Year in Review: March – Santa Monica Daily Press



SMDP staff summarized stories from throughout the year and all 12 months will run in chronological order this week.

The State of California stopped requiring school kids to wear masks as part of new indoor mask policies. The LA County Department of Public Health (LACDPH) said it would “shift to strongly recommending indoor masking requirements” at schools and child care centers, but would also no longer be requiring indoor masking.

Veo announced a new headquarters on the 3rd Street Promenade. The company was founded in Chicago in 2017 and brought its e-scooters and e-bikes to Santa Monica in 2021 after it was selected as one of four micromobility companies authorized to operate in the City. The new Downtown office space will function as the company’s West Coast headquarters and the base for much of its new hiring and expansion. 

SMFD Chief Danny Alvarez was sworn into office during a ceremony held at the new Santa Monica Fire Station 1 — the first time the public was invited to see the new station, which was completed in 2020. 

Environmental attorney and Housing Commissioner Ellis Raskin tossed his hat in the ring for the City Council election casting himself as an independent progressive candidate. Raskin narrowly missed winning a seat during the November election. 

Workers set about dismantling the tables and chairs at Chess Park. The Recreation & Parks Commission recommended the infrastructure be cleared following years of reports of crime and unsavory activity ongoing at the .29-acre park. For now, the lot will remain level ground, but City leaders say the door is open for amenities to return in the future once the municipal budget allows. 

Santa Monica resident Lauren Reicher-Gordon, senior vice president of the nonprofit Kidsave, talked about the work her organization does to help the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. Since 2016, Culver City-based Kidsave has been operating on the ground in Ukraine, with a mission of placing orphaned older kids and teens into loving homes. They also provide mentorship for teens. Kidsave operates in communities around the world: in Sierra Leone, Russia, Colombia, Ukraine and all around the United States. 

Developers moved forward with the Miramar Hotel redevelopment project, more than a decade after the proposal was first conceived and nearly five years after developers released the most recent plans. The 262,000-square- foot luxury hotel and an adjacent parking lot will be replaced with a 500,000-square-foot mixed-use development including 312 hotel rooms, 60 condos, 6,600 square feet of retail space, three cafe/restaurants and, across the street, a 40,500 square foot, five-story multifamily residential building containing 42 affordable rental units. 

The Santa Monica Pier launched the Locals’ Night event series to draw on the talented entertainment provided by local businesses and provide residents with some Santa Monica centric programming. 

Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) Chief Ramon Batista said increasing neighborhood patrols is key to his vision for the department and said he would move officers off other assignments to focus on responding to emergency calls. 

Samohi junior Silvia Said was named the Boys & Girls Clubs of Santa Monica (BGCSM) Youth of the Year for her commitment to the Club and the Santa Monica community, earning a total of $4,000 in scholarships to use at USC, en route to her eventual career goal of joining the FBI. 

Officials said freshmen and sophomores at Santa Monica High School would no longer be divided into “honors” and “regular” English classes beginning in the 2022-23 school year, a move that department personnel said would increase equity and positive outcomes for all. 

A homeless man was arrested for stabbing another homeless man. SMPD said they were called to the Salvation Army. to investigate an assault with a deadly weapon. Witnesses said the suspect stabbed, beat and dragged the victim during the altercation. He then tried to leave the area but was seen by several individuals who provided his location. 

A Los Angeles jury rejected an insanity plea and found 42-year-old Dylan James Jensen guilty on seven counts that included rape, sodomy and sexual battery sentenced him to life in jail for his crime. Jensen broke into a 68-year-old woman’s apartment at the border of Venice and Santa Monica and raped her at knifepoint in 2018. 

Dripology opened a new Santa Monica clinic. In addition to the artistic treatment rooms, Dripology offers several other services during a treatment including music, a foot massager, a Normatec leg compressor and even a meditative virtual reality headset. It’s part of their intention to have people think of IV therapy less as a novelty tool for curing a hangover and more as a holistic wellness experience. 

Fresh off the success of the Super Bowl Pregame Show, the Pier announced a second major sporting festival — this time celebrating the MLB’s annual All-Star Game coming to Dodger Stadium. 

Sunset Park resident Emma Brownrigg completed her Girl Scouts Gold Award, a prestigious honor offered by the 121-year-old institution by installing public pet waste dispensers around the neighborhood. 

City Council voted unanimously to condemn the unprovoked invasion and violence waged on Ukraine. Council also directed the City Manager to look at Santa Monica’s finances and investments to research any ways the City can economically sanction Russia. 

Mask wearing officially became voluntary at Santa Monica public schools, following a unanimous (6-0) vote by the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) Board of Education at a special meeting. The decision followed a recommendation by SMMUSD Superintendent Ben Drati, who earlier in the week announced he felt it was time to lift the mask mandate. 

Weiner shack Hot Dog on a Stick was torn down in preparation for a brand new building that will replace the 75-year-old structure that was first built in 1946. The new structure resembles the former location but is about 50 percent larger.

Governor Newsom unveiled a proposal for a statewide network of mental health-focused courts called CARE Courts, which stands for Community Assistance, Recovery, and Empowerment. The courts would leverage the judicial system to compel severely mentally ill individuals to accept services and treatments without impinging on their civil rights. 

The Promenade’s first tattoo parlor and the first US location of internationally renowned tattoo brand Cleopatra Ink opened its doors and ink bottles at 1340 3rd Street Promenade. 

Debate began over changes to the City’s rent control rules. The Rent Control Board began discussions over a potential charter amendment that would alter their powers and the way rent control rules work. The discussions eventually exploded in controversy over just how rent control would be amended with a final proposal coming later in the year. 

Construction delays caused by COVID-19, coupled with wrangling over historic resources, resulted in a 16-month delay to a host of project at various school sites, which in turn saw estimated costs rise by 16 percent.

What began as Covid era event designed to combine people’s greater comfort with shopping outdoors and merchants’ pressing need for revenue grew into a well loved community tradition with the return of the Spring Fling sidewalk sale on Montana Ave. 

Two new holidays were officially recognized by the City: Juneteenth and Cesar Chavez Day. Juneteenth has been celebrated since 1865 and became a federal holiday in 2021, while Cesar Chavez Day has been celebrated in California since 1995. 

A company that marketed and sold a “drinkable sunscreen” agreed to a legal settlement to resolve allegations of deceptive advertising.

The Los Feliz gourmet meat and fish grocer with a cult-like following opened a shop on Montana Ave. with hopes of creating a fresh neighborhood of McCall’s fanatics. According to new co-owner Michelle Sarraf, McCall’s stays true to the original owners’ vision of being a chef’s pantry, meaning it carries a carefully cultivated collection of ingredients to build an entire gourmet meal from scratch. 

Los Angeles County Supervisors voted unanimously, 5-0, to request County CEO Fesia Davenport’s office rally services for Ukrainian refugees, should any resettle in the County. 

After several past failed attempts at legislative reform, a bill co-authored by both Assembly member Richard Bloom and Senator Ben Allen was reintroduced in Sacramento that aimed to limit Ellis evictions. Since passing in 1985, the Ellis Act has been the ire of rent control supporters, who are frustrated by the rate at which it drives no-fault evictions of rent controlled tenants. The bill did not become law. 

Civil rights attorney Erin Darling announced he would run as a progressive candidate for L.A. City Council District 11 in Venice. Darling said he was tapped to run by a coalition of progressive Westside organizations, who were seeking a progressive candidate in the wake of current CD-11 Councilman Mike Bonin’s decision to not seek a third term. Council District 11 encompasses the communities of Brentwood, Del Rey, Ladera, Playa del Rey, Playa Vista, Sawtelle, Westchester, Venice and the Palisades. Darling lost the race to Traci Park. Samohi graduate Mike Newhouse also mounted an unsuccessful campaign for the office. 

Senior thesis projects may be associated with prestigious liberal arts colleges draped in ivy, but school administrators in Santa Monica said they believed they may offer an important educational opportunity for Samohi seniors in the project based learning pathway. 

The Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) and the City of Santa Monica filed a joint lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of a state law that could otherwise force SMMUSD to move to district voting. The City and SMMUSD are seeking to block the enforcement of SB 442, which allows county-level committees to enact trustee-area (also called by-district) elections for school districts governed by city charters. It would essentially override the Santa Monica City Charter to subdivide Santa Monica and Malibu into seven separate voting districts, each with its own representative elected by voters who live within the district boundaries, replacing the at-large system the lawsuit says has been in place since 1909. The proposal itself was delayed at the county level when terms of a school split were announced. 

The Pier launched Wellness & Waves, a free hour-long yoga class at the West End of the Pier. The event was adapted from the popular pre-pandemic ROGA series, which consisted of a morning run followed by a short yoga class on the Pier. 

Around 2,500 guests attended the outdoor Stairway of the Stars at the Memorial Greek Amphitheater. Nearly 850 elementary, middle and high school students performed from all SMMUSD schools in Malibu and Santa Monica. The event also included recognition of retired Samohi Director of Orchestras Joni Swenson. 

Thousands of southern and central California grocery workers started voting to authorize a strike against several major supermarket chains. About 47,000 workers at hundreds of Ralphs, Albertsons, Vons and Pavilions stores were eligible to vote but contract negotiations concluded without a work stoppage. 

The Santa Monica Storm won the 2022 AYSO Western States Championship, making them the top AYSO 11U team across six states. The Storm play at the highest level of AYSO, in the EXTRA program, representing Santa Monica against top soccer teams from other geographic regions. The local team remained undefeated the entire season, over 20 games.

Santa Monica’s Pacifica Christian High School a cappella group — Wolf PACappella — traveled to take part in the International Championship of High School A Cappella (ICHSA) 2022 West Semifinal in Salem, Ore., for a chance to compete for the national title in New York. 

A young male mountain lion was struck and killed in a hit-and-run collision on Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu. The male cougar, identified by his tag P-104, was the first mountain lion to be killed on PCH in the Santa Monica Mountains in the 20 years since the National Park Service began collaring and tracking the local mountain lion population there; the latest cougar to join the study, P-104 had been captured, tagged and released on March 8, just two weeks before his death on the highway. 

The City agreed to a $1.75 million settlement with Wolfgang Mountford, who received a non-fatal shot to the head by SMPD in 2019. According to SMPD, Mountford was allegedly creating a disturbance by yelling loudly, throwing trash cans around and trying to open car doors. Officers had already encountered Mountford once that morning and when they were called back for a second time. SMPD said Mountford ran at and struggled with an officer who proceeded to shoot him with a bullet that grazed the back of his head. Mountford was treated on the scene by officers and Santa Monica Fire Department (SMFD) paramedics before being transported to a local hospital. 

Nearly two years since Santa Monica last had a permanent city attorney, a third interim attorney, Susan Cola, was tapped to fill the position. City Council members had met ten times in closed session to discuss the hiring of a permanent city attorney and had yet to reach a consensus on who should fill the role. 

Criminals broke into St. Monica’s Church resulting in $150,000 worth of audio and video equipment stolen and an attempted desecration of the church’s tabernacle.

Nine members of an alleged organized retail theft network accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars in merchandise from stores throughout California were charged with conspiracy, felony grand theft and receiving stolen property.  The charges came after a series of headline-grabbing thefts by mobs of people who rushed into stores — smashing windows and grabbing clothing, jewelry, tools, luxury purses and other goods. Police arrested five of the nine suspects in Los Angeles and recovered $62,000 in cash and $135,000 in merchandise stolen from stores that included Macy’s, Columbia Sportswear, Abercrombie & Fitch, J.C. Penney, and Lululemon. 

Susu Zheng, a fashion designer who came to Los Angeles from China and built a thriving online handbag business from scratch, opened a purse showroom on Main Street. Her store was subsequently robbed with thousands of dollars worth of merchandise stolen but she reopened and remains a welcome addition to the streets economy. 

The City of Santa Monica received an application for a five-story mixed-used retail/residential property at 407 Colorado, on the corner of 4th Street and Colorado Avenue, after developer Worthe Real Estate Group submitted an application to redevelop the shuttered BancWest property. The proposed property includes 60 residential units, with about half of them studios and half of them one-bedrooms. Six of the one-bedroom units would be designated affordable housing for Very Low Income households. The building would also house close to 7,000 square feet of commercial space, with preliminary architectural drawings showing a coffee shop on the ground floor. There is no vehicle parking included in the application. 

A late-season storm dumped about three-quarters of an inch of rain onto Santa Monica amid high surf and flood advisories. 

The Malibu City Council discussed plans to address the regional homelessness crisis by transporting individuals experiencing homelessness to a shelter that offers services outside city limits. 

After a two-year closure, the small but mighty Santa Monica History Museum reopened with a new temporary exhibition, Broadway To Freeway: Life and Times of a Vibrant Community, highlighting Santa Monica’s historic Broadway neighborhood, a thriving African American and Mexican American community that was bisected and eventually destroyed after the creation of the Santa Monica (I-10) Freeway in the late 1950s. 

LA County Sheriff ’s Department Homicide detectives investigated circumstances surrounding the suspicious death of a security guard at the Trancas Country Market shopping center, located not far from Zuma Beach in northern Malibu. The victim was identified as the overnight security guard at the upscale shopping center, which includes boutique shops, an independent organic grocery store and a Starbucks, among other tenants. Officials ultimately said the death was not the result of foul play. 

Dreamed up by Chefs Chris Sageh and Jared Ventura, Nostalgia Bar & Lounge opened on Pico offering whimsical takes on childhood classics like a PB&J reimagined as a chocolate cake with chocolate ganache, peanut mousse, raspberry sorbet and candied peanuts. Similarly, Bradley Fry’s cocktail offerings play with blasts from the past such as an Otter Pop inspired cocktail made with vodka, orange liqueur, blueberry, raspberry, honey, raspberry lemonade terpene and a berry fruit popsicle as a stirrer. 

The Samohi community mourned the death of longtime local educator Dr. Frank X. “Doc” Ford after his death due to Alzheimer’s disease. Ford was 81. For 23 years, from 1985-2008, Ford taught theater and film at Samohi, as well as directing plays and musicals there.


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