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Top Stories in 2021 -- A Fall Shift

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By Jorge Casuso

December 30, 2021 -- The City Council's newest members signal a radical shift during the fall by breaking with the powerful hotel workers union and grudgingly accepting housing mandates imposed by the State.

Meanwhile law enforcement takes center stage as the City hires a new police chief, the police commission exposes an internal rift and a high profile attack by a homeless woman makes international headlines.

The year comes to an end with rents falling for the first time since last December and a new, milder, strain of the coronavirus driving case numbers to record highs.


A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge rejects the City's motion to dismiss a case filed by Councilmember Oscar de la Torre claiming he does not have a conflict of interest in the voting rights lawsuit against the City ("EXTRA -- Judge Rejects City's Motion to Dismiss de la Torre's Case," October 5, 2021

The total number of child molestation cases reaches nearly 100 less than two months after the Council approves a $54.9 million settlement with 61 alleged victims of a former City employee ("More Child Molestation Cases Filed Against City," October 7, 2021).

In an effort to pay the legal bill -- which is larger than the Police Department's annual budget -- the City sues half a dozen insurance companies who allegedly failed to help pay the more than $100 million in expenses related to the settled claims ("City Sues Insurance Companies Over Child Molestation Claim Expenses," October 1, 2021).

The Council unanimously approves immediate zoning changes to help the Promenade recover from by a coronavirus shutdown that cut sales and foot traffic in half. The changes pave the way for more varied new business uses and allow existing businesses more flexibility ("Council Paves Way for New Uses to Revitalize Promenade," October 4, 2021).

A refurbished 38-unit apartment building that was the subject of a bitter battle to keep affordable housing in Santa Monica sells for $70 million ("Refurbished 1950s Santa Monica Apartment Complex Sells for $70 Million," October 4, 2021).

A divided Council approves a plan to build nearly 9,000 new housing units, but will warn State officials their daunting mandate will likely be impossible to meet without help ("EXTRA -- Council Cautiously Approves Housing Plan," October 13, 2021).

The City hires Ramon Batista, Jr. -- who as Mesa, Arizona's Police Chief battled the union over police reforms -- as Santa Monica's first Latino police chief, filling a post that had been filed on an interim basis for a year ("Santa Monica Hires Former Mesa Police Chief Who Championed Reform," October 14, 2021).

One month after the newly formed Police Reform Commission broke with City and police officials, an internal rift widens after Chair George Brown submits a draft report to the Council that the Commission has not approved ("Rift Widens on Police Reform Commission," October 18, 2021).

An attack by a homeless woman makes international news after it is revealed that one of her three victims was a reality TV contestant. Within days, reports of the incident appear in dozens of international news sites. Most mention Santa Monica and the homeless attacker in the headline ("Homeless Attack in Santa Monica Makes International Headlines," October 19, 2021).

Rents in Santa Monica continue rising slowly in October, inching up another 1 percent as the national rental market cools ("Santa Monica Rent Growth Slowing, Listings Show," November 2, 2021).

Roger Thornton -- a founding member of Santa Monicans for Renters' Rights (SMRR) who played a major behind-the-scenes role in turning the grassroots group into a local political powerhouse -- dies in his Santa Monica home at age 79.("EXTRA -- Roger Thornton -- the Quiet Power Behind SMRR -- Dead at 79," October 29, 2021).


Coronavirus cases jump after hitting a four-month low, as proof of vaccination kicks in for select businesses and children begin to be vaccinated ("Santa Monica Sees Weekly Spike in Covid Cases," November 9, 2021).

By month's end, there would be five COVID-related deaths reported, the most in nearly eight months ("COVID-Related Deaths in Santa Monica Hit Eight-Month High," November 29, 2021).

A security guard at a Santa Monica Vons store stabs a customer multiple times during an altercation over the customer's refusal to wear a face mask ("Man Stabbed by Security Guard During Altercation Over Face Mask in Santa Monica," November 9, 2021).

The Council approves the City's first "nepotism policy" after an unusual discussion centering on the sole commissioner who would be immediately ousted ("City Council Gets Personal Approving Nepotism Policy," November 15, 2021.)

A Superior Court judge gives final approval to a settlement agreement that requires the School District to reimburse parents nearly $1 million for items and fees it should have covered ("Parents to Get Nearly $1 Million Reimbursed from District for Student Expenses," November 16, 2021).

Proponents of dividing the School District into trustee areas submit their plan to County Education officials as a campaign to recall three School Board members loses steam ("Proponents of Dividing School District into Trustee Areas Submit Plan," December 2, 2021).

After a spree of flash mob robberies at high-end stores in neighboring cities, Santa Monica police begin "closely monitoring" the attacks ("Santa Monica Police Monitoring Flash Mob Attacks in Los Angeles Area," November 23, 2021).

A flash mob robbery is thwarted after a Downtown security staff member spots a row of suspicious vehicles parked in the fire lane outside Nordstrom ("Flash Mob Robbery Thwarted in Santa Monica, Police Chief Says," November 30, 2021).

Rents in Santa Monica dip by 1.8 percent in November, marking the first decrease since the year began ("Santa Monica Rents Drop for First Time This Year," December 1, 2021).


Vaccination rates among School District employees are significantly higher than those among City staff, with the Fire and Police Departments lagging behind ("SPECIAL REPORT -- City Employee Vaccination Rates Lag Behind School District," December 6, 2021).

In a major blow to the politically powerful hotel workers union, the Council's four newest members vote to approve new uses at a hotel embroiled in a bitter unionizing battle ("EXTRA -- Council Breaks With Union, Backs Hotel's Proposal," December 9, 2021).

Using words like "chaos," "melee" and "out of control," the Council takes steps to curb the renegade vendors who overrun the Santa Monica Pier on weekends ("Council Revisits 'Out-Of-Control' Illegal Pier Vendors," December 10, 2021).

Sources reveal that Santa Monica's biggest residential developer is expected to close on the sale of eight fully entitled sites Downtown before the end of the year ("New York Developer Poised to Buy 8 Prime Downtown Properties," December 14, 2021).

A new map for the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors turns the 3rd District that includes Santa Monica more conservative and removes some of the region's most prized cultural venues ("EXTRA -- New Map Turns Supervisor District More Conservative," December 16, 2021 .

The City announces it will boost maintenance in the Downtown parking structures, add private security at the Pier and hire a clinician to help reach mentally ill homeless individuals (""City Embarks on $1 Million in Safety and Maintenance Projects," December 17, 2021

As the year comes to an end, LA County data show the number of weekly cornovirus cases in Santa Monica surpassing 1,000 -- triple the previous high recorded during the previous deadly winter ("EXTRA -- Santa Monica Shatters Weekly COVID Case Record," December 27, 2021).

This time, the sudden spike comes amid a swelling tide of the vastly contagious, but far milder, Omicron variant, which infects both the vaccinated and unvaccinated, producing symptoms similar to the common cold.

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