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It’s difficult to pin down a single theme that accurately defines 2014. In many ways, this was a pretty confusing year.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average shot up from 16,441 in January to a record high of more than 18,000 before Christmas, but wages remain flat for most as the cost of living climbs — except at the pump, with gas prices plummeting well under $3 per gallon.

A rainy and cold December has capped off months of intense concern about the still very troubling drought.

And how will we ever explain the Ice Bucket Challenge to our grandkids?

Restoration plans for the Ballona Wetlands still haven’t materialized, and for better or worse the Annenberg Foundation has decided against building a controversial $50-million nature education center there, putting us back where we began in 2013.

The courts struck down prohibitions against people sleeping in cars as security along Venice Beach ratcheted up, but the clearest remedy for homelessness — more affordable housing — remains out of reach.

At the same time, residents have found themselves pitched against developers in neighborhood battles over increasing density. In Santa Monica it was opposition to the towering Hines project that turned the political tide toward slow growth. In Marina del Rey, longtime locals and boat owners say they’re being squeezed out by county plans for a harbor makeover and are up in arms about plans to redevelop tranquil Mariners Village. A proposed restaurant patio in a formerly industrial block of Venice has become a lightning rod for critics of a much wider gentrification trend.

Meanwhile, Playa Vista is riding the Westside tech industry boom to an unprecedented growth spurt. IMAX is already building a new $45-million West Coast headquarters there, and Google just bought 12 acres for a $120-million corporate compound. Construction of the Runway at Playa Vista retail center and adjacent high-end housing (already selling fast!) clips along at a breakneck pace, foreshadowing what may become the biggest story of 2015.

— Joe Piasecki

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