Santa Monica is a coastal city in western Los Angeles County, California. Situated on Santa Monica Bay of the Pacific Ocean, it is completely surrounded by the City of Los Angeles — Pacific Palisades and Brentwood on the north, West Los Angeles and Mar Vista on the east, and Venice on the south.
Santa Monica is named for Saint Monica of Hippo because the area on which the city is now located was first visited by Spaniards on her feast day. In the skateboard and surfing communities, Santa Monica’s Ocean Park neighborhood and adjacent parts of Venice are sometimes called Dogtown.
Because of its agreeable weather, Santa Monica had become a famed resort town by the early 20th century. The city has experienced a boom since the late 1980s through the revitalization of its downtown core with significant job growth and increased tourism.
Attractions and cultural resources
The Santa Monica Looff Hippodrome (carousel) is a National Historic Landmark. It sits on the Santa Monica Pier, which was built in 1909. The La Monica Ballroom on the pier was once the largest ballroom in the US, and the source for many New Year’s Eve national network broadcasts. The Santa Monica Civic Auditorium was an important music venue for several decades and hosted the Academy Awards in the 1960s. McCabe’s Guitar Shop is still a leading acoustic performance space, as well as retail outlet. Bergamot Station is a city-owned art gallery compound that includes the Santa Monica Museum of Art. The city is also home to the Santa Monica Heritage Museum.
Santa Monica is the home of the Third Street Promenade, a major outdoor pedestrian-oriented shopping district that stretches for three blocks between Wilshire Blvd. and Broadway Blvd. Third Street has been closed for those three blocks and converted to a pedestrians-only stretch to allow people to congregate, shop and enjoy street performers.
Santa Monica hosts the annual Santa Monica Film Festival.
The oldest movie theater in the city is the Majestic. Also known as the Mayfair Theatre, the theater which opened in 1912 has been closed since the 1994 Northridge earthquake. The Aero Theater (now operated by the American Cinematheque) and Criterion Theater were built in the 1930s and still show movies. The Santa Monica Promenade alone supports more than a dozen movie screens.
Palisades Park stretches out along the crumbling bluffs overlooking the Pacific and is a favorite walking area to view the ocean. It features a camera obscura. For 48 years local churches and the Police Association assembled a 12-tableau story of Christmas in Palisades Park. The sheds were open on the street side, protected by chain-link fencing. Inside were dioramas of the Holy Family made from store mannequins; critics argued that many of them did not resemble real people, were damaged, or were otherwise inappropriate. In 2001 the city decided to temporarily end the practice of allowing private groups to place displays in city parks, but in 2004 the Christmas displays returned.
Natives and tourists alike have enjoyed the Santa Monica Rugby Club since 1972. The club has been very successful since its conception, most recently winning back-to-back national championships in 2005 and 2006. Santa Monica defeated the Boston Irish Wolfhounds 57-19 in the Division 1 final, convincingly claiming its second consecutive American title on June 4, 2006, in San Diego. They offer Men’s, Women’s and a thriving children’s programs. The club recently joined the Rugby Super League.
Every fall the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce hosts The Taste of Santa Monica on the Santa Monica Pier. Visitors can sample food and drinks from Santa Monica restaurants.
Santa Monica is an international mecca for skateboarding culture.
Santa Monica has two hospitals: Saint John’s Health Center and Santa Monica-UCLA Medical Center. Its cemetery is Woodlawn Memorial.
The Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District provides public education at the elementary and secondary levels. Private schools in the city include the Crossroads School, New Roads School, Concord High School, Pacifica Christian High, St. Anne Catholic School, Lighthouse Christian Academy and Saint Monica Catholic High School. Notable primary schools include the Carlthorp School and Santa Monica Montessori School.
Santa Monica College is a community college founded in 1929. Many SMC graduates transfer to the University of California system. It occupies 35 acres and enrolls 30,000 students annually. The Frederick S. Pardee RAND Graduate School, associated with the RAND Corporation, is the U.S.’s largest producer of public policy Ph.D.s. The Art Institute of California — Los Angeles is also located in Santa Monica near the Santa Monica Airport, though many are misled to believe the institute is in the City of Los Angeles because of its name.
Universities and colleges within a 15-mile radius from Santa Monica include Los Angeles City College, Los Angeles Southwest College, Los Angeles Valley College, Loyola Marymount University, Mount St. Mary’s College, Pepperdine University, California State University, Northridge, California State University, Los Angeles, UCLA, USC, West Los Angeles College and West Valley Occupational Center.
The Santa Monica Freeway (Interstate 10) begins in Santa Monica near the Pacific Ocean and heads east. The Santa Monica Freeway between Santa Monica and downtown Los Angeles has the distinction of being one of the busiest highways in all of North America. After traversing Los Angeles County, I-10 crosses seven more states, terminating at Jacksonville, Florida. In Santa Monica, there is a road sign designating this route as the Christopher Columbus Transcontinental Highway. State Route 2 (Santa Monica Boulevard) begins in Santa Monica, barely grazing State Route 1 at Lincoln Boulevard, and continues northeast across Los Angeles County, through the Angeles National Forest, crossing the San Gabriel Mountains as the Angeles Crest Highway, ending in Wrightwood. Santa Monica is also the western (Pacific) terminus of historic U.S. Route 66. Close to the eastern boundary of Santa Monica, Sepulveda Boulevard reaches from Long Beach at the south, to the northern end of the San Fernando Valley. East of Santa Monica is Interstate 405, the San Diego Freeway, a major north-south route in Los Angeles and Orange counties.
The City of Santa Monica runs its own bus service, the Big Blue Bus, which also serves much of West Los Angeles and UCLA. A Big Blue Bus was featured prominently in the motion picture Speed.
The city owns and operates a general aviation airport, Santa Monica Airport, which has been the site of several important aviation achievements. Commercial flights are available for residents at Los Angeles International Airport, a few miles south of Santa Monica.
Like other cities in Los Angeles County, Santa Monica is dependent upon the Port of Long Beach and the Port of Los Angeles for international ship cargo. In the 1890s, Santa Monica was once in competition with Wilmington, Calif., and San Pedro for recognition as the “Port of Los Angeles”.
Two major hospitals are within the the Santa Monica City limits. UCLA Santa Monica Hospital and St.John’s Hospital. There are five Fire Stations providing Medical and Fire Response- Fire Units 121-125. Santa Monica Fire used to be dispatched from within the city. However, SMFD was recently incorporated into the Operation Command Dispatch(OCD) system for Los Angeles County Fire. Ambulance Transporation is Provided by Gerber Ambulance Services.
Santa Monica enjoys an average of 325 days of sunshine a year. Because of its location, nestled on the vast and open Santa Monica Bay, morning fog and haze are a common phenomenon in May, June and early July (cause by ocean temperature variations and currents). Locals have a particular terminology for this phenomenon: the “May Gray” and the “June Gloom”. Overcast skies are common for June mornings, but usually the strong sun burns the fog off by noon. Nonetheless, it will sometimes stay cloudy and cool all day during June, even as other parts of the Los Angeles area will enjoy sunny skies and warmer temperatures. At times, the sun shines east of 20th St, while the beach area is overcast.
As a general rule, the beach temperature is from 5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit (3 to 5.5 degrees Celsius) cooler than it is inland. A typical spring day (Mid-April) is sunny, pleasant and about 68 °F (20 °C). In the summer, which stretches from May to late October, temperatures can reach the mid-80’s Fahrenheit (about 30 °C) at the beach. The average temperature for August is 71 °F (21 °C). September is the warmest month of the year in Santa Monica, with an average of 73.2 °F (22 °C). It is also in September that high temperature records tend to be broken. In early September 2004, 92 °F to 98 °F (33 °C to 37 °C) were recorded.
In early November, it is about 68 °F (20 °C). In late January, temperatures are around 63 °F (17 °C). It is winter, however, when the hot, dry winds of the Santa Anas are most common.
The rainy season is from late October through late March. Winter storms usually approach from the north-west and pass quickly through the Southland. There is very little rain during the rest of the year.
Santa Monica usually enjoys a cool breeze blowing in from the ocean, keeping the air fresh and clean. Therefore, smog is less a problem for Santa Monica than elsewhere around Los Angeles. However, in the autumn months of September through November, the Santa Ana winds will sometimes blow from the east, bringing smoggy inland air to the beaches.
The city is well known as one of the leading sustainable cities in all of the US. Three of every four of the city’s public works vehicles run on alternative fuel, making it among the largest such fleets in the country. All public buildings use renewable energy. In the last 15 years, the city has cut greenhouse gas emissions by nearly 10 per cent, a feat in car-crazy Southern California. City officials and residents have made the ongoing cleanup of the Santa Monica Bay a priority – an urban runoff facility catches 3.5 million gallons of water each week that would otherwise flow into the bay. Other environmental features include miles of beaches, extensive curbside recycling, farmer’s markets, community gardens, and the city’s bus system.
Businesses with their headquarters in Santa Monica include; video game companies and studios: Activision, Hydrogen Whiskey Studios, Naughty Dog SCE Santa Monica, Insomniac Games, Experian subsidiary LowerMyBills.com, investment firm Dimensional Fund Advisors, search engine company Business.com, and film / television production company and record label The Playtone Company, headed by actor Tom Hanks and producer Gary Goetzman. Major companies with branch offices in Santa Monica include Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Universal, MTV and Edmunds.com. The Design Center California for Volkswagen is located at what once was the Museum Of Flying at the Santa Monica Airport. The DCC moved to its present location from Simi Valley in 2006. Volkswagen’s only styling studio in North America has been responsible for many notable automotive designs, including The New Beetle & The Audi Road Jet concept seen at the Detroit Car Show. The offices for the Comedy Central show South Park are located in Santa Monica.
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