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LOOKOUT
Traditional Reporting for A Digital Age

The Santa Monica Lookout, Santa Monica, California -- APRIL 2021

Popular Playground Program Could be Revived With Changes
April 30, 2021 -- A popular City program that allowed elementary students to use School District playgrounds after school could be revived after it was slashed from the budget last year.

School District Recognized for Music Education
April 30, 2020 -- The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) has been recognized with a “Best Communities for Music Education” designation for the 19th straight year -- a State record.

City Council Moves Forward With Main Street Closures
April 29, 2021 -- A pilot program to close a stretch of Main Street to cars and buses on weekend nights got an intitial nod from the City Council shortly after midnight Tuesday.

Santa Monica to Explore Creating First Northside Dog Park
April 29, 2021 -- Santa Monica could add its fourth dog park -- and first on the northside -- after the City Council on Tuesday directed staff to explore carving out a section of Reed Park for dogs.

Police Use Narcan Medication to Save Overdose Victim
April 28, 2021 -- Santa Monica police on Sunday used a medication that blocks the effects of opiods to save a victim from overdosing at Virginia Avenue Park.

Council Sets New Rules for City Boards and Commissions
April 28, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday approved a lengthy set of rules that will guide policies and procedures for Santa Monica's Boards, Commissions and Task Forces.

Santa Monica Rents Continue Rising After Big Drop, Report Finds
April 27, 2021 -- After a big drop during the coronavirus shutdown, Santa Monica rents increased for the fourth straight month in April, rising by 3 percent over the past month and outpacing rent growth nationwide, according to the latest report by Apartment List.

Armed Man Arrested in Santa Monica Charged With Assault on Detention Officer
April 27, 2021 -- A man arrested on Santa Monica beach last July for carrying a loaded firearm was charged on Tuesday with assualting a detention officer in North Carolina, according to a local news report.

EXTRA -- Weekly COVID Cases Hit Lowest Level Since September, No Deaths Reported
April 26, 2021 -- Santa Monica hit its lowest weekly number of COVID-19 cases in more than seven months with 21 new cases confirmed last week, down from 52 the previous week. There were no local virus-related deaths reported for the first time in six months.

Council Takes Second Shot at Appointing Police Commission
April 26, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday will once again try to appoint members to Santa Monica's eagerly awaited police reform commission after delaying the vote due to a dearth of young and minority candidates.

School District Taxpayers Expected to Save Nearly $8 Million a Year with Anticipated Bond Sales
April 23, 2021 -- An expanding tax base, low interest rates and a high credit score could save taxpayers nearly $8 million a year when the School District refinances its bonds "in the coming months," District officials said Friday.

Elementary School Playgrounds Closed to Public on Weekdays
April 23, 2021 -- Now that local schools have reopened, all elementary school play yards in Santa Monica will be closed to the public during weekday afternoons, officials announced Friday.

Council Votes Get Mixed Reviews, City Still Not on Right Track, Poll Finds
April 22, 2021 -- A monthly poll of some 170 "civically engaged" Santa Monica residents found that the vast majority -- 80 percent -- don't believe the City is on the right track, while recent Council votes got mixed reviews.

SMC Planetarium Offers Varying Views of the Stars
April 22, 2021 -- Next month, amateur star gazers can learn to spot a nebula with a pair of binoculars or peer into the hearts of distant galaxies using microwaves during virtual shows at Santa Monica College’s John Drescher Planetarium.

LETTERS -- Take Down the Metal Wall. Pronto.
April 22, 2021 -- Santa Monica’s mad geniuses of traffic planning have ordained that we weave through a maze of steel poles on Ocean Avenue from California to the Pier.

Council Could Add New Priorities to Lobbying Agenda
April 21, 2021 -- The City's lobbying efforts at the State and Federal levels could focus on two new priorities this year -- reforming police practices and ending systemic racism. The Council is expected to add the two issues to Santa Monica's legislative agenda on Tuesday.

Another SMC Student Film Headed to Cannes
April 21, 2021 -- A Santa Monica College short student film about a half-Latina, half-Arab U.S. Marine coping with the aftermath of the Iraq War will be screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival this year, colege officials announced this week.

Guilty Verdicts in Chauvin Case Give Hope, Local Leaders Say
April 20, 2021 -- Santa Monica Police were out in force Tuesday as the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trail reached a guilty verdict that triggered street parties instead of protests across the nation.

New Low-Income Housing Development Breaks Ground in Santa Monica
April 20, 2021 -- Community Corp., Santa Monica's affordable housing provider, broke ground Monday on a $35 million project that will offer rare apartments for large low-income families.

LETTERS -- Paying More and More and More for Affordable Housing
April 20, 2021 -- When it comes to affordable housing, Santa Monica has gone far beyond other cities and gets zero credit, and massive mandates as a reward.

Santa Monica Police Brace for Chauvin Verdict
April 19, 2021 -- The Santa Monica Police Department has stepped up its security efforts as the jury in the Derek Chauvin murder trial begins its deliberations, Police Chief Jaqueline Seabrooks said in a video update Monday.

County Officials Hear City, District Positions on Malibu Split
April 19, 2021 -- In a highly anticipated, though predictable, showdown Saturday, County education officials heard conflicting views over Malibu's split from the District before preparing to cast an initial vote in June.

OPINION -- Hotel Union’s Failure of Leadership During the Pandemic
April 19, 2021 -- While unemployed hotel union workers continued paying dues during the coronavirus shutdown, the salaries of top union leaders were barely touched.

School Board Rejects Malibu's Last-Ditch Offer
April 16, 2021 -- The School Board on Friday rejected Malibu's last-ditch proposal to have the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) determine the financial terms for the city's split from the School District.

City Council Allocates More than $29 Million in Federal Recovery Funds
April 15, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday voted to use most of its $29.3 million in federal recovery funds to tackle homelessness, reopen facilities and provide rent relief to Pier and non-profit City tenants.

LETTERS -- It's Time for Malibu To Go
April 15, 2021 -- The District's objection to the separation really has nothing to do with Malibu and everything to do with covering up the fiscal incompetence of the School Board.

EXTRA -- Malibu Council Proposes County Set Financial Terms for Split
April 14, 2021 -- The Malibu City Council on Wednesday proposed that the Los Angeles County Office of Education (LACOE) and its consultant "determine fair and equitable financial terms" for Malibu's split and asked the School District to agree to be bound by those terms.

Two New York Men Arrested in Drug Deal Near Pier
April 14, 2021 -- An armed convicted felon and his accomplice, both from New York, were arrested for dealing drugs near the Pier last week, Santa Monica police said Wednesday.

LETTERS -- Santa Monica Was There for Malibu During Woolsey Fire
April 14, 2021 -- It is unfortunate that in its drive to push the unification effort, some residents of Malibu are willing to be untruthful about actual events, writes former School Board member Ralph Mechur.

Santa Monica's Arclight Theatre Shuttered Permanently
April 13, 2021 -- Less than six years after opening, the state-of-the-art Arclight theater the helped revitalize Santa Monica's fading moviegoing scene will shutter, the latest victim of the coronavirus shutdown.

LETTERS -- Malibu Divorce Doesn't Sound Like Social Justice
April 13, 2021 -- Malibu and Santa Monica can negotiate a divorce settlement which is equitable to both cities, but the current Malibu proposal is one-sided and unequal.

Santa Monica Sees Drop in COVID Cases, Related Deaths
April 12, 2021 -- Santa Monica saw confirmed coronavirus cases dip last week to 45, from an average of 56 weekly cases over the past month, according to Los Angeles County Health data.

52 Residents Apply for Police Oversight Commission
April 12, 2021 -- A former City Councilmember, a retired Santa Monica police department veteran and four City commissioners are among the 52 applicants vying for nine seats on the new police oversight commission.

Bergamot Arts Tenants Worry 'Rent Relief' Not Enough
April 9, 2021 -- Galleries at the City owned Bergamot Station Arts Center say the "Rent Relief Program" the Council will consider Tuesday doesn't go nearly far enough in helping them recover from the coronavirus shutdown.

OPINION -- Critical Time Regarding Malibu Unification Efforts
April 9, 2021 -- Superintendent Ben Drati explains why the School Board voted 6-1 in closed session Thursday to reject the best and final offer made by the City of Malibu before next Saturday's hearing by the LA County Committee on School District Organization.

Santa Monica's Rent Control Market Remains Strong Despite COVID Shutdown, Report Finds
April 8, 2021 -- Contrary to popular notions, the median price of a rent control apartment in Santa Monica remained stable last year, and more tenants held on to their units during the coronavirus shutdown than in 2019, according to the Rent Control Board's annual report.

Santa Monica Program Helps Vulnerable Tenants Stave Off Eviction
April 8, 2021 -- In an effort to help stem an expected "wave of evictions," City officials this week launched a program that gives free legal counsel to vulnerable tenants.

Santa Monica Could Ban from Protests Items That Can Be 'Weaponized'
April 7, 2021 -- In an effort to curb violence, it could soon be illegal to carry poles, pipes, bottles, rocks and laser pointers at demonstrations held in Santa Monica.

Former City Manager Rick Cole Named Special Housing Advisor for Pasadena
April 7, 2021 -- The Mayor of Pasadena on Monday named former Santa Monica City Manager Rick Cole as a special housing advisor to help the San Gabriel Valley City craft its new housing element.

COVID-Related Deaths Persist in Santa Monica
April 6, 2021 -- During the past month, 27 Santa Monica residents have died with the coronavirus, nearly three times the rate of deaths reported Countywide, according to LA County Health data.

Divided Council Approves Plan to Meet State's Affordable Housing Mandate
April 6, 2021 -- A split City Council voted last week to approve a plan that paves the way for building more than 6,000 new affordable housing units, including in exclusive single family neighborhoods.

Council Paves Way for Tesla "Supercharger" Station, Without Retro Cafe
April 5, 2021 -- The Santa Monica City Council last week paved the way for a Tesla supercharger station billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk hopes will be the nation's first to feature a retro diner and movie screen, although they are not included in the latest approved plan.

SMC Planetarium Offers a View of the Stars from Near and Far
April 5, 2021 -- The Santa Monica College (SMC) planetarium this month will offer two views of the stars -- from an observatory launched deep into space and with a pair of binoculars from a backyard.

Two Santa Monica Sustainable Housing Proposals to Get State Funding
April 1, 2021 -- Two Santa Monica proposals to promote sustainable housing development will receive a slice of $4.8 million in State funding from The Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG), the agency announced Thursday.

Two Wisconsin Men Charged With Assault on Couple
April 1, 2021 -- Two Wisconsin men were charged with felony assault Tuesday after attacking a couple riding scooters near the Santa Monica Pier Sunday night, according to police.

EXTRA -- Recall Drive Targets Four Santa Monica School Board Members
March 31, 2021 -- (UPDATED) Education activists on Wednesday filed their intent with the Los Angeles County Registrar to circulate petitions to recall School Board President Jon Kean, Vice President Laurie Leiberman and Board members Maria Leon-Vazquez and Richard Tahvildaran-Jesswein for alleged conflicts of interest.

Rapidly Expanding Downtown Program Adds 'Safety Ambassadors'
March 31, 2021 -- Starting Thursday, specially trained "Safety Ambassadors" will begin patrolling the Downtown to address quality of life issues and help deter unwanted behavior, according to Downtown officials.

Santa Monica Rent Control Building Sells for More Than $32 Million
March 30, 2021 -- A 28-unit Santa Monica rent control building -- where some rents exceed $12,000 a month -- sold last month for $32.6 million. The rents, however, are far below those at Champagne Towers, another rent control building down the street.

Suspected Burglars Arrested
March 30, 2021 -- Three burglary suspects were arrested late Friday night while fleeing with stolen merchandise from a building Downtown, according to Santa Monica police.

OPINION -- School District Falsely Uses Racism for Petty Political Gain
March 30, 2021 -- There is no “District as a Whole.” There is only a Santa Monica district that dictates to a separate and complete K-12 district in an entirely different and distant part of Los Angeles.

Council Members Seek to Expand Zero Emissions Delivery Zone, Increase Outreach to Spanish-Only Speakers
March 29, 2021 -- Two Councilmembers have placed items on Tuesday's agenda to expand Zero Emissions Delivery Zones citywide and create a plan to communicate better with Spanish-only speakers.

One-Third of Santa Monica Residents Vaccinated
March 26, 2021 -- There were 64 coronavirus cases confirmed in Santa Monica over the past ten days and five virus-related deaths, as nearly one-third of the city's residents have been vaccinated, according to Los Angeles County Health data.

Council Begins Exploring Ways to Triple Santa Monica's Affordable Housing
March 26, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday will begin exploring ways to build more than 6,000 new affordable housing units in eight years -- triple the number it has built over the past quarter century.

Santa Monica Council Places Conditions on Backing Malibu Split
March 25, 2021 -- The Santa Monica City Council unanimously voted on Tuesday to only support Malibu's separation from the School District if the division of revenues are "fair and just" for Santa Monica students.

Council Extends Rent Deferral for City Leaseholders
March 24, 2021 -- The City Council on Tuesday unanimously voted to extend the eviction moratorium for businesses with City leases from March 31 to June 30 and gave them a year from that date to pay the rent they owe.

Ex-Convict Who Shot Santa Monica Police Officer to Be Resentenced
March 24, 2021 -- The California Supreme Court on Wednesday declined to review a case against an ex-convict who shot and wounded a Santa Monica police officer in 2010. The decision came two months after an Appeals court ordered a new sentencing hearing for Dante Glenn Leverette.

City Seeks to Use Recent Election Results in Voting Rights Case
March 23, 2021 -- The City is seeking to use the recent election of two Latino Councilmembers from the Pico Neighborhood to defend Santa Monica's at-large election system in the ongoing voting rights case.

Police Make Three More Arrests Involving Catalytic Converter Thefts
March 23, 2021 -- Santa Monica police on Monday arrested three Los Angeles men who were preparing to steal catalytic converters during a rash of vehicle thefts across the city.

City Faces $53 Million Funding Gap for Water Projects
March 22, 2021 -- A year after Santa Monica doubled its water rates in an effort to become water self sufficient, the projects to make that happen face a $53 million funding gap due to the coronavirus shutdown.

Malibu Split Headed for April Showdown
March 22, 2021 -- The acrimonious battle over Malibu's attempt to split from the local School District is headed for a showdown before County officials next month.

Councilmember Sues City Over Conflict of Interest Decision
March 19, 2021 -- Councilmember Oscar de la Torre sued the City of Santa Monica this month for barring him from Council meetings, discussions or decisions pertaining to the voting rights case.

Santa Monica Extends Coronavirus Emergency
March 19, 2021 -- Santa Monica on Friday extended its coronavirus emergency orders, with some exceptions, through the end of next month as the County enters a less restrictive phase of its shutdown.

Latest Resident Poll Shows Mixed Response to Council Actions
March 18, 2021 -- A monthly text message survey of Santa Monica residents saw confidence in the new City Council slowly building as it tackles homelessness and commercial development.

UPDATE -- Missing Woman Found
March 18, 2021 -- Santa Monica police on Thursday announced they had located a 37-year-old woman who had been missing since she left her Ocean Avenue Apartment at dawn on Monday.

Police Seek Help Searching for Missing Woman
March 18, 2021 -- Santa Monica police are looking for a 37-year-old woman who was reported missing after last being seen leaving her apartment building in the 1700 block of Ocean Avenue at around 6:30 a.m. Monday.

City, Chamber Launch Grants Program for Struggling Businesses
March 17, 2021 -- The City and Chamber of Commerce have established a loan program to help as many as 1,000 small local businesses recover from the coronavirus shutdown, officials announced Wednesday.

New App Predicts How Crowded Santa Monica Buses Will Be
March 17, 2021 -- Big Blue Bus (BBB) riders will be able to plan their trips based on accurate predictions of how crowded the bus they plan to catch will be, agency officials said this week.

SPECIAL REPORT -- SANTA MONICA IN THE YEAR THE COVID
March 16, 2021 -- One year ago today, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Santa Monica. Since then, 4,488 cases and 156 coronavirus-related deaths have been reported in the city of some 93,000. Following is a timeline compiled by the Lookout of the coronavirus markers over the past year.

Man on Parole for Murder Charged with Domestic Violence, Felony Assault
March 16, 2021 -- A man on parole for murder faces felony charges after assaulting his wheelchair-bound girlfriend in her Santa Monica apartment "throughout the night," police said.

Council Narrows Focus on Top Priorities
March 15, 2021 -- Addressing homelessness and ensuring public spaces are clean and safe are the two top priories that will guide tough budget decisions in Santa Monica over the next two years.

Police Seek Suspects in Attempted Robbery, Stabbing
March 15, 2021 -- Santa Monica police are searching for two suspects wanted for an attempted armed robbery and stabbing in Sunset Park Sunday afternoon.

On Local 11 Hotel Grades, Garbage In Means Garbage Out
March 15, 2021 -- Local 11 should be thrown in detention for its petty schoolyard grading system that only seeks to bully hotels that don’t see eye to eye with the union.

Hotel Union Assigns Grades Based on COVID-19 "Guarantees"
March 12, 2021 -- The local hotel workers union launched a website this week that grades a hotel's response to the coronavirus emergency, and non-union hotels earned all the F grades in Santa Monica.

Santa Monica Council to Set Budget Priorities
March 12, 2021 -- Reducing homelessness and crime will likely be among the top "community priorities" when the City Council at a special meeting Saturday selects as many as five key issues that will guide the budgets for the next two fiscal years.

New Santa Monica Website Helps Connect Residents to Local Jobs
March 11, 2021 -- From cooks and servers to hotel security guard and travel specialist the Santa Monica job market has an increasing number of openings as the local economy recovers from the coronavirus shutdown.

Santa Monica Approves Extra Pay for Grocery, Drug Store Workers
March 11, 2021 -- Setting the stage for a potential lawsuit, the City Council Tuesday night unanimously approved an urgency ordinance mandating a temporary $5-an-hour pay hike for workers at 24 local grocery and drug stores.

Coronavirus Cases in Santa Monica Level Off as Elementary Schools Prepare to Reopen
March 10, 2021 -- Coronavirus cases in Santa Monica remained steady for the third week in a row and related deaths saw a dramatic drop as local public schools prepare to reopen in one month.

Suspects Arrested in Catalytic Converter Thefts Spiking Across the City
March 10, 2021 -- Santa Monica police arrested three suspects early Wednesday morning for stealing a catalytic converter, a crime that has spiked across the city and neighboring communities over the past year.

Number of Plaintiffs Filing Child Molestation Cases Against the City Could Reach 100
March 9, 2021 -- New child molestation cases involving more than 50 victims are being filed against the City of Santa Monica and the police youth program it runs, according to a prominent attorney involved in the litigation.

Santa Monica Con Man Gets Eight Years in Prison
March 9, 2021 -- A Santa Monica man was sentenced Tuesday to eight years in federal prison for conning four women he dated into investing more than a quarter million dollars in sham companies.

EXTRA -- Santa Monica to Receive Nearly $27 Million in Federal Relief Funding
March 8, 2021 -- Santa Monica will receive $26.7 million in federal funding -- a "small fraction" of the revenue lost due to the coronavirus shutdown -- as part of a $1.9 trillion stimulus bill headed for final approval, City officials said Sunday.

More Sexual Abuse Cases Filed Against City, PAL
March 8, 2021 -- The high-profile attorney who won a $42.6 million settlement against the City last year has filed nine cases alleging additional plaintiffs were sexually abused while participating in a City run youth program.

OPINION -- Pandemic Heightens Importance of Housing Rights in Santa Monica
March 5, 2021 -- COVID-19 has caused housing rights to have even more significance than they had before as tenants see their apartment is now primarily a refuge from a deadly virus.

Classmates.com Settles Lawsuit Santa Monica Helped Prosecute
March 5, 2021 -- The owner of the popular social networking site Classmates.com will pay up to $550,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a task force that includes the Santa Monica City Attorneys office.

Man Charged in Ocean Park Shooting
March 5, 2021 -- A 19-year-old Hispanic man faces charges for shooting a woman in the face on the beach in Ocean Park last November. Santa Monica police detectives traced the shooting to Alexander Cogco, who was in county jail for an unrelated incident.

Santa Monica 's Housing Target Finalized at Nearly 8,900 New Units
March 4, 2021 -- Santa Monica must plan to build 8,895 new housing units by October 2029 under the final housing allocations adopted Thursday by the Southern California Association of Governments (SCAG).

LETTERS -- What Will It Take for Santa Monica to Wake Up?
March 4, 2021 -- I remember even a year ago the homelessness problem was bad, but not bad enough to deter me from moving to Santa Monica. Since moving here, though, it's become unlivable.

Santa Monica Rents Rebound, Home Prices Third Highest in Nation, Studies Find
March 3, 2021 -- Rents in Santa Monica rebounded for the first time since the coronavirus shutdown began one year ago, while the city's home prices are now the third highest in the nation, according to two surveys released this month.

City Council Poised to Halt Commercial Development on Possible Housing Sites
March 3, 2021 -- Santa Monica is poised to temporarily halt commercial development in zones that allow housing in an effort to meet a "very large" state mandated quota for affordable units.

City Survey Seeks to Gauge Needs of Workers in Santa Monica
March 3, 2021 -- The City launched a survey this week to gather information from Santa Monica workers about their transportation and housing needs.

Protesters Sue City Over Curfew Arrests During Riots
March 2, 2021 -- More than 40 protesters arrested for violating curfews during last May's civil unrest filed a lawsuit last week charging that Santa Monica and other local jurisdictions violated their constitutional rights.

Suspect in Santa Monica Police Vehicle Fire Charged With Arson
March 2, 2021 -- A man arrested last Thursday evening for setting a Santa Monica police vehicle on fire during a robbery investigation has been charged with arson.

Santa Monica Sees Surge in Coronavirus-Related Deaths, Cases Remain Steady
March 1, 2021 -- Coronavirus-related deaths in Santa Monica last week matched a record 16, while the number of weekly confirmed cases remained steady, according to LA County Health data.

Woman Leaps to Her Death from Santa Monica Place Parking Structure
March 1, 2021 -- A woman jumped to her death from a Santa Monica Place parking structure late Saturday afternoon, marking the third suicide at the upscale shopping mall in less than six months.

Santa Monica to Test Nation's First 'Zero Emissions Delivery Zone'
March 1, 2021 -- Santa Monica will become the first city in the nation to test a system that replaces large fume-spewing delivery trucks with non-polluting vehicles in the city's most congested area.
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