The inaugural Samohi Architectural Home and Garden Tour will be held on Sunday May 6, 2012, with a behind-the-scenes look at some truly distinctive residences in Santa Monica.

The self-guided tour offers a rare opportunity for visitors to meet with homeowners, architects and landscape designers, and gain some perspective on unique designs for living and working.

The tour is a fundraising event for the award-winning Santa Monica High School Orchestras program. Four homes will be featured.

Breeze Home – With this home, conceived of as more sheltered landscape than traditional house, architect Glen Irani has woven a tapestry of views, light and a lofty canopy of “roof forms.” The one-story design enhances the integration of the landscape, capitalizing on natural light and creating an illusion of dancing rooflines. The gardens were made possible in part by a grant from the City of Santa Monica.

Painted Light Studio – Architect Jennifer Wen has met the challenge of designing a combined living and studio space that adheres to zoning limits. Drawing on the beauty of beachside tree-lined surroundings, planes and surfaces incorporating hyperbolic paraboloid walls are folded into a livable sculpture. Light and shadows paint the building, blurring the boundary of art and architecture. By day, the living space disappears into the sky. At night, the studio vanishes into the night sky, redefining the live-work boundary.

Green Serene – In this home, architect Warren W. Wagner blends a bright, open theme with green standards that include bamboo flooring, solar panels, passive solar hot-water roofline tanks, a heat-absorbing flooring design, high-efficiency appliances and low-flow fixtures. The garden is planted with drought-resistant species that reduce water consumption.

Artist’s Garden – Renowned painter and landscape designer Lace Bencivengo gives us “a perspective of the garden through the eyes of an artist.” The landscaping features a showcase Arbutus marina, succulents in unusual vessels, pomegranate and citrus trees, and an herb garden. Sustainable gardening concepts include an eclectic mix of natives and drought tolerant species, with drip irrigation and no grass or turf.

The tour begins at 11 a.m. and continues to 5 p.m. on Sunday, May 6. Tickets can be pre-ordered for $30 (by 5 p.m. May 5) at Same-day tickets are $40 (children younger than 12 are free). Will call to pick up pre-ordered tickets or buy same-day tickets will be at 705 San Vicente Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90402.
For more information, contact Steve Nemzer at 310-739-3907 or

Santa Monica High School, known as Samohi, has a long tradition of musical excellence. Approximately 800 students out of a total enrollment of 3,200 participate in the school’s music program, which includes six bands, six choral groups and six orchestras.
Several factors contribute to the strength of the music programs at Samohi, including strong elementary and middle school programs, a community supportive of the arts, dedicated parents, a district fine arts coordinator and enthusiastic administrative support.

Samohi’s orchestral offerings include Beginning/String Orchestra, Concert Orchestra, Sinfonia Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra, Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Orchestra. All orchestras meet every day. The Samohi Symphony, named America’s top high school orchestra in 2005 by the American String Teachers Association, was founded in 1903, making the 2011-12 school year its 109th anniversary. Samohi Orchestras have performed in Austria, Spain, the Czech Republic and China. Closer to home, Samohi Orchestras have appeared at Carnegie Hall in New York City and Disney Hall in Los Angeles. This year the Samohi Symphony traveled to Washington D.C. (see related story below).

City Offers Technology Program To Samohi 2012 Graduates

The City of Santa Monica Information Systems, Community and Cultural Services, and Housing and Economic Development departments have collaborated to launch a new program to facilitate career opportunities in technology for Santa Monica young people. The program will also develop the city’s tech workforce for the growing number of tech companies launching in Santa Monica.

The Youth Technology Program places 12 students in a week-long technology rotation to review specialized IT functions within an enterprise operating environment. Students will then spend five weeks going through the launch of a startup in the supportive environment of Coloft, a Santa Monica tech incubator that has taken part in several successful startups.

“This program will connect local youth with their government and provide them with skills they need for jobs in the local tech economy,” said Jory Wolf, Chief Information Officer for the City of Santa Monica. “With the tech sector rapidly developing into one of the most important segments of our local economy, what better way to sustain it than to grow our own local tech workforce?”

The goal of the six-week program is to provide an overview and “real life work experience” in Information Technology to a group of Santa Monica’s new graduates. Program members will be invited back the following summer after their first year of college for an internship with a Santa Monica tech company.

“Innovative education and youth development requires real work experience and skills-building opportunities for teens. The city’s new Youth Technology pilot program is an exciting example of this type of innovative education. Capitalizing on the creative technology community in Santa Monica, this program will engage students with hands-on projects and expose them to career opportunities in IT and private tech startup ventures”, said Julie Rusk, City of Santa Monica Human Services Manager.

The Youth Technology Program offers experience in the following areas: Municipal Government Operations, Enterprise Technology in the Public Sector, Strategies for Start-ups, Venture Capital Firm Decision-Making, Intellectual Property Rights, Business Risks, Team Building and Collaboration Web Development.

Graduating high school students who are residents of Santa Monica may apply online at Applicants must apply online before May 20, 2012 for consideration in the 2012 summer program.


Santa Monica High School’s award-winning Symphony Orchestra had a musically rich spring break tour of Washington, D.C. Highlights included clinics with members of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and Peabody Conservatory faculty, and a performance with ”The President’s Own” U.S. Marine String Quartet.

Orchestra Director Joni Swenson is particularly proud of her 91 students for learning the entire Brahms Symphony No. 1, which she calls “a huge undertaking…but our musicians were up for the challenge.” Swenson praised the Symphony’s concert at the Schlesinger Concert Hall in Alexandria, Virginia, as “exceptional.” Rounding out a challenging program were works by Copland, Holst, Vaughan Williams, and Rimsky-Korsakov.

When they weren’t performing, Symphony members viewed original, handwritten Brahms and Copland scores in the Library of Congress’ music collection, and met with internationally renowned violinist Joshua Bell, who dazzled them with a private performance on his Stradivarius before taking to the stage at Strathmore Music Center with the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. Students also enjoyed a post-concert “meet and greet” with Dudamel Fellow Lionel Bringuier, a charismatic young conductor who led the Baltimore Symphony in an evening of Russian Favorites.

The Samohi Orchestra Parents Association gratefully acknowledges the City of Santa Monica for helping fund the Symphony tour, and the ongoing support of Santa Monica and Malibu communities for maintaining top-notch music programs in local schools.


From “bad” to “very bad” is the conclusion of a study released today on the availability of summer classes at fifteen local community colleges. The survey, prepared by researchers at Santa Monica College, details how state budget cuts have caused local colleges to make cuts to their summer sessions.

In Summer 2009, the drop in workload was 30 percent. In Summer 2010, the drop was 20 percent. In Summer 2011, the drop was 25 percent. This year, for Summer 2012, the drop will be about 25 percent.

Cumulatively, SMC and its neighboring colleges will be offering in Summer 2012 only a third of the courses offered in Summer 2008. That’s a loss of roughly 6,000 teaching assignments and the loss of about 168,000 classroom seats compared to Summer 2008.

Santa Monica College offers the most sections, 745, followed by East Los Angeles College with 349 sections.

Credit programs, offering students the classes needed to make progress on certificates, degrees, and transfers, have been cancelled at six area community colleges (LA City, LA Harbor, LA Mission, LA Southwest, LA Valley, West LA), and all but cancelled (fewer than 50 sections) at two others (LA Pierce, LA Trade Tech). A few nursing classes for credit are being offered at LA City and West LA. The program at Long Beach is reduced by one-half compared to last year and the program at East LA reduced by one-third. The programs at Compton, El Camino, Glendale, Pasadena, and Santa Monica are roughly the same as last year, but reduced significantly from prior years.

In addition, a few noncredit continuing education courses in basic skills and ESL, funded by grants, are being offered at LA City and LA Trade Tech.

The complete report is available online at

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It was a day like any other. The sun was high. The air was sweet and warm. I had spent a couple of hours on the field at the L.A. Coliseum working with a producer on plans for a Cinco de Mayo celebration, and was driving north on Vermont Avenue.

I turned the radio on and just as I sped from the on-ramp onto the 10 and headed west, an announcer came on the air and said that the Simi Valley jury had acquitted the Los Angeles cops who had been charged with the beating of Rodney King.

The air went suddenly sour. We’d seen the tape, for God’s sake. The whole world had seen it. If those police officers weren’t guilty of beating Rodney King, and beating him mercilessly, no one was guilty of anything.

I pounded on the steering wheel, shouted, muttered, swore, pressed hard on the gas pedal, and drove to the beach.

No one was in the Carousel, but three Santa Monica police officers standing at a window in the Pier Restoration Corporation boardroom on the second floor. They were holding large guns and looking across the beach south of the Pier.

I asked them if they were going to shoot people on the beach. They said they were ordered to the Pier. They said no one knew what was going to happen. It was late afternoon, April 29, 1992, and it was a day like no other.

The whirlwind had already seized the intersection of Florence and Normandie, and L.A.P.D. Chief Daryl Gates was on his way to a fundraiser in Brentwood.

When I left the Pier, traffic was bumper-to-bumper in the north-bound lanes of PCH and barely moving. The south-bound lanes were virtually empty.

At home, I went out on my terrace. I was miles from Florence and Normandie, and I could smell smoke.

It is the nature of whirlwinds to subside as suddenly as they rise. The terrible energy that makes them, breaks them. At dawn, on May 2, 1992, there was still smoke in the air and sirens still screamed every few minutes, but the fires were going out. Thousands of people from all over Los Angeles went to South Central to begin to clear the debris away, but there were soldiers on Venice beach.

54 people died. There were 623 fires, 9,000 arrests. $1 billion in damage. Many palm trees were torched. But, according to L.A.’s street tree supervisor, only 40 were destroyed. “Palm trees will survive fires,” he said. “You can burn almost the whole tree and it will grow back.”

The palm trees have grown back and so has L.A., but a couple of years ago, the Los Angeles City Council decreed that the palm trees were too expensive to maintain and should go – except in the
places where tourists expected to see them.

There are no precedents for Los Angeles. As historian Kevin Starr has written, Los Angeles “envisioned itself, then externalized that vision through sheer force of will, springing from a Platonic conception of itself.”

Its most tangible tradition is the lack of tradition. Architectural historian Esther McCoy said Los Angeles was “oriented only to itself.”

Socially and economically, it is as volatile as its geology and its weather. In its first decades, newcomers arrived in waves and each successive wave swamped everything that came before it. The flimsy economy flagged, boomed, then flagged again, preventing the growth of a home grown aristocracy, a dominant industry, a cohesive political organization or any of the usual sources of what L.A. County Supervisor John Anson Ford called “a fixed elite.”

L.A.’s alleged leaders failed the residents before the fires of ’92 and failed in their aftermath to do any of those things that needed to be done. Never mind. The residents got on with it. The future arrived, and it wasn’t wearing a suit.

Twenty years ago, on that first night, April 29, 1992, a young man, backlit by fires, said, “These are the end times.” But, in L.A., the end times are inevitably the beginning.