Year in Review: March – Santa Monica Daily Press


The City of Santa Monica and Charter Communications resolved a complaint of overpayment of State cable franchise fees. An audit found the company had been overpaying the rate to the City by about 2 percent a year for several years. 

Staff at Santa Monica-Malibu schools began receiving vaccinations as part of the County’s Phase 1b vaccine expansion that included roughly 1.3 million essential workers.

Santa Monica residents celebrated Women’s History Month by celebrating Thelma Terry as one of most prominent figures from the City’s past. Born in 1907, Terry became a prominent basketball player at Samohi and SMC before she used her love of sports to foster recreation and arts education programs. 

Venice residents filed a lawsuit against the City of Los Angeles over the street fights, vandalism, thievery and physical threats that they had been subjected to living near the Rose-Penmar Walkway and Penmar Park.

L.A. County moved into the red tier of COVID-19 restrictions, allowing for the reopening of secondary schools and many indoor businesses. In the red tier, restaurants, museums and movie theaters could reopen indoors at 25 percent capacity and gyms could reopen indoors at 10 percent capacity; retail stores that were at 25 percent capacity were able to operate at 50 percent.

Trader Joe’s filed preliminary paperwork for a third Santa Monica location. The grocery store asked for a tenant improvement permit at 500 Broadway in the under-construction development that sits across from the newly constructed Target. A company spokeswoman said they are interested in expanding their presence in Santa Monica but said no lease had been signed.

SMMUSD announced plans to move to a hybrid learning model after spring break as schools ramped up in-person instruction hours as best they could on a per-site basis. The move came about two weeks after students returned to school for minimal in-person education following months of remote learning. The District and teacher’s union came to a deal to allow students back into the classroom for the rest of the year. 

Santa Monica received $5.5 million in funding from two California Department of Housing and Community Development grants. The money was to go towards three housing projects targeting at-risk youth, people experiencing homelessness and elderly individuals.

Tesla announced an expansion to its network of Supercharging stations in the Westside with a 62-stall Supercharger in Santa Monica. The Planning Commission approved a Conditional Use Permit that would allow the operation of a 24-hour, self-service electric vehicle recharging facility complete with solar canopies, restrooms and support equipment. The new 62-stall Supercharger station will be located at 1401 Santa Monica Blvd. and 1421-1425 Santa Monica Blvd. The project hit a snag when the City temporarily banned some developments while working on its housing projects. 

Local middle and high school surf teams competed in their first surf contest in over a year. The students competed in two locations at Tower 24 in Santa Monica. Large south swells created a challenging day for the athletes, and both boys and girls competed in over 27 heats.

Former SMDP reporter Jeff Goodman published his first book to help children explore the many emotions they may be grappling with. Goodman’s debut children’s book, “Feel Like Eggs?” was published earlier this year and is available online at 

Santa Monica’s second Target opened. The store had a formal grand opening celebration on March 14 but the location at 5th and Broadway started serving customers earlier in the month.

Santa Monica City Council approved a hero pay ordinance requiring some local drug and grocery stores to pay employees an extra $5 per hour. The law applied to retail grocery stores, retail drug stores and other large stores of 85,000 square feet or more that dedicate more than 10 percent of their floor space to grocery or drug sales in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica’s Shared Mobility program, regulating scooters and bikes, expanded to include four operators after a 5-2 vote by City Council. Councilmembers decided to extend the City’s current pilot program to June 30, 2021, approve a second permit-based Shared Mobility Pilot Program and asked staff to issue a request for applications seeking up to four shared mobility operators in Santa Monica from July 1, 2021, through March 30, 2023.

City Council approved the Fire Department’s proposal to address homelessness with a Community Response Unit. A Community Response Unit rethinks the way emergency services respond to homeless related incidents. The Community Response Unit assigns dedicated firefighter EMTs to 9-1-1 calls with homeless individuals. CRU staff assess the individual’s health and remain on scene as long as needed to build trust and connect them to resources—be it medical support, mental health support, substance abuse counseling, housing options or transportation home.

Santa Monica based nonprofit Chrysalis continued its mission to help people find jobs after jail and, thanks to funding from a County program, it was able to provide dedicated career mentoring to 150 adults.

Santa Monica City Council discussed new regulations regarding public assemblies, targeted residential protests and noise stemming from a series of recurring protests at the Santa Monica residence of Los Angeles County Supervisor Sheila Kuehl in Fall 2020. The updated ordinance restricts the time and length of targeted residential protests while protecting the rights of workers to protest in public spaces starting at 7 a.m. 

Nonresidential developments in Santa Monica and single unit dwellings in the city’s commercial zones were temporarily banned after City Council passed an Emergency Interim Zoning Ordinance. The city had seen an uptick in applications submitted for non-residential development on potential housing sites in the city’s commercial districts, which have the potential to house some of the 8,895 units that Santa Monica is currently mandated to build between 2021 and 2029.

Santa Monica City Council set the community priorities that will guide the city’s budget process through 2023. In a 4-3 vote, City Council chose addressing homelessness, creating a clean and safe Santa Monica, and pushing for an equitable and inclusive economic recovery as its top priorities for the upcoming biennial budget process.

Expected declines in rents due to the pandemic were less pronounced than many expected, according to a report from the Rent Control Board. New market-rate leases on controlled units barely dipped over the previous year. In 2020, median initial rents for newly leased controlled units fell by 2.8 percent for studios and by 1.5 percent for two bedroom units, while they were up by 1 percent for one bedroom units.

A Santa Monica man with a previous murder conviction was charged with domestic violence after accusations that he assaulted his wheelchair-bound girlfriend. Simco Warmsley Morris Jr., 52, was charged with assault with a deadly weapon and felony domestic violence.

Santa Monica’s Disney Store, located in the Santa Monica Place Mall, closed as part of a 60-store contraction announced by the House of Mouse. The closure was part of an ongoing strategy by Disney to consolidate its stores and encourage more retail on its online platform. However, the loss was another blow to the mall as it struggled to rebound following the pandemic shutdown. 

A public art project tried to engage the public in a conversation over the state of interaction in the city. Local artist Marni Gittleman’s “What’s 6 Feet?” community wide art program collected responses for publication on the impact of separation over the past year. 

Building off of its initial success, Safe Place for Youth expanded the Host Home home program that looks for volunteers willing to open their doors to youth living on the streets. The Host Home program was inspired by similar programs in the UK that have been offering cost-effective supportive shelter to unhoused youth for over 30 years.

Longtime local John Beasley earned a Grammy Award this year after nine nominations. Beasley is a Samohi grad, Venice resident and multi talented jazz pianist, composer, and arranger, who has played with a number of musical icons including Miles Davis, Barbra Streisand, and Queen Latifah.

Council affirmed its support for splitting Santa Monica and Malibu into two separate independent school districts as long as the division of revenues and assets are fair and just. Darrell Goode, president of the local NAACP branch, also weighed in, formally submitting a letter to oppose the City of Malibu’s petition to secede Malibu from the SMMUSD.

Another homeless encampment went up in flames on the Venice Boardwalk and residents said they feared that unless something was done to address the sprawling piles of possessions and trash many more dangerous fires would occur.

Newly updated hazard maps showed that a tsunami wave has the potential to inundate Santa Monica’s beaches, the Pier, sections of Ocean Park and the entire area of Venice south of Abbot Kinney Boulevard. Officials emphasized that with preparation and awareness residents can greatly mitigate the risk they face in the event of a tsunami.

In light of the unprecedented social and economic disruptions created by the COVID-19 pandemic, Council extended a previously established Rent Deferment Program, meaning tenants in city-owned properties had until June 30, 2022 to pay back their dues.

SMMUSD announced plans to fully reopen elementary schools in April. All schools were required to have strict COVID-19 safety protocols in place.

Council began the process of converting a Downtown parking structure into housing. City Council approved a resolution that declared 1318-1320 4th Street as exempt surplus land. Council also declared the City owned property at 1636 5th Street and master-leased property at 1333 4th Street, which is sub-leased by the City to Chase Bank through April 2022, as surplus land during a trio of motions that sought to bring the City into compliance with a new version of the state’s Surplus Lands Act.

L.A. County hit the state COVID-19 health metrics to enter the orange tier, and officials announced a new series of sector reopenings. Outdoor bars reopened for the first time since June 2020 and socially distanced live entertainment was cleared to take place again for the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic. In addition, indoor and outdoor capacities expanded for many previously opened sectors.



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