Well 2024 is now well upon us. Starting Monday, Next will resume its normal coverage which makes now the perfect time to look ahead at what we think will be some of the biggest stories of 2024.

The Election

This is definitely the most obvious thing. In November of 2024, Santa Monica will be electing a majority (4 of 7 seats) of their City Council and possibly changing the course of the city’s government.

In 2020, the “change slate” won three seats on the Council unseating incumbents that were backed by much of the city’s political infrastructure. When Lana Negrete replaced Councilmember Kevin McKeown, a new, more conservative than usual, majority took control of the Council. 

However, in 2022 Negrete was re-elected while a pair of younger, more progressive, candidates were elected for the first time. While not part of the “Change Slate,” Negrete is often aligned with them on controversial issues meaning that the Council split is 4 “Change Slate/aligned” Councilmembers and 3 “progressives.”

This leads to the 2024 election being the “rubber match” to determine control of the Council. Assuming all four incumbents seek re-election, the Change Slate needs to defend all three seats to hold their majority. 

Impact of State Law on Zoning and New Building

On New Year’s Day, AB 1287 became law. 1287 changed the State Density Bonus Law by requiring cities and counties to award an additional density bonus for projects that have already allocated the maximum amount of affordable housing for very-low income, low-income or moderate-income units.

Allowing the stacking of low and moderate income density bonuses could lead to projects that essentially have a 100% density bonus, meaning higher heights for many new developments and additional density. Building height and density is already a hot political issue in Santa Monica, but as the state continues to grapple with an affordability crisis, we can expect to see more developers submit larger buildings to maximize their profit (if they are for-profit) or impact (if they are non-profit).

Airport to PARK

This spring and summer, Sasaki Design Associates will lead a public outreach process to see what residents want to see as a future land use for what is now Santa Monica Airport. 21 months from now, Sasaki should be presenting a final design to the City Council that they will vote to approve (or not) that the city can then begin to figure out how to pay for.

Sasaki was actually the second choice presented by staff to the Council. The first choice presented a new outreach process that was designed to bring out and include people not traditionally reached in what are common practices for public outreach. 

While this proposal and process was abandoned after a bizarre public freak-out by people that are used to dominating conversations on how the city should grow; there will be pressure on Sasaki and their team to bring in as many voices as possible. 

DTLA and the Promenade

On Friday, December 22, I took my kids and mom for a walk through the promenade to the pier for a chance to look at some of the holiday decorations. From the moment we parked to the moment we got back in the car almost two and a half hours later (thanks for the free parking extension!), nothing felt unsafe and everything was easy. A good time was had by all.

As we walked by John Alle’s property, with its “Santa Methica Is Not Safe” sign, a couple of young adults were posing in front of it for a selfie. “Delusional,” we could overhear one of them saying.

We didn’t stop to talk with these selfie-takers, but it was easy to see what they meant. The number of empty storefronts was noticeably reduced from my last family visit in June, and most of the dark store fronts had signs announcing new tenants that were on their way.

The city has seen an increase in crime in the years as the pandemic restrictions have worn off, but have yet to return to pre-pandemic highs. While Santa Monica still has challenges, a nearly identical group of my family members were verbally harassed after completing a 10k race on the beach path just over two weeks later, as more businesses open and more life returns to the downtown areas including the tourist destinations at the Promenade and Pier, the hysteria that “Santa Monica Is Not Safe” will fade as a political cudgel.

There’s of course plenty of honorable mentions for this category. I remain excited to see what the city does to improve its bicycle and pedestrian network. I look forward to covering the various ballot propositions that could be on the ballot. I plan to do more coverage of SMMUSD. And I’m hopeful, although not optimistic, that the start-and-stop process of selecting a future for the Civic makes meaningful strides in the next 360 days.

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