had made progress which was important given ongoing droughts that increased the instability and unpredictability of imported water from sources like the Colorado River.

The LA County Sheriff ’s Department and the Santa Monica College Police Department made an arrest following a reported series of sexual assaults of Santa Monica College students that occurred earlier in the month. A suspect, 27-year-old SMC student Christopher Griddine, was arrested in his vehicle on the Santa Monica College campus and was accused of luring female students off campus and assaulting them.

Homelessness: The stark difference between Santa Monica and Venice was highlighted by beach camping.   SMDP photo

Santa Monica resident Marlon Bonds was killed by Rancho Cucamonga police after he drove his car into an officer and then approached him with a knife.

Santa Monica landlords accused of price gouging tenants during a declared state of emergency after raising rents by 250% agreed to a diversion program that could keep them out of criminal proceedings including potential jail time. The defendants — 1433 Euclid Street, LLC and WS Communities, LLC — would make payments totaling $35,000, post notices of price restrictions and attend tenant’s rights training. 

Instead of a 7.4 magnitude earthquake, which is already considered severe, scientists said they now believed the fault system off the Santa Monica coast is capable of triggering up to a 7.8 quake. 

Nine ficus trees along Georgina Avenue between 22nd and 24th Street were vandalized by an unpermitted pruning that could damage the trees. City officials said they were unlikely to find the culprits but warned whoever cut back the trees did so without authorization and to such an extreme degree that they might not survive. 


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