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Year-end Update: More Stories We Followed in 2007:

The Mirror offers herewith a second year-end sampling of some of the stories we have covered during the course of the year and an update on what has happened since the events last appeared in our pages.

Pedestrian Fatalities

Santa Monica suffered four pedestrian fatalities in 2007 – one in the marked crosswalk at Santa Monica Boulevard and Euclid Street in January, one involving an MTA bus in the marked crosswalk at Colorado Avenue and 2nd Street in March, one in an “unmarked crosswalk” at 4th Street and Idaho Avenue in May, and most recently this month in an unmarked crosswalk at Colorado Avenue and 16th Street. The California Vehicle Code provides that there is deemed to be a crosswalk at every perpendicular intersection, so anyone crossing at a corner is in a crosswalk, whether it is painted on the street (“marked”) or not (“unmarked”).

The May 2 death of 90-year-old Albert Zeller who was crossing 4th Street at the Idaho intersection has resulted in charges filed against the driver, according to the Santa Monica Police Department. As we reported at that time, efforts had been made over the years for a four-way stop sign at that corner since 1996. Freida Dubin of the Wilmont Advisory Board now reports that the City is “aware of and working on the problem, and I was told that it would be at least six more months before anything is done and that a stop sign is not warranted.”

To provide some context, there were two vehicular fatalities (including but not limited to pedestrians) in 2002, 10 in 2003 (all at the Farmers’ Market tragedy), none in 2004, three each in 2005 and 2006, and five in 2007.

“Green Light District”

The September 5 opening of Herb King Farmacy heralded a “Green Light District” on the 2300 block of Main Street, as that store joined Tao Healing Arts Center, Beauty and Wisdom, and Euphoria Loves RAWvolution, all across the street from the Community Gardens, to form what City Councilmember Kevin McKeown called “a concentration of environmental and healthy lifestyle businesses in one place.”

Within a month, Herb King, which carried medical marijuana as well as many other herbal products, had closed up shop as a result of pressure from the DEA or the City or the landlord or most probably some combination of the above. Since that time, Herb King co-owner JoAnna LaForce has opened a store nearby on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice.

The other Green Light District stores seem to be thriving, and judging by a sign in the window, it appears that another green store will be moving into the vacant Herb King space.

Farmers’ Market Death/Injury Cases

In October, the California Court of Appeal reversed a trial court decision that had immunized the City of Santa Monica from liability on the plaintiffs’ strongest theories of liability. With the city back in the case along with defendants Bayside District Corporation and driver George Weller, and trial set for February 11, 2008 in downtown Los Angeles, settlement discussions have heated up. The City is reported to have $19 million in remaining insurance policy limits (in addition to its own funds and taxing authority), and plaintiffs’ lawyers estimate that total damages in the cases could exceed $100 million.

The next month could tell the story as to how these cases will be resolved and what financial impact that resolution may have upon the City.

And, the Ficus Trees/b<>

The saga of the City’s plans to remove at least some of the ficus trees that line 2nd and 4th Streets downtown will spill over into the new year, as the Landmarks Commission granted the Treesavers’ request to continue the hearing on whether to “landmark” the trees to its January 14, 2008 meeting.

In the meantime, those seeking to save the trees are keeping political avenues open, having planned a midnight Unity Vigil for New Year’s Eve at the Church in Ocean Park and a January 3 vigil in front of the National Resources Defense Council offices on 2nd Street.

And Jerry Rubin of the Treesavers can be heard around town arguing that the Landmarks Commission hearing is not the final word. He hopes the Commission landmarks the trees, he says, but just because they’re not declared landmarks is no reason to cut them down or relocate them, he adds.

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