Santa Monica is a coastal city in western Los Angeles County, California, USA. It borders Santa Monica Bay (part of the Pacific Ocean) on the west, Pacific Palisades and Brentwood on the north, West Los Angeles and Mar Vista on the east, and Venice on the south. As of the late 2004 census, the city had a population of 96,500, although, an early 2006 estimate has the city at 103,255 people. Santa Monica is named for Saint Monica of Hippo because it 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, significant job growth, and increased tourism.
Santa Monica is known for its progressive politics, including policies that address the needs of renters, consumers, and the homeless. Residents of the city are among the largest contributors in the nation to Democratic Party candidates. The city was well known for its strict rent control ordinance, which had been enacted in 1978 and was partially overriden by state law in 1999. Santa Monica is sometimes called the "Homeless Capital of the West" due to the presence of the third largest homeless population in Los Angeles County (after Downtown Los Angeles and Hollywood), a large number of whom are teenaged runaways; satirist Harry Shearer calls it "The home of the homeless."
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. 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.
Its two hospitals are Saint Johns and the Santa Monica Medical Center. Its cemetery is Woodlawn Memorial.
The oldest theater in the city is the 1912 Majestic, also known as the Mayfair Theatre, 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 two dozen movie screens.
Palisades Park stretches out on 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 twelve-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.
Santa Monica is known for having a large population of British and Irish expatriates, which accounts for the numerous pubs in the city. Some bars are as likely to show English Premiership games as they are American football games.
Natives and tourists alike have enjoyed the Santa Monica Rugby Club since 1972. The club has been very successful since its conception winning its most recent Division 1 National Championship in 2005.