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Top Stories of 2020 -- SUMMER - FALL
December 31, 2020 -- While the coronavirus emergency continued grabbing daily headlines, the voting rights lawsuit moved through the courts, "The Plaza's" fate remained undecided and the groundwork was being laid for the biggest election upset in Santa Monica history.
As summer rolls around, Santa Monica's crippled shopping districts begin looking more like bazaars after the City gives merchants and restaurants the go-ahead to expand in front of their businesses ("Santa Monica Businesses Go Outdoors," June 25, 2020).
The Pier also begins a phased reopening three months after shutting down, with visitors required to wear face masks and maintain social distancing ("Santa Monica Pier Begins 'Phased Reopening,'" June 25, 2020).
On June 24, the Council approves a $613.6 million budget decimated by the coronavirus shutdown that provides last-minute funding for "racial justice initiatives" in the wake of nationwide protests against police ("Council Approves Drastically Reduced Budget, Carves Out Funding for 'Black Agenda,'" June 26, 2020).
The following week, a California Appeals Court issues a tentative opinion finding that Santa Monica's at-large election system does not intentionally discriminate against Latino voters. The ruling would be finalized July 9 ("EXTRA -- Appeals Court Issues Tentative Opinion in Favor of City in Voting Rights Suit," June 30, 2020).
A record 117 applicants -- including an airline pilot, a ship captain, a stunt coordinator and Sexydivineamazingthebest Chancey -- meet a July deadline to vie for Morena's vacant Council seat ("EXTRA -- Nearly 120 Applicants Seek Appointment to Vacant Council Seat," July 7, 2020).
In the wake of Independence Day, Santa Monica posts a record 65 weekly coronravirius cases, as the County begins re-shutting businesses in an effort to curb a recent spike that has, in fact, resulted in fewer deaths and serious illness ("Santa Monica Sees Record Number of Weekly Coronavirus Cases, As County Re-Shutters Businesses," July 13, 2020).
With one swift vote on July 14, the Santa Monica City Council makes history by appointing Kristin McCowan to fill a vacant Council seat, marking the first time a Black woman serves on the dais ("EXTRA -- Council Appoints Kristin McCowan to Fill Vacant Seat," July 14, 2020).
With election season approaching, all five Council incumbents up for reelection pull nominating papers to run ("All Five City Council Incumbents Running in November," July 21, 2020).
Councilmembers Gleam Davis, Ana Jara, Terry O'Day and Ted Winterer announce they will run on November 3 for four open seats with four-year terms, while McCowan will run to serve the final two years of Morena's term.
In yet another blow to the crippled business sector, the LA Marathon announces that after an 11-year run through Santa Monica, next year's race will end in Century City ("EXTRA -- Santa Monica Loses LA Marathon," July 23, 2020).
The City Council votes 6 to 1 to continue negotiations on "The Plaza" project, deciding the revenues, jobs and housing it would create outweigh the risks of pending litigation ("Santa Monica Council Votes to Continue Negotiations on 'The Plaza' Project Downtown," July 29, 2020).
Four slow-growth candidates form Santa Monica Residents United for Change to take on the four incumbents ("EXTRA -- Slate Formed to Challenge Council Incumbents," August 17, 2020).
The slate is composed of School Board member Oscar de la Torre, Arts Commissioner Phil Brock, Planning Commissioner Mario Fonda-Bonardi and Pico Neighborhood resident Christine Parra.
On August 18, the Latino plaintiffs in the voting rights lawsuit against Santa Monica ask the California Supreme Court to review the Appeals Court decision in favor of the City ("Plaintiffs in Voting Rights Suit Request Supreme Court Hearing," August 19, 2020).
In an effort to tackle a statewide housing crisis, the City Council fast-tracks new affordable housing Downtown and bars Santa Monica housing units from being rented for commercial use ("Santa Monica Council Approves Measures to Spur New Housing," August 26, 2020).
Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) -- the city's most powerful political organization -- backs four incumbents in the Council race for five seats ("EXTRA -- SMRR Backs Incumbents," August 31, 2020).
The Miramar Hotel's ambitious redevelopment plan wins swift City Council approval after concerns it caters to the rich are outweighed by the sudden and sizable boost it is expected to bring to a local economy battered by the coronavirus shutdown ("Council Approves Miramar Hotel Redevelopment," September 30, 2020).
Four months after the City Council first directed staff to probe SMPD's response to the May 31 riots, the City announces it has hired a consulting firm ("City Hires Firm to Probe Police Response to Riots," October 9, 2020).
One week later, Police Chief Cynthia Renaud announces she will retire and is replaced by former Chief Jacqueline Seabrooks ("Outgoing Police Chief Gets Big Payout, Former Chief Returns," October 16, 2020).
The voting rights lawsuit is headed to the California Supreme Court after the Latino plaintiffs' are granted their petition for review ("EXTRA -- Supreme Court Takes Up Voting Rights Lawsuit," October 21, 2020).
On the November 3, Santa Monica voters mount a revolt at the polls, ousting three City Council incumbents -- as many in one race as have been defeated in the past 26 years ("EXTRA -- SANTA MONICA VOTERS USHER IN NEW ERA," November 6, 2020).
On December 8, Councilmember Sue Himmelrich is elected mayor of Santa Monica for two years in a clear display of power by the newly seated council ("Himmelrich Elected Santa Monica Mayor as 'Change Slate' Takes Power," December 9, 2020).
Six months after assuming the City's top post, Interim City Manager Lane Dilg announces she will leave her post next spring ("Dilg to Leave City Manager Post," December 14, 2020).
Signaling it's no longer business as usual, the three newly-elected Council members join Mayor Himmelrich to kill the Plaza Project ("EXTRA -- New Council Kills Plaza Project," December 15, 2020).
The week after being sworn in as a City Councilmember, de la Torre throws a wrench into the December 17 School Board meeting when he refuses to relinquish his seat ("De la Torre Refuses to Give Up School Board Seat," December 18, 2020).
For the fourth straight week, Santa Monica tops its record for weekly coronavirus cases with 365 ("Santa Monica Shatters Weekly Coronavirus Case Record Yet Again," December 28, 2020).
As of 8 p.m. Sunday, December 27, the city had 2,619 confirmed COVID-19 cases -- with 1,500 of those taking place over the past seven weeks. There have been 60 virus-related deaths.
OBITUARY -- Former Santa Monica Mayor Bob Holbrook -- whose love for his native city steered his positions during a record 24 years on the City Council -- dies December 11 after a long illness. He was 79 ("EXTRA -- Former Santa Monica Mayor Bob Holbrook Is Dead at 79," December 11, 2020).
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