In what could be described as a year of big ups and downs for Santa Monica, here is The Mirror’s run-down of the top headlines from the year.
Please note that some of the following stories took place up to a week before or after the publication date, depending on whether it was a recap or preview piece.
• The contractor responsible for the new water fountain in front of City Hall continued to attempt to fix a leakage problem that had been ongoing for several months.
• The Santa Monica City Council approved June 2 $7.2 million for the City’s Big Blue Bus transit authority to demolish and reconstruct 313 bus shelters and 1,244 extended network signs thanks to the council’s unanimous vote supporting the Bus Shelter Redevelopment Program.
• Hoping it may help the City address gridlock and meet its ambitious goal of no net new PM peak hour vehicle trips, Santa Monica partnered with Hertz to try out a pilot car sharing program. The pilot program, unanimously approved June 25 as part of the city council’s consent calendar, aimed to give Santa Monica’s residents, visitors, and workers a car-sharing option to use vehicles only when necessary.
• The 29th annual Twilight Concert Series returned to the Santa Monica Pier July 11.
• Santa Monica’s Downtown Specific Plan remained in a holding pattern until August as three of the seven City Council members were not present at July 9’s Council meeting.
• One million dollars here, $40,000 there – flying under the radar during a light City Council meeting July 9 were two financial gifts heading Santa Monica’s way. The council unanimously accepted $1 million from Bloomberg Philanthropies for The Wellbeing Project and $40,000 from the Dept. of Alcoholic Beverage Control.
• The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District began exploring the development of an updated logo to go along with a branding strategy that will communicate the core values of the organization.
• A playground specifically designed to be universally accessible to children of all physical ability levels opened July 13 with a grand opening celebration near the 2900 block of Ocean Front Walk.
• The back-and-forth between Santa Monica’s two largest hotel operators escalated July 16, when lawyers for the Huntley Hotel issued a demand letter to the Fairmont Miramar’s Alan Epstein, asking him and his representatives to “cease the defamatory smear campaign against the Huntley … (and its) president and general manager, Mr. Sohrab Sassounian.”
• At a gun violence forum held July 15 at Santa Monica City Hall, Congressman Henry Waxman announced he would introduce the Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Act of 2013 to Congress in a bid to address gun safety, mental health, and gun violence research. Waxman convened the forum in response to the Santa Monica shootings on June 7 where John Zawahri shot and killed five people in the Pico neighborhood, before authorities took his life inside the Santa Monica College library.
• Not quite a left turn at Albuquerque, the Downtown Specific Plan found itself on the Planning Commission agenda eight days after the Santa Monica City Council tabled its discussion on the matter until Aug. 13. Less than 24 hours after it was tabled, Planning Commissioners scheduled the DSP to be placed on the July 17 agenda to discuss the plan’s California Environmental Quality Act, or CEQA, parameters. At heart of the discussion: what should the height and density parameters of future developments within Santa Monica look like?
• A coalition of clergy, community activists, hospitality workers, and students came together to oppose two big box hotel brands coming to downtown Santa Monica. The coalition said proposals to bring a Courtyard by Marriott and a Hampton Inn and Suites by Hilton failed to adequately address community values of environmental protection and good job development.
• The Santa Monica City Council formally expressed its support July 23 of two proposed bills in Sacramento and Washington, D.C., respectively, aiming to legislate gun control and safety. A bill proposed by Rep. Henry Waxman, known as the Gun Violence Prevention and Reduction Act of 2013, that aimed to provide “a framework for moving forward in the areas of gun safety, mental health, and gun violence-related research.”
• Santa Monica’s first registered pedicab company began operation as Jose Prats launched his pedal powered taxi service called LA Bike Taxi on July 18. The newly launched service provides tourists and residents in downtown Santa Monica with an alternative to contending with local automobile traffic.
• With construction of the Expo line in Santa Monica well underway, local artist Bettina Hubby hosted a “Dig the Dig” dinner at the Santa Monica Museum of Art at 2525 Michigan Avenue July 21. More than 250 people attended the dinner, which celebrated the expansion of the Expo Line to Bergamot Station. The Expo line is expected to open in 2016.