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February -- Lessons in Power

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By Lookout Staff

December 22 -- 2022 -- In February, the State asserts its control over major developments, the mayor denounces her critics and the City Council nixes a probe into closed-session leaks.

The month starts with the release of crime data for 2021, and it shows that despite a perception that crime is rising, it has actually dipped to a five-year low ("Serious Crimes Dropped 2.9 Percent Last Year, Police Report," February 1, 2022).

The decrease comes as calls for service inched up in 2021 after plummeting the previous year due to the coronavirus shutdown.

Assemblymember Richard Bloom announces he is dropping out of the race to replace Sheila Kuehl as County Supervisor, upending what promises to be a hotly contested June primary ("Bloom Drops Out of County Supervisor Race," February 1, 2022).

The announcement comes after the former Santa Monica mayor had amassed the largest campaign war chest. Bloom, who was first elected to the Assembly in 2012, says he would complete his fifth term, which expires next month.

The City announces it will begin tearing down Parking Structure 3 Downtown on Valentine's Day to clear the way for an affordable housing project targeting the homeless ("Demolition of Parking Structure 3 to Start This Month," February 2, 2022).

The announcement comes days after a Superior Court judge makes final a tentative ruling dismissing a lawsuit filed by a group of Downtown property owners.

The Santa Monica Conservancy mounts a last ditch campaign to stop the veiling of two historic murals at City Hall that critics contend are "vestiges of white supremacy" ("Conservancy Mounts Last-Ditch Effort to Oppose Veiling Historic Murals," February 3, 2022)

Preservationists hope to stop the City's plan to cover the murals that have decorated the City Hall foyer since the historic structure’s completion in 1938-39 as the Council weighs their ultimate fate.

For the first time in nearly two years, City Hall and the Public Safety Facility are opened to the public as coronavirus cases continue to plummet ("City Hall Reopens as Local COVID Cases Plummet," February 8, 2022).

The openings come one day before California officials announce the State would lift California's indoor masking requirements in public settings the following week.

After a fiery hour-long debate, the City Council votes 4 to 3 to investigate who has been leaking confidential information from closed sessions ("Council Votes to Investigate Closed Session Leaks," February 10, 2022).

The leaks, says Councilmember Gleam Davis, who put the volatile item on the agenda, had led prospective City Manager Rene Bobadilla to turn down the job in June.

In what would prove a fateful decision, California Housing officials inform the City that its plan to build nearly 9,000 new housing units over the next eight years does not comply with State law and must be revised ("City's Housing Element Fails to Comply," February 11, 2022).

The Housing Element update the Council approved on October 12 failed to provide specific information on how it would spur the development needed to meet the State-mandated housing quota, State officials say. The dire consequences would become apparent in the fall.

Police Commission Chair George Brown abruptly resigns from the deeply divided body he led with a strong and sometimes independent hand ("Chair Resigns From Police Commission," February 16, 2022).

Under Brown's leadership, the 11-member Public Safety Reform and Oversight Commission (PSROC) the Council created a year earlier had been torn by internal conflicts that have prevented it from meeting key deadlines.

In an unprecedented move, Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich uses her State of the City address to denounce the tactics used by her critics to "cancel" her and touts her political accomplishments ("Mayor Denounces 'Cancel Culture' in Unusual State of the City Speech," February 17, 2022).

During a highly personal seven-minute conclusion to her speech, Himmelrich addresses the widespread "aggressive hostility" she calls "the elephant in every room."

Santa Monica's Chess Park, envisioned two decades earlier as a tournament venue, is permanently swept off the beach by antisocial and criminal behavior ("Santa Monica to Take Down Chess Park," February 18, 2022).

The final move comes nearly four months after the City's Recreation and Parks Commission votes to remove the benches and tables and temporarily close the park, which once featured a life-sized chess set.

Two weeks after voting to investigate the source of leaks from closed sessions, the Council reverses course after Councilmember Lana Negrete votes not to hire the firm chosen by staff to conduct the three-month probe ("Council Nixes Probe into Closed Session Leaks," February 23, 2022).

In a clear sign the State has usurped local control over major developments, Santa Monicans learn they have little say over the city's biggest housing project in nearly 60 years ("Gelson's Proposed Project Is a Done Deal Under State Law," February 23, 2022).

Outside of public input on design elements, a developer-sponsored Zoom meeting that draws more than 500 participants is the last time the public would weigh in on the 521-unit Lincoln Center project at the Gelson's site.

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