The Argonaut looks back on 2004 and the local stories that made our news pages during the past year.

This week we review what happened in the local community between January 1st and June 30th.


St. Joseph Center officials began the year with continued efforts to get a proposal through the government process for a new redevelopment of its facility at 204 Hampton Drive in Venice.

The center was seeking exemptions from plan height limitations, a coastal permit for lot consolidation and demolition of an existing 11,000-square-foot building for construction of a 25,000-square-foot building that would allow the center to expand its services to the homeless and needy.

A dispute among Gabrielino-Tongva tribe members continued into the new year amid reports that some of the Native Americans wanted to be part of the recognized tribe and open an Indian casino.

A spokesman for the tribe said the tribe had no plans to open such a casino but others reported that the tribe had split into several factions, with disagreement on the issue.

In February a Santa Monica-based group associated with the tribe succeeded in having two bills introduced into the State Legislature that would allow a gaming compact between the state and the group allowing a tribal casino in Compton.

Charges were filed January 5th against George Russell Weller, 87, the Santa Monica driver who drove his Buick through a farmers’ market July 16th, 2003, charging him with killing ten and injuring 63 others.

Weller pleaded not guilty and was released. A preliminary hearing was held February 9th.

A City of Los Angeles proposed ordinance that would require permits for display space on the west side of Ocean Front Walk in Venice began to make its way through the city process.

Under the proposal that was coming before the Los Angeles City Council in January, persons wishing to conduct public expression activities on the west side of the boardwalk would be required to have a “public expression permit” with a one-time charge of $25, unless the permit was revoked.

The permit would not be transferable and would be for a designated area. Spaces would be assigned by lottery monthly and no set-up or activity would be permitted between dusk and 9 a.m.

The Los Angeles City Council voted January 6th to endorse a proposal that the council would analyze contracting policies at Los Angeles International Airport and other city-owned and -operated airports and make recommendations on how to improve such policies.

Santa Monica College was one of 13 community college districts in the state placed on a financial “watch list” after the college’s budgetary reserves dipped below a desirable threshold of five percent of the budget.

Santa Monica College officials replied that they were “not too worried” about being placed on the watch list but admitted that Santa Monica College is “the lowest-funded community college district in the state.”

Santa Monica College trustees responded January 12th by not raising non-resident student fees, which would remain at $149 per unit.

The Association of Santa Monica Bay Yacht Clubs named Ann Ach “yachtsman of the year,” Tim Tunks “sportsman of the year” and Greg Helias “junior yachtsman of the year.”

Otis College of Art and Design announced that it would appoint sculptor, educator and arts administrator John S. Gordon the college’s first provost, effective July 1st.

Pearl White, a legendary Venice community activist, died January 19th. She was 84.

A new $2.5-million, 9,000-square-foot gymnasium was dedicated at the Westchester Recreation Center January 22nd.

Crime in Santa Monica fell to a 40-year-low, the Santa Monica Police Department announced January 21st.

A police department report said violent crime in Santa Monica fell 14 percent during 2003 from 2002 and 62 percent during the ten-year period through 2003.

Crime in Santa Monica fell in nine of the ten years through 2003. Robberies declined 66 percent and property crimes declined by 58 percent during that decade.

Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) officials reported at the beginning of the year that LAX was operating at its lowest level of flight volume in 14 years.

Fewer travelers passed through LAX in 2003 than the previous year but more cargo was processed than in 2002.

Military aircraft operations at LAX increased by 22 percent in 2003 than during the previous year.

LAX remained the fifth busiest airport in the world at the end of 2003 and served 54,956,030 passengers during the year, a 2.25 percent decline from 2002. Domestic travel at LAX was down 2.53 percent during the year and international travel declined 1.47 percent from 2002 levels.

The proper pruning of coral trees along Marina del Rey streets provided a short but vocal exchange in January between County Department of Beaches and Harbors officials and locals who claimed the county was “destroying” the trees in Admiralty Park and along Fiji Way.


The City of Los Angeles dedicated a $1.7-million expansion and renovation project at the Oakwood Recreation Center in Venice February 5th.

An existing 10,000-square-foot structure was expanded by 4,000 square feet and a basketball court was renovated.

The Kingswood Village Apartment leasehold in Marina del Rey was assigned to Archstone-Smith Operating Trust.

Under the assignment agreement, the new lessee agreed to renovate the apartments over a three-year period. Tower apartments would be renovated as they become vacant.

Tenants complained about “displacement” and that rents would increase after the renovation.

Critics complained after Playa Vista bused in hundreds of Playa Vista employees February 12th to vote in the Westchester-Playa del Rey Neighborhood Council election.

The Playa Vista employees who participated were given a box lunch, prompting critics to charge that Playa Vista was trying to “buy the Neighborhood Council election.”

Officials of Grass Roots Venice, the certified Neighborhood Council for the community, voted to spend $4,350 of the first $5,000 in funds obtained from the City of Los Angeles on a February 26th catered dinner and reception.

Grass Roots officials told critics that much of the funds would go toward notifying stakeholders about the event.

The 24th annual American Film Market was held in Santa Monica February 25th to March 3rd and included screening of some 400 independent films from nearly 300 companies.

Films in 28 different languages were represented and 246 of the screenings were premiers.

About 35 films were made available for public viewing at AMC Santa Monica 7 on the Third Street Promenade.

Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center held a “topping off” ceremony February 10th for its $260-million, 120-foot-high, six-story structure on 16th Street in Santa Monica that will replace a facility severely damaged by the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

The new structure is expected to be completed in 2007 but a 13,000-square-foot emergency center was expected to open earlier.

The Santa Monica City Council adopted more stringent noise standards for the city February 10th. The new standards will require noise to be measured from the receiver of the noise rather than at the source.

Paula Daniels was elected to a two-year term as president of Heal the Bay, a Santa Monica-based organization dedicated to improving the quality of Santa Monica Bay and Southern California waters.

The Westchester High School boys basketball team was barred from participating in playoffs by the California Interscholastic Federation for alleged recruiting violations.

Plans for a new Bubba Gump Shrimp Co. restaurant on Santa Monica Pier were approved by the California Coastal Commission February 18th.

A groundbreaking ceremony was held February 27th for a Ballona Creek Trail and Bike Path improvements project.

The project is the first part of a larger project, “Park to Playa,” designed to improve the area surrounding Ballona Creek and its adjacent wetlands and provide bicyclists and pedestrians access between Baldwin Hills and the mouth of Ballona Creek at Santa Monica Bay.


County supervisors Yvonne Brathwaite Burke and Don Knabe won new four-year terms in a March 3rd primary election.

Voters in the Los Angeles Unified School District supported Measure R, a $3.87-billion school improvement bond measure by a large measure. The bonds required 55 percent approval and received 63.14 percent of the votes cast.

A $60,000 fire at Dinah’s Restaurant in Westchester sent customers fleeing from their breakfasts March 8th.

The blaze began as a small grease fire in the kitchen and spread up through an exhaust duct into a crawl space and onto the restaurant roof. The fire broke out at 7:25 a.m. and was under control by 7:40 a.m. There were no injuries.

A husband and his wife were killed when a small plane they were in crashed into a home on Mountain View Avenue in Mar Vista March 16th.

The couple was planning to land at Santa Monica Airport after a flight from Mammoth.

The finding of a large number of human remains at a Playa Vista construction site prompted the State Native America Heritage Commission to seek a halt to the project.

The executive director of the state commission called the site “a cemetery.”

A spokesman for Playa Vista said, “We always anticipated finding human remains and expected significant findings.”

The County Small Craft Harbor Department asked staff with the County Department of Beaches and Harbors March 10th to be more “vigilant” in enforcing permit requirements for those living aboard boats in Marina del Rey.

The request came after the commission learned that the number of non-permitted “liveaboards” on boats in the Marina had increased.

The Venice Family Clinic reopened the newly dedicated Robert Levine Family Health Center at 905 Venice Blvd., Venice.

The health center was formerly the Venice Health Center, which had been operated by the Venice Family Clinic since 1995.

The health center was renamed in honor of the father of Chuck Lorre, a major benefactor of the clinic.

Six yacht clubs in Marina del Rey observed Opening Day, the official beginning of the yachting season, Saturday and Sunday, March 20th and 21st.

The Santa Monica City Council voted March 23rd to prohibit smoking on all Santa Monica beaches.

The Santa Monica City Council also permanently outlawed short-term rental housing March 23rd.

The action was designed to end the use of apartments for hotel-like rentals that allowed owners to avoid the city transient occupancy tax, called a “bed tax.”

Venice Centennial Park was the most popular naming choice for a pocket park next to the Venice-Abbot Kinney Memorial Library on Venice Boulevard.

Venice residents were asked to select a name for the new park. Centennial Park reflects the Centennial of Venice, which is July 4th, 2005.

Sheriff’s Lt. Greg Nelson was appointed harbormaster in Marina del Rey, succeeding Sheriff’s Lt. Tracee Edmonds March 31st.


Four women — Kristina Andresen, Manuela Mata, Gloria Curiel Park and Christine Schanes — were honored for their community contributions by the YWCA Santa Monica/Westside at the organization’s annual Women of the Year dinner April 1st.

Ted Stein resigned from the City of Los Angeles Board of Airport Commissioners April 6th.

He had been commission president for the previous two and a half years, but his resignation took effect immediately.

Stein faced allegations that he helped foster a “pay for play” atmosphere in the city airport department.

A California Healthy Kids Survey found substance abuse in the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District exceeded state averages in some cases.

The survey is required for the school district to receive federal funding from the Safe and Drug Free School and Communities program and the Tobacco Use Prevention Education program.

Margaret Qui”ones, chair of the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees, was appointed to the California Community Colleges Board of Governors by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger April 6th.

Rate increases for parking, boat launching and camping in a recreational vehicle in Marina del Rey and on county beaches were approved April 6th by county supervisors.

Parking on summertime weekends and holidays at Venice Beach increased from $9.50 to $12.

Direct ferry service from Marina del Rey to Avalon, Catalina Island began again April 9th.

The high-speed catamaran Catalina-Marina del Rey Flyer, relaunched the service from Fisherman’s Village in the Marina.

Sea-Planes, Inc. began a Marina-to-Avalon service in August 2003 but quietly discontinued that service several months later.

A proposal to replace a century-old MTA bus facility at 100 Sunset Ave., Venice, with 225 condominiums and 13,500 square feet of retail space drew jeers from neighbors attending a scoping session April 7th.

Mary Thomson died April 12th. She was 80 and had been a well-known Playa del Rey artist and activist for protecting and improving the Ballona Wetlands.

OPCC, a Santa Monica-based service agency for homeless and needy persons, was given permission to relocate its Emergency Access Center to a new and larger facility at the Santa Monica Big Blue Bus yards by the Santa Monica City Council April 13th.

Just as hearings were about to begin on a $9-billion Alternative D plan proposed by Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn to modernize Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), Los Angeles Councilwoman Cindy Miscikowski offered what she called a “consensus plan” for the Hahn proposal.

Miscikowski urged that parts of the Hahn plan that were acceptable be built immediately, but sections of the plan that were controversial be delayed for further study and consensus building.

By year’s end, the Los Angeles City Council adopted Miscikowski’s “consensus plan” and approved Hahn’s LAX Alternative D.

The Los Angeles City Council approved a ban on smoking on city beaches April 23rd, two weeks after a similar ban on smoking on beaches was approved by the Santa Monica City Council.

In Los Angeles, smoking would still be permitted on beach-adjacent walkways, streets and parking lots.


Benita Hale, a former Santa Monica College counselor and administrator, was appointed to the California Community College Board of Governors by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Public hearings began on Playa Vista Phase II plans. A six-hour hearing May 6th at the Furama Hotel in Westchester drew about 80, including many new Playa Vista Phase I residents who supported the Phase II plans.

Later in the year, the Phase II development would be approved by the Los Angeles City Council.

Actress Goldie Hawn gave the commencement address at Loyola Marymount University May 8th in Westchester.

The same day, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Graham Nash was awarded an honorary doctorate during commencement ceremonies of Otis College of Art and Design in Westchester.

The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District gave conceptual approval to a proposal by the City of Santa Monica to provide the school district with $6 million annually in exchange for community use of school facilities. The City Council gave conceptual approval of the proposal May 11th.

The school district May 13th voted to terminate 27 teachers in the 2004-05 school year to close a $3.85 million budget shortfall.

Proposed plans for Lincoln Center on Lincoln Boulevard in Venice were opposed by the City of Los Angeles Planning Commission May 13th.

The plan considered by the commissioners included a six-story, 66-foot-high mixed-use development with two floors of retail space and four upper stories with 280 apartments.

The Grass Roots Venice Neighborhood Council opposed the plan after earlier supporting the proposal.

Redevelopment of the Furama Hotel site in Westchester won approval from the Los Angeles City Council May 19th.

Decron Properties plans 539 new residential units, 27,600 square feet of retail and 5,000 square feet of restaurant space for the parcel.

Marina del Rey attorney David Voss was nominated by Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn to the city Board of Airport Commissioners. His nomination was approved by the Los Angeles City Council later in the year.

Santa Monica College’s plans to develop a new Bundy Drive facility on the former BAE Systems Control site within the City of Los Angeles drew criticism from Santa Monica city and airport officials and neighbors.

The controversy, which included use of Airport Boulevard as a main entrance to the Bundy Campus, continued through the year. Airport officials opposed use of Airport Avenue, neighbors complained of expected increases in traffic and city officials said using Airport Avenue for the college Bundy Campus would interfere with city plans at the airport.

First Lutheran Church of Venice dedicated a new pipe organ May 23rd.

Los Angeles Mayor James Hahn signed a $5.4-billion budget for the city May 27th for a fiscal year that began July 1st. The Los Angeles City Council had approved the city budget May 24th.

The county began an expanded water shuttle boat service in Marina del Rey May 28th.

The summer shuttle boat service offered three more stops than the previous year. Ticket prices were increased to $2 a ride.


The body of former President Ronald Reagan was taken to Gates Kingsley & Gates Moeller-Murphy Funeral Home in Santa Monica shortly after the 93-year-old former President died June 5th.

The body remained at the funeral home two days.

People created a memorial in front of the funeral home with cards, flowers and flags.

The morning of June 7th, the body of the former President was taken from the Santa Monica funeral home to the Ronald Reagan Library in Simi Valley.

Santa Monica and Los Angeles police and the Secret Service controlled the crowds and traffic during the motorcade from Santa Monica to the Reagan Library.

Midnight Special Bookstore closed its doors permanently. The bookstore had moved to Second Street in Santa Monica from its earlier longtime location on the Third Street Promenade in 2003 because of the pressure of high rents.

U.S. transportation secretary Norman Mineta was commencement speaker at Santa Monica College June 15th.

Diane Barretti was installed as president of the Westchester/LAX-Marina del Rey Chamber of Commerce June 18th.

The March assignment by the county of the Kingswood Village parcel in Marina del Rey was the subject of a lawsuit filed against the county by a tax attorney representing two nonprofit organizations, the Marina Tenants Association and the Coalition to Save the Marina.

Attorney Richard Fine alleged that the county “gave away” $85 million by allowing the new Kingswood lessee to lease the county parcel for an additional 20 years for $2.1 million.

Earlier in March, the county had agreed to an assignment to Archstone-Smith, a trust company, of the remaining 18 years of the original Kingswood parcel 50-year lease for $87 million.

At issue is whether the county “extended” the lease, as the county claims, or whether the county granted a “new” lease, as the plaintiffs claim.

The County Board of Supervisors joined the Cities of Los Angeles and Santa Monica in banning smoking on beaches.

County supervisors voted to ban smoking on Mothers Beach in Marina del Rey between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

Smoking will continue to be permitted in parking lots adjacent to the beach.

Next: a review of the final six months of 2004 in the local community.