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January -- COVID and Homeless Remain in the Headlines

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By Lookout Staff

December 21, 2022 -- As the year kicks off, COVID cases swell and ebb, the tide turns on property owners seeking to halt the proposed demolition of a Downtown Parking structure and the homeless remain in the headlines.

The year starts on the heals of a surge in coronavirus cases during the 2021 holiday season as the vastly contagious, but far milder, Omicron variant spreads among the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike.

Local COVID cases surge to more than 1,500 a week, nearly five times the previous high recorded during the deadly 2020 winter. But this time, the surge if accompanied by few virus-related deaths ("COVID-19 Cases Surge to New Record High," January 4, 2022).

After a bitter and prolonged labor dispute with the previous owners of Le Merigot Hotel, the hotel workers union scores a major victory with a contract that ends a five-year labor battle ("New Hotel Owner Signs Union Contract," January 10, 2022).

A crackdown on illegal Pier vendors results in a juvenile arrested for carrying a loaded firearm and a female vendor for an assault that took place in November ("Santa Monica Cracks Down on Illegal Pier Vendors," January 11, 2022).

The arrests come as the City kicks off a Pier vending task force made up of Police, Fire, Code and Public Works personnel to crack down on out-of-control illegal vendors who swarm the Pier on weekends.

The Omicron variant continues sweeping through Santa Monica, shattering weekly case records repeatedly set and broken over the past month ("Omicron Keeps Shattering Case Records in Santa Monica," January 11, 2022).

The City Council decides to delay a controversial vote to require vaccine passports at select Santa Monica businesses after the Councilmember item spurs a public protest and draws heated opposition ("Council Tables Vaccine Passports at Santa Monica Businesses," January 12, 2022)

Some of the speakers who wait past midnight to weigh in note that the Omicron variant is spreading among the vaccinated as well as the unvaccinated and argue the vaccine will do little to curb the spread.

They argue that imposing a mandate requiring vaccination proof would only hurt struggling businesses and Black and Latino customers who have a much lower vaccination rate that the rest of the population.

Two days after the City Council takes a major step to build affordable housing on the site of Public Parking Structure 3 Downtown, a judge temporarily halts the wrecking ball ("Judge Grants Preliminary Injunction Halting Parking Structure Demolition," January 13, 2022).

The decision boosts the hopes of business owners who oppose the City's plans to tear down the 337-space, six story structure and replace it with supportive housing for the homeless.

A report requested by the City Council reveals Santa Monica is spending nearly $5 million a year to directly connect with the homeless individuals who live on the streets ("Santa Monica Spends Some $5 Million a Year in Homeless Outreach, Report Says," January 20, 2022).

But officials acknowledge there is no data showing the outcome of the outreach efforts, which are only a part of the City's multi-million-dollar strategy to tackle homelessness.

Crimes committed by homeless individuals continue making headllines and spurring community debate ("Homeless Attacks Trigger Debate," January 25, 2022).

On January 18, Los Angeles County prosecutors charge a homeless man with burglary after he allegedly ransacks a home near Reed Park. Three days later, a homeless man storms into a Councilmember's music shop in Mid-City, then attacks an elderly woman on a nearby street

The incidents come on the heals of the unprovoked fatal attacks on two Los Angeles women -- Brianna Kupfer and Sandra Shells -- by homeless men.

After a seven-month search, Burbank Deputy Fire Chief Danny Alvarez is hired to head Santa Monica's Fire Department ("Santa Monica Taps Burbank Deputy Chief to Head Fire Department," January 27, 2022).

According to Apartment List's monthly report, Santa Monica rents dipped in January, marking the third straight monthly decrease after ten months of growth ("Santa Monica Rents Continue Dropping, Report Finds," January 27, 2022).

A Superior Court judge deals a major blow to Downtown property owners seeking to stop the demolition of Parking Structure 3 when he issues a tentative motion granting the City's motion to dismiss the case ("Judge Issues Tentative Ruling Tossing Parking Structure Lawsuit," January 28, 2022).

As the month draws to a close, coronavirus cases drop to the lowest level since the Omicron variant became the dominant strain in Los Angeles County in mid-December ("Local COVID Cases Drop to Lowest Level Since Omicron Took Hold," January 31, 2022).

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