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April -- City on Defense, Takes Misstep, Reverses Course
December 26, 2022 -- Spring is ushered in with a burst of major stories -- from the return of cash bus fares to a dearth of police officers on the street as City officials fend off the perception that Santa Monica is unsafe.
City officials report that Santa Monica's economy is embarking on a path to recovery driven by the hotel and restaurant sectors, but it remains far below pre-pandemic levels ("Signs Indicate Santa Monica's Economy is Recovering, Officials Say," April 4, 2022.
City officials respond to a flurry of news stories based on a recent report that found Santa Monica was one of the State's most dangerous cities ("Police Weigh in on Report Listing Santa Monica Among Least Safe California Cities," April 5, 2022 and ("OPINION -- Addressing Safety in Our Community," April 7, 2022).
A slow growth Santa Monica group with a hefty legal war chest takes on the city's biggest housing development in more than half a century, despite warnings the nearly 900,000-square-foot project can't be stopped under State law ("Slow-Growth Group Launches Battle to Stop Project on Gelson's Site," April 7, 2022).
The Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City's move comes shortly before the City completes it review of preliminary plans for the proposed 521-unit Lincoln Center project at the Gelson's site, which only requires administrative approval.
In a stark reminder of the persistent problem of crime committed by the homeless, Dylan James Jensen -- who was convicted in December of raping a Santa Monica woman in her Ocean Park apartment in 2018 -- is sentenced to 100 years to life in state prison.
Jensen, a 44-year-old homeless man, had been found guilty on seven counts, including rape, sexual battery, sodomy, burglary and assault with a deadly weapon in the June 4, 2018 early morning attack ("Homeless Man Sentenced to 100 Years to Life in Ocean Park Rape," April 8, 2022).
Coronavirus cases in Santa Monica see a significant increase, reflecting a countywide trend caused by the spread of a new subvariant of Omicron that is less severe but substantially more transmissible and better able to evade vaccines ("Santa Monica COVID Cases Rise," April 12, 2022) .
During its first meeting in more than two years with the public present, the City Council paves the way for Boards and Commissions to continue meeting remotely ("Council to Open Doors Tuesday, Boards and Commissions Could Keep Them Closed," April 11, 2022) .
The Council learns that Santa Monica's government has no direct investments in Russian assets that the City can pull to protest Vladimir Putin's invasion of Ukraine, rendering its stance as merely symbolic ("Santa Monica Has No Direct Russian Investments, Finance Official Says," April 13, 2022) .
Big Blue Bus (BBB) passengers can begin using cash again in the summer after the Council reverses a unanimous vote in September to only allow "contactless" fares ("Big Blue Bus to Take Cash Again," April 14, 2022) .
The reversal comes after two-thirds of customers surveyed oppose the cashless system transit officials acknowledged could impact seniors, the disabled and the homeless.
Four suspects are arrested for grand theft after police find a stolen catalytic converter and a cache of burglary tools in their vehicle ("Four Suspects Arrested in Catalytic Converter Theft," April 15, 2022 .
Catalytic converters -- which are valuable to scrap metal dealers because they contain precious metals -- have been driving up auto thefts.
A Lookout analysis of police data finds that the Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) is facing a record shortage of officers, with one-fifth of its budgeted force missing from action ("SPECIAL REPORT -- Santa Monica Police Force Faces Record Shortage of Officers," April 19, 2022).
The dearth of officers is largely due to a surge in retirements and a plunge in new recruits during the coronavirus shutdown, as well as a large number of officers on medical leave, the data show.
The City Council takes a different tack on campaign financing -- arguing that individual contribution limits need to be substantially jacked up, after previous Councils balked at the idea ("Council Hikes Campaign Contribution Limit," April 20, 2022).
A new report concludes that Santa Monica must strike out in a new direction if it hopes to make significant inroads in addressing its longstanding homeless problem ("Santa Monica Needs Radical Shift in Homeless Policies, Report Recommends," April 21, 2022).
The report's proposals include enacting local ordinances, suing Los Angeles County for failing to tackle the growing homeless problem and placing a measure on the countywide ballot forcing officials to address the crisis they created.
Facing stiff penalties, the City Council votes to try and buy more time to revise a plan rejected by the State to build nearly 9,000 new housing units over the next eight years ("City Seeks More Time to Meet State Housing Deadline," April 27, 2022).
The misstep contributes to a delay that would strip the City of local control over major developments, paving the way for a rash of projects submitted before State officials eventually approve the City's housing plan.
A report issued by two major universities finds that Santa Monica's decade-old ban on single-use plastic carryout bags -- which helped trigger a nationwide trend -- may be backfiring ("Plastic Bag Bans Could Be Backfiring, Study Finds," April 28, 2022).
Two influential and beloved civic leaders die in April, both in their seventies.
Attorney Rosario Perry -- whose wildly creative legal arguments helped shape Santa Monica's rent control laws for four decades -- dies after a short battle with cancer. He was 75 ("Longtime Santa Monica Landlord Activist, Attorney Dies at 75," April 8, 2022).
A former assistant City Attorney, Perry became a champion of Santa Monica property owners -- especially retired mom-and-pop landlords -- after Rent Control was ushered in by local voters in 1979.
Three weeks later, Iao Katagiri -- whose petite stature was graced with a quiet wisdom and a big heart that brought out the best in Santa Monica -- also died of cancer. She was 70 ("Civic Leader Iao Katagiri Dead at 70," April 29, 2022).
During her four decades at the RAND Corporation, Katagiri rose through the ranks from researcher to deputy vice president, becoming the face of the world-renowned think tank in its hometown, where she headed major non-profit boards.
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