Santa Monica’s Top Stories of 2018

Looking back at the active 2018 news cycle in Santa Monica. Photo: Getty Images.

2018 was a busy year in Santa Monica’s news cycle. While the familiar topics of development and homelessness dominated headlines, new conversations and debates took place around the arrival of e-scooters and an uptick in crime the city saw. Santa Monica voters approved term limits in the midterm elections and soon after the City of Santa Monica’s at-large election system was ruled illegal by a judge. As 2019 approaches, here are eight stories from 2018 that are worth revisiting.

Preschool Pushes Ahead, Residents Dismayed at Decision

Residents unite against a preschool in their backyard. Photo:

By Jennifer Eden
Originally published January 28, 2018

Consistent pleas and a sizeable fundraising campaign by Gandara Park neighborhood residents to uphold an appeal against a 20-child preschool set to open in the area fell on deaf ears Tuesday night as Santa Monica City Council denied the plea during a “quasi judicial hearing”, pushing ahead with the center albeit with 58 design and operation conditions.

Located at 2953 Delaware Ave., Santa Monica, “Untitled No.1” Child Care and Early Education Facility made its way through City Planning, filing a Conditional Use Permit (CUP) (17ENT-0075), Variance (17ENT-0147), and Fence Modification (17ENT-0148) for a change of use of the 1,478 square-foot, single-unit dwelling, located in the R1 zoned area.

The location of a childcare facility in the residential area was made possible due to a City 2015 Zoning Ordinance revision, where City Council implemented “LUCE Goal CE9 and Policy CE9.1 to integrate childcare uses into the neighborhoods, by adopting specific use standards for compatibility and fee incentives.

Read full article here

Santa Monica City Execs Make Top Dollar: Laborers, Not So Much

Frontline workers come out near bottom according to a new wages report. Photo: Thinkstock.

By Jennifer Eden
Originally published May 11, 2018  

The topic of Santa Monica City Staff executive wages has long captured local media headlines and online attention in recent years. So much so that the City commissioned a study on the matter, for a cost that did not exceed $210,000, that found, relatively predictably, that our “City’s median senior leadership compensation is the highest among peers.”

The report was presented at Tuesday’s May 8 City Council Meeting, with all 13 recommendations in the study adopted by City Council.

With a burgeoning pension liability ahead, The Mirror asked the City if perhaps current staff members would consider a wage cut; this in consideration of our City Manager’s compensation package topping $447,000 in 2016, our Police Chief’s hitting the $488,000 mark and our Assistant City Attorney at $436,000, according to Transparent California.

“There is a need to contain costs associated with pay and benefits while at the same time attracting and retaining highly qualified staff to provide the level and quality of services that the community expect,” replied Constance Farrell, Public Information Officer with the City. Farrell received a compensation package of $118,000 in 2016, according to Transparent California.

Read full article here

Santa Monica City Council Rejects Scooter Cap Proposal

A scooter supporter speaking at a rally organized by Bird and Lime outside Santa Monica City Hall. Photo: Sam Catanzaro.

By Sam Catanzaro
Originally published June 15, 2018  

Electric scooters are here stay, at least for the time being.

On Tuesday night, June 12, in front of a packed council chamber, Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a 16-month pilot program that will allow dockless, shared mobility rental companies like Bird and Lime to continue operating in the city.

“There’s no denying the popularity and ease of shared mobility devices that can help Santa Monica reach its goal of being a multimodal city,” said Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer. “This pilot approach will allow us to understand usage and operations in order to create a long-term program that establishes a safe, equitable and sustainable mobility option in Santa Monica.”

Read full article here

Third Term’s the Charm?

World War II pilot and veteran Jule Lamm speaks during a Term Limits rally as Mary Marlow holds the microphone for him. Photo: Morgan Genser.

By Sam Catanzaro
Originally published July 27, 2018  

Santa Monica City Councilmembers debated the merits of term limits Tuesday night, July 24, before approving a measure that will put the matter before voters in the November election.

“I feel that the power of incumbency is so great and the fact that this is a volunteer position makes it something that other members of our citizen body should be able to serve in,” said Councilmember Sue Himmelrich. “I know so many young people in the City who would be responsible and responsive members of the City Council.”

Read full article here

Potential Serial Killer in Custody for Santa Monica and L.A. Homeless Murders

Ramon Escobar. Photo: Courtesy

By Sam Catanzaro
Originally published September 28, 2018  

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) Captain William Hayes told reporters that the LAPD is looking into whether to classify 47-year old Ramon Escobar as a serial killer.

“We are looking at that,” Hayes said responding to a reporter. “The criteria for a serial killer is three or more victims. Obviously, we have three victims at this point in time, and there are two that are in critical condition that we don’t know their particular status but he is a violent predator, and I will leave it at that.”

The LAPD is holding Escobar for the murder of two homeless individuals, 59-year-old Kelvin Williams and 24-year-old Brandon Ridout, in Downtown L.A. on September 16 and the death of another man, 39-year-old Steven Cruze Jr., last Thursday under the Santa Monica Pier.

Read full article here

Homeless man exposes himself to a 11-year-old at Reed Park

Many Santa Monica residents feel unsafe letting their kids play at Reed Park because of the homelessness issue. Photo: Courtesy.

By Tor Marom
Originally published October 12, 2018  

According to the 2018 Greater Los Angeles Homeless Count, the number of homeless citizens has decreased by four percent from the previous year. Despite this seemingly significant decrease, Santa Monica residents have found that some of the encampments are a significant cause for concern. Most recently, several parents have witnessed disturbing incidents at Reed Park.

One such instance occurred the week before last, when Jen Levy and her friend Debbie Mahdessian took their 12-year-old sons to Reed Park for a tennis lesson. While the intention was to leave their sons in the class and return to pick them up afterwards, Levy decided to use the restroom first.

Inside the restroom, Levy could tell that there were two homeless individuals having sexual relations inside the stall.

Read full article here

Gleam Davis Selected as Santa Monica Mayor

Santa Monica’s new Mayor Gleam Davis. Photo: Facebook.

By Sam Catanzaro
Originally published December 14, 2018  

The City of Santa Monica has a new mayor: Gleam Davis, who was voted by councilmembers to replace former Mayor Ted Winterer at a special City Council meeting Tuesday evening.

“Serving the community is an honor and wonderful opportunity to elevate Santa Monicans priorities during an exciting time in the City’s history. We have a lot of work ahead of us,” Mayor Gleam Davis said. “Our beachside city is an inclusive and progressive place. We need to celebrate our successes and tackle the challenges that we face with equitable vigor. Santa Monica is a community that I care for deeply and as mayor, I will listen, learn and provide thoughtful consideration to community questions and ideas that arise during my term.”

Read full article here

City Still Considering Appeal in Voting Rights Case

Oscar de la Torre of the Pico Neighborhood Association urges Santa Monica City Council not to appeal on Nov. 27. Photo: Sam Catanzaro.

By Sam Catanzaro
Originally published December 20, 2018  

The City of Santa Monica says they are “pleased” with a judge’s recent tentative decision in the voting rights against the city but are still considering an appealing after a final ruling has been issued. An attorney representing the plaintiffs, however, says that an appeal may not be granted while claiming that the current City Council is sitting illegally.

Last week, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Yvette M. Palazuelos issued a tentative decision in the voting rights case against the City of Santa Monica ordering the future elections in the City be district-based.

“The Court commands and orders that from the date of entry of this judgment, Defendant’s elections for, and any seats on, the City Council be district-based elections, as defined by the California Voting Rights Act, and in accordance with the map attached,” Judge Palazuelos wrote.

Read full article here