Aquarium, Heal the Bay celebrate 10 years together

SM PIER — The Santa Monica Pier Aquarium will celebrate its 10-year anniversary with Heal the Bay this weekend.

The three-day celebration which kicks off March 1 will include birthday-themed festivities for all ages, including cake and ice cream, face painting, crafts, and guest readings by Santa Monica Councilmember Terry O’Day and actor/environmental activist Ed Begley, Jr.

Matthew King, communications director for Heal the Bay, is looking for the event to be fun and to showcase the creatures that live in the aquarium.

“The focus was on celebrating the animals that make it all possible,” he said.

Randi Parent, outreach manager for the aquarium, sees the facility as a “community resource for learning more about the marine environment.”

King shares Parent’s sentiment.

“It’s a fantastic way for people to see all the animal life that lives underneath the Santa Monica Bay,” he said.

King also feels that the aquarium’s impact extends further than the ability to learn about local marine life.

“[The aquarium is] a great symbol of our city;  a great symbol of how we care about our environment and our natural resources,” King said. “[It’s a] cultural resource for the city.”

Since Heal the Bay took over ownership of the aquarium from UCLA in March of 2003, they have made strides to make it more available to the Santa Monica community by extending the hours it is open to the public, upgrading and adding new exhibits, Parent said.

“We’re proud of the past 10 years,” King said. “We value being a part of Santa Monica.”

The pier aquarium is located at 1600 Ocean Front Walk and is open Tuesday through Friday from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays and Sundays from 12:30 p.m. to 5 p.m. For more information about the anniversary celebration, visit healthebay.org.

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Basketball: St. Monica girls to battle St. Paul in final

SANTA ANA, Calif. — In sports movies, the best two teams are usually destined to play each other in the championship game at the end.

Saturday night will be no different.

The St. Monica Mariners (No. 2 seed) girls’ basketball team is set to face the St. Paul Swordsmen (No.1 seed) in the CIF-Southern Section Division 4A final.

The Mariners have lost both games they have played against the Swordsmen during the regular season, their only losses in the Camino Real League. St. Paul has lost only once in league play.

Despite the lack of success against St. Paul, Mariners head coach John Skinner is not too worried about his team’s confidence going into the final matchup.

“I like our confidence level,” Skinner said. “We have a lot of respect for St. Paul and know we will have to earn a hard-fought victory on Saturday. But it can be done.”

Skinner said that to come out with a win, his team will have to match the Swordsmen’s consistency and “play a little smarter and under control.”

Senior forward Briana Harris, who won a CIF-SS championship as a freshman member of the Santa Monica High School Vikings, believes the team’s key to a victory is some consistency of their own.

“We just need to play how we’ve played throughout the year,” she said.

The Mariners won’t be making any major adjustments to their game plan in order to turn the tide against the Swordsmen, Skinner said.

“We both know each other so well,” he said. “At the end of the day, it is going to come down to which team executes and makes plays.”

While Harris and senior forward Melissa Maragnes are the leaders of the team, Harris understands that St. Monica will need a team effort to come away with a win and achieve her second CIF-SS championship in four years.

“We’re going to need everybody,” she said. “Different players contribute different things to our program, so we’re going to need them to step up on Saturday and make some plays.”

St. Monica’s last victory came against the Cantwell-Sacred Heart Cardinals, 49-45. St. Paul edged out their last opponent, the St. Bonaventure Seraphs, 41-39.

St. Monica will play St. Paul on Saturday, March 2 at Mater Dei High School, 1202 W. Edinger Ave., Santa Ana, Calif. Tip-off is at 5:30 p.m.

Brief: I-405 Freeway to reduce lanes

The northbound I-405 Freeway will reduce lanes from five to two between the Montana Avenue and Getty Center Drive off-ramps for 55 hours beginning March 1 due to the Sepulveda Pass Improvement Project.

The southbound I-405 will be open and northbound Sepulveda Boulevard will remain fully operational with two lanes throughout the lane reduction period.

The three closed lanes and their respective on-ramps will be closed to “enable the contractor to shift k-rails, grind existing pavement, place and compact new pavement, and stripe new pavement in the freeway’s center lanes,” according to a press release from Metro.

All northbound freeway lanes and ramps will reopen to the public by 5 a.m. on Monday, March 4.

Westbound Wilshire Boulevard to northbound Sepulveda will be used as an alternative route for those who wish to bypass the lane reduction area.

For more information, visit metro.net/405.

Report: More homeless living in cars, on streets

CITY HALL — A recent citywide homeless count revealed that the overall amount of sheltered and unsheltered homeless has increased in Santa Monica by just 1 percent in the past year, but people living on the streets and vehicles have increased by 20 percent and 27 percent, respectively, according to a report released by City Hall.

The total number of sheltered and unsheltered homeless in the city reached 780, up from 769 in 2012. The report also notes that the total number of unsheltered homeless reached 316, while the number of individuals sleeping in vehicles reached 57.

Without seeing the details of the report, John Maceri, executive director of OPCC, one of the primary homeless services providers in Santa Monica, believes that the economy may be one reason for the overall increase.

Senior administrative analyst for City Hall’s Human Services Division, Natasha Guest, agrees with Maceri’s assessment.

“Homelessness is a lagging indicator of a bad economy,” Guest said.

Even though the number of homeless people has increased, Sgt. Richard Lewis of the Santa Monica Police Department said that the agency will go on about their business as usual.

“We won’t be changing anything that we’re doing,” he said.

Lewis stressed that homelessness was not a crime, and that the SMPD would continue to work with the city’s homeless services providers moving forward.

The increase in individuals living in their cars can potentially be attributed to Santa Monica being fairly safer than other areas in Los Angeles County, which leads to people parking and sleeping in their cars at night, Guest said.

“As shelters become maximized, that’s when you see an increase on the street,” she said.

Both Maceri and Guest are hoping to continue working with the SMPD’s Homeless Liaison Program unit in an effort to decrease the number of homeless in Santa Monica. The unit is responsible for solving issues and concerns relating to the city’s homeless population, working with local initiatives such as Step Up and OPCC.

Los Angeles County conducts a homeless count every two years, covering almost 4,000 square miles and making it one of the largest counts of homeless individuals and families in the country.

Santa Monica does its own homeless count annually.

The U.S. Department of Housing & Urban Development requires communities receiving federal homelessness funds to conduct a count every two years. The Santa Monica Homeless Count took place on Jan. 30.

Brief: Local heroes to be honored by SMFD

The Santa Monica Fire Department will officially recognize the actions of four citizens, two of which directly resulted in the saving of a life, at its Annual Promotion and Recognition Ceremony on Feb. 26.

On Oct. 7, 2012, SMFD personnel found citizens Tom Burbank and Jorgen Person performing CPR on a participant of a 10k run while responding to a report that a runner was down. After emergency care was administered in the field, the patient regained a pulse and began breathing on his own. He has since made a full recovery and will be in attendance for the ceremony.

SMFD will also honor citizens Chelsea Cass and Lauren Lee, who were able to initiate CPR on a man in full arrest with the help of dispatchers until paramedics arrived.

In addition, SMFD will recognize four members within its organization that have been promoted to various ranks in 2012, along with awarding the 2012 SMFD Firefighter of the Year.

The ceremony will be held at 1685 Main St. in the City Hall Council chambers today, Tuesday, at 10 a.m. Coffee and cake will be served immediately after the ceremony next door at the Public Safety Facility’s second floor atrium, located at 333 Olympic Dr.

For more information, contact Administrative Captain Jason Wells at (310) 633-1329.

Anti-gay group protests at local high school

Members of the Santa Monica and surrounding communities assembled in front of Santa Monica High School Monday morning in opposition to protests by members of Westboro Baptist Church, known for their anti-gay sentiments.

People in opposition of WBC created a “positive wall of humanity,” according to Ruhi Bhalla, co-president of Samohi’s Gender and Sexuality Alliance, that stretched half a block in front of the high school and down Seventh Street. Over 200 people attended.

Bhalla and fellow GSA club president, Molly Chaikin, researched 10 peaceful ways to protest WBC, and decided on the wall, which is a human chain facing the school to block views of protesters.

“We hope to make this a positive experience,” Chaikin said.

With a week and a half of planning, Chaikin, 17, and Bhalla, 16, made a Facebook group and encouraged people to suggest anti-protest ideas.

“It’s not about us; it’s about our student body,” Chaikin said.

A total of seven members from WBC were present, including a teenage girl.

Among the WBC group was Rachel Hockenbarger, who expressed little worry about their lack of support.

“This isn’t a competition as to how many people believe or how many people don’t believe,” she said. “The children go from the high schools to the killing fields in Iraq and Afghanistan. No group of people needs this word more than this group of people in these days.”

Hockenbarger said Samohi is not the first high school WBC has visited. The Topeka, Kansas-based congregation also protested the Oscars this past weekend.

To reach appropriate age groups, WBC parodies popular songs by adding their own lyrics. One of the songs chosen on Monday was Lady Antebellum’s “Need You Now,” to which the protesters replaced the hook with “you need us now.”

“We have to speak to a generation, and we use their songs to speak to them,” Hockenbarger said.

By 7:48 a.m., WBC had left.

Among the community effort toward WBC were teachers, parents, religious officials, and members from Santa Monica to North Hollywood. GSAs from Brentwood, Palos Verdes, Santa Monica College, and Loyola Marymount were also represented.

“Santa Monica has a pretty rich history of excepting and really fostering diversity,” said Sandra Lyon, superintendent for Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District. “Clearly, that’s not something they support.”

Nathanial Acker, an advanced placement government teacher at Samohi, pulled students out of his 7:10 a.m. class to experience the protest.

“They need to be able to see all aspects of society,” he said. “The good, and the bad and the ugly. The constitutionality issue of when the first amendment begins and ends.”

Posters hung and held around Samohi stated things like “God cares for all people” and “Unity is my value – Samohi unites” in opposition to WBC pickets, one of which read “God hates fags.”

“Our GSA here at Santa Monica High School really saw this as a great rallying cry to support all of our students,” Lyon said. “Our students really took great leadership in this event.”

The high school held events inspired by the protest for the rest of the day.

This story was co-written with Elizabeth Moss

Lawyer joins musical greats at McCabe’s

PICO BLVD — Neville Johnson has been a music attorney in Beverly Hills for the majority of his adult life. He has worked with big names all across the industry, such as Nancy Sinatra, members of the Beach Boys and Fleetwood Mac.

Johnson, however, has an alter ego. It’s Trevor McShane, a folk-rock-country-pop artist who has been working the Los Angeles coffee house and club circuit since the early 1990s.

The two personas will come together on one stage at McCabe’s Guitar Shop on Saturday, Feb. 23, for a show that will feature opening act Johnson as McShane, Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame member Lloyd Price of  “Personality” fame and two-time Billboard chart-topper and lead singer of The Fleetwoods, Gretchen Christopher.

Johnson will be promoting his new album, “Evolution of Cool,” which was released in January. The 12-track CD provides an eclectic collection of songs, including a cover of the hit “Beyond the Sea,” in which he sings some of the lyrics in French.

“Most of my songs are about variations of love,” Johnson said. “I can write about lost love and love gone awry, and I do that from both personal experience and from anything that might inspire me, ranging from something I may read or something I may have seen.”

Johnson reads the wedding announcements in the Style section of the New York Times to get song ideas from the stories of how couples met.

Johnson’s interest in music developed at an early age while listening to pop and rock songs on the radio, starting with Elvis Presley. While attending college at UC Berkeley, he became the music critic at the school newspaper, the Daily Californian.

From there, he started playing guitar around the age of 20, the same year he realized he could make a living as a music lawyer. But he never planned for his music to go anywhere, playing few shows and not promoting his music until recently.

“I never had any intention or desire to ever be a recording or performing musician, nor did I think that I had the ability or talent to do so,” Johnson said. “So it was a complete surprise in my middle age to find myself trying to do that or wanting to do that.”

Price believes that Johnson has more than enough talent.

“I think he’s got a great mind of what he’s doing,” Price said. “And I like his singing; I love his voice. I’m still wondering why he didn’t have a platinum record somewhere in his career.”

Price, along with Christopher, will be sharing the stage with Johnson for the first time. Johnson’s band will be backing them up as well.

“I’m hoping it will be a grand success and that the band and I will just really flow together and that it will be the start of many wonderful times together,” Christopher said.

Christopher will be promoting and signing her 2007 album “Gretchen’s Sweet 16,” while Price will be promoting his new book, which will be published by Johnson’s company, Cool Titles.

Aside from being a lawyer, a musician and dabbling with book publishing, Johnson is also credited with writing the authorized autobiography of UCLA’s legendary basketball coach John Wooden.

Johnson’s album is available now on iTunes and will also be sold during the performance at McCabe’s this Saturday.