Santa Monica Jewelry Store Robbery Suspect At Large, Drops Bomb During Escape

UPDATE: 2:10 a.m. EST - The Santa Monica Police Department, which is currently conducting a manhunt for a suspect who tried to rob a jewelry store Wednesday, has released the first photograph of the suspect. It has also asked for public assistance on its search for the suspect, who is still at large. The department has advised Santa Monica citizens, living on or near Montana Avenue, not to be alarmed by the sound of an explosion. The sound was of a controlled detonation of an explosive device dropped by the suspect near a car, before he fled on foot, the officials said. Although the perimeter search was completed by the Santa Monica officers, they told the public to expect increased police activity in the area till the suspect is apprehended. The traffic, which was temporarily blocked in the area, has been reopened.  Original story: The police are currently searching for a suspect who tried to rob a jewelry store in Montana Avenue on Wednesday and was armed with an explosive in Santa Monica, California. A perimeter was set up by the police on 14th and 16th streets to the west and east, and San Vicente Boulevard and Margarita Avenue to the north and south in Santa Monica, as officers conducted a manhunt for the suspect. The police first announced that they were pursuing a suspect in a case of robbery at 7 p.m. local time (10 p.m. EST), ABC7 reported.  People in the neighborhood have been asked to stay indoors or stay away from the area. The man, who was armed with an explosive device, threatened to detonate the device during the attempted robbery. Having failed to do so, and being unsuccessful in securing any merchandize from the store, he got back into his black-colored SUV and fled from the scene. After crashing his vehicle into a car parked near the 300 block of 15th Street in Santa Monica, he dropped the explosive device near the vehicle and fled on foot. According to Santa Monica Police Lt. Saul Rodriguez, the suspect might be in the area Continue Reading

Santa Monica beach house owned by Howard Hughes, Cary Grant, Joan Fontaine for sale for $12 million

The former Santa Monica Beach retreat of Cary Grant and Howard Hughes is on the market for the first time in 38 years, with a $12 million price tag. Lisa Johnson Mandell, provided by Published 5:00 pm, Friday, February 23, 2018 window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-5', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 5', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-10', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 10', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-15', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 15', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-20', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 20', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-25', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 25', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-30', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 30', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ mode: 'thumbnails-c', container: 'taboola-interstitial-gallery-thumbnails-35', placement: 'Interstitial Gallery Thumbnails 35', target_type: 'mix' }); _taboola.push({flush: true}); window._taboola = window._taboola || []; _taboola.push({ Continue Reading

Bird scooter firm settles legal fight with Santa Monica

The startup that placed electric scooters around Santa Monica for riders to share has reached a settlement with the city over allegations that it failed to secure businesses licenses and vendor permits. The scooters, known as Birds, began to mysteriously show up around Santa Monica in September. Since then, residents and visitors, intrigued by the sight of the black scooters resting on sidewalks or in front of businesses throughout the city, have been using Birds as alternatives to cars, buses and bikes. According to a statement released Tuesday from the Santa Monica city manager’s office, Bird Rides Inc. pleaded no contest and agreed to pay more than $300,000 in fines and secure proper business licenses. The agreement also requires the company to run a weeklong public safety campaign on public buses. Bird chief executive Travis VanderZanden, a former Lyft and Uber executive, created the company after moving to Santa Monica from the Bay Area. To operate the scooters, riders have be at least 18, wear a helmet and stay off sidewalks. Eligible users can download an app and pay $1 plus 15 cents a minute to ride them at speeds up to 15 mph. In addition to having safety concerns, Santa Monica officials grew frustrated at Bird’s refusal to obtain permits. Last December, the Santa Monica city attorney’s office filed a nine-count misdemeanor criminal complaint against Bird and VanderZanden. The complaint alleged that Bird began operating its scooters without city approval and that it ignored citations asking the company to obtain proper licenses and remove the scooters from sidewalks. Deputy City Atty. Eda Suh said in a statement that the settlement shows Bird failed to comply with Santa Monica’s business licensing requirements. “Bringing this new business into compliance with local law achieves a fair and positive outcome for the people of Santa Monica,” Suh said. Bird spokesman Marcus Reese said that under the settlement, the city agreed Continue Reading

Sudden appearance of electric scooters irks Santa Monica officials

SANTA MONICA, Calif. — Black, electric-powered scooters suddenly began appearing on the downtown streets, suburban sidewalks and beachside a few months ago in this urban coastal city. The dockless shared scooters took Santa Monica by surprise, including the mayor, who says he received a LinkedIn message from Bird chief executive Travis VanderZanden, offering to introduce him to the company’s “exciting new mobility strategy for Santa Monica” — after they landed in town. “If you’re talking about those scooters that are out there already, there are some legal issues we have to discuss,” Santa Monica Mayor Ted Winterer said he told VanderZanden. And to reinforce the point, the city filed a criminal complaint of nine counts centered on Bird’s failure to obtain a vendor permit, something the company maintains is applicable to food vendors, not dockless shared electric scooters. A woman rides a Bird scooter on the Santa Monica Pier on Feb. 4. (Noah Smith) [Key to saving the redwoods might be in their genetic code.] The criminal case by a cornerstone city of “Silicon Beach” against an electric scooter company illustrates the continuing challenges, years after the onset of now-massive shared economy companies such as Uber and Airbnb, that arise when integrating new technologies, even when those technologies help solve stubborn civic problems such as traffic congestion. At the root of the battle between Bird and the city of Santa Monica is an issue that has increasingly confronted municipal governments facing new tech and business models — a lack of directly applicable existing regulation and precedents. “These scooters literally just began showing up on our streets last fall,” said Anuj Gupta, Santa Monica’s deputy city manager and director of policy. “The challenge is that they decided to launch first and figure it out later.” A Bird representative says the Continue Reading

Jonathan Gold finds delight in the secretive Santa Monica restaurant Dialogue

One of the best things I’ve ever eaten was a pressed squab that was part of the Hunt menu at Chicago’s restaurant Next, a bloody, barely roasted bird whose breasts and legs were ceremoniously carved off by a chef at a tableside cart, and its carcass was put into a huge, hand-cranked press to be squeezed like an orange. Ten minutes later, the finished dish and its dense sauce, famously one of the most glamorous preparations of Escoffier, were brought out from the kitchen.I bring this up because Dialogue, a new tasting-menu restaurant in Santa Monica, is the current project of Dave Beran, who was then the chef at Next, and right in the middle of the intimate open kitchen is exactly the gleaming duck press you may have hoped you would see, possibly the only one in the city at the moment. There are no carts — Dialogue, which sits just 18 people, is about the size of a two-car garage. Beran presses his ducks behind the counter, capturing the juices that flow from the silvery spout and reducing them with aromatics until they thicken into a suave gravy, less inflected by booze and innards than the version you may have tasted at Tour d’Argent the first time you went to Paris with a credit card, but perfectly autumnal.Los Angeles, we have noted, has lately become one of the best food cities in the world, at the heart of a great agricultural region, with an astonishingly diverse population, and with an openness to new ideas that you might expect in an entertainment capital. But until lately, there were few non-Asian restaurants that aspired to the highest level of international cooking, the rarefied realm of the World’s Top 50 list, multiple Michelin stars, and reservation lists backed up for three months; of $800 dinner tabs; of 20-course tasting menus that read like symbolist poetry; of sommeliers cross-cutting between elegant Burgundies and stank pét-nats with the fluency of an old-school hip-hop DJ.But Beran is nothing if not Continue Reading

Don’t be scared: New Santa Monica studio aims to take the fear out of acupuncture

In Santa Monica, acupuncture goes mainstream and a gym rolls out a new high intensity interval training class; a new meditation studio in Sherman Oaks offers mindfulness sessions for teens; and a crystal healing workshop is happening in Silver Lake. Here are some well-being options around Los Angeles over the most stressful time of year. At the newly opened Amplify Acupuncture in Santa Monica, founder Yunuen Beristain’s goal is to make the ancient Chinese practice accessible and welcoming. “A lot of people say they’ve always wanted to try it but are intimidated,” said Beristain, a licensed acupuncturist and master of traditional Chinese medicine. “The fact that we are in a retail location with big windows is an open invitation to walk in without an appointment and get a treatment.” Clients sit in zero gravity reclinable chairs separated by dividers in the open-plan 750-square-foot space; mellow music plays in the background as their acupuncture points are stimulated to neutralize stress, encourage better sleep or recover from illness. Info: Amplify Acupuncture, 2717 Main St., Santa Monica. Until Dec. 15, a one-hour consultation and treatment is $60. Thereafter $90. Follow-up 30-minute sessions are $60. For those seeking an effective yet quick workout, Exhale, a spa in Santa Monica that also offers barre and yoga classes, earlier this month introduced its new HIIT 30 workout. The 30-minute class spends five of those minutes just on abs; the rest is a series of intense sequences on a mat, some using weights, done in 50-second intervals. The regimen is designed to keep the heart rate up while providing a full-body workout. Info: Exhale Spa, 101 Wilshire Blvd., Santa Monica. $27 a class. Another addition to the wellness landscape in the San Fernando Valley is Soul Hum, a meditation studio in Sherman Oaks that opened in October. Founder Natalie Kiwi said she began to practice in earnest a few years Continue Reading

I’m visiting Santa Monica, that city by the bay

Back in Santa Monica, where the men are mostly metro and the women all look like breadsticks. See, I cover the waterfront. So I notice these things. As luck would have it, we find ourselves in a bucket of beer near the pier. If Big Dean’s isn’t the best saloon in America, it’s in the conversation. I feel so strongly about it that I posted to Instagram. “Best bar in America, Big Dean’s, where the sand meets the suds,” or something to that effect. My feeling is that if it’s on social media, it must be true. It has the whiff of “right now!” to it, which is one of the measures of news these days. Plus, there are little hearts and kisses — those touches the mainstream media has yet to master. Sure, my post may be too provocative. Big Dean’s might be only the 10th best bar in America. Then again, what are your yardsticks for a think tank like this: Sarcasm? Stickiness? Laughter? Those would be mine. The best joints anywhere — L.A., Chicago or Boston — are held together with one-liners and 300 coats of lacquer. Doesn’t hurt that Big Dean’s is perched on the Pacific, with ocean air drifting right up its big snout. It’s the Cheers of the surf-and-sand crowd. Except nobody knows anybody’s name. It’s a thoroughly L.A. bar, in that everybody is from somewhere else. In that sense, like L.A. itself, I think of it as an all-star organization. No city, not even New York or London, has so much out-of-town talent on its roster. Plus, any bar with my daughters in it gets bonus points. I watch as they give up their bar stools to well-dressed older gentlemen, just like their mother taught them. “Here, Dad. Sit,” my lovely and patient older daughter says. So I do. Their boyfriends are also here, respectful old-school souls with childhood allegiances to the Cubs and Yankees; that’s always fun to witness. Then there are my pals Verge and Eugene, which sort of sounds Continue Reading

Vacant Santa Monica Sears getting a second life with a $50-million makeover

The vacant Sears department store in downtown Santa Monica is poised for an extreme makeover that will turn the former down-to-earth purveyor of general merchandise into a swanky place to work, eat or grab a beer.Soon the Art Deco landmark will be home to sun-drenched offices for rent with a rooftop garden and a market hall where vendors sell food, drinks and other wares such as books or clothing. It will be renamed the Mark 302.The $50-million renovation is yet another example of how developers are repurposing the growing number of empty big-box stores left behind by fading traditional retailers — especially in desirable locations.And it would be hard to find a belly-up store in a better locale.When this one opened on Colorado Avenue in 1947, it was on the edge of the business district of a sleepy blue-collar beach town. The Santa Monica Freeway did not exist.Today, the city is one of the wealthiest in the state, and the building stands at the terminus of the Expo light rail line, across the street from Santa Monica Place shopping center and a short walk from Santa Monica Pier.“It’s a premier, crown-jewel asset — definitely one to be excited about,” developer Kacy Keys said.The Sears was one of many department stores that opened in the years immediately after World War II to capitalize on the booming growth of Southern California and the pent-up consumer demand unleashed once the war ended. It was the 10th Sears store in Los Angeles County.Keys visited the Santa Monica store as a child in the 1970s and remembers running around with her brother and munching free popcorn, a gustatory perk fondly recalled by others who grew up in the neighborhood.Today, Keys oversees development in the West for Seritage Growth Properties, a New York real estate investment trust that owns 253 Sears and Kmart stores that could potentially be redeveloped.Seritage gained control of the stores in 2015 as part of a $2.7-billion deal that involved leasing most Continue Reading

Santa Monica school district’s conflict of interest investigation expands to three board members

A Santa Monica school district’s conflict of interest investigation has grown to include three of the board’s seven members, a school district official confirmed Friday. The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District’s probe initially focused on Maria Leon-Vazquez, whose husband worked as a paid consultant to at least two district vendors. Santa Monica-Malibu launched its probe after The Times revealed last month that Leon-Vazquez cast a series of votes spanning several years that included hundreds of thousands of dollars in contract approvals with her husband’s clients, the financial advisory firm Keygent, LLC and TELACU Construction Management. That investigation has now widened to include board members Ralph Mechur and Oscar de la Torre, according to a district spokeswoman. The district is looking into possible conflicts of interest related to Mechur’s work as an architect for Leon-Vazquez’s home remodel and a nonprofit involving De La Torre, said spokeswoman Gail Pinsker. The district will release a “summary of findings that we will be sharing publicly in the next few weeks,” she wrote in an email to The Times. She said once the investigation is complete the district will commission an outside agency — likely the California School Boards Assn. or the state Fiscal Crisis and Management Assistance Team — to conduct an independent review. Prosecutors with the public integrity unit of the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office have also opened a review. Leon-Vazquez’s husband Tony Vazquez — who is also a Santa Monica councilman and a candidate for a state Board of Equalization seat — was paid to open doors at school districts by using his political access to arrange meetings with high-level district executives, he testified in a sworn deposition obtained by The Times. This included a meeting he set up three years ago between a TELACU executive and then-Santa Monica-Malibu Continue Reading

Santa Monica College shooting victim and gunman identified

The deranged California man who gunned down four people planned the violent spree and was “armed for battle” with a military-style assault rifle, a handgun and 1,300 rounds of ammunition, authorities said. “Anytime someone puts on a vest … comes out with a bag full of loaded magazines, has an extra receiver, has a handgun and has a semiautomatic rifle, carjacks folks, goes to a college, kills more people and has to be neutralized at the hands of the police, I would say that’s premeditated,” said Santa Monica Police Chief Jaqueline Seabrooks at a Saturday news conference. She would not name the shooter other than to say he would have turned 24 Saturday and added that his next of kin was out of the country. But The Los Angeles Times, citing law enforcement sources, identified him as John Zawahri, saying he unleashed the violence on the streets of Santa Monica because he was angry over his parents’ recent divorce. At the conference, Seabrooks showed the deadly arsenal of weapons and ammo. She said he carried a .223 semiautomatic rifle, similar in type to an AR-15 assault rifle used in the Newtown school massacre. Included in the display was a surveillance photo of the heavily armed killer entering the Santa Monica College library moments before police gunned him down. "I saw the shooter, bloody and being dragged away," said a 53-year-old campus maintenance worker who did not want to give his name. "I walked in in the middle of it, just minutes after they killed the guy. I'm just grateful that they didn't shoot me, because I was coming downstairs as they were coming up." Friday’s midday nightmare unfolded in just over 10 minutes, leaving five people dead, including the shooter, and five others wounded. First killed were Zawahri’s father, 55-year-old Samir Zawahri, Continue Reading