Santa Monica is a coastal city in western Los Angeles County, California. Situated on Santa Monica Bay, it is surrounded by the city of Los Angeles, the Pacific Palisades and Brentwood on the north, West Los Angeles and Mar Vista on the east, and Venice on the south. The first inhabitants of this area were the Tongva. Their name meant "people of the earth." Along with the Chumash, their neighbors to the north, the Tongva are among several native peoples along the Pacific Coast who navigated the oceans and inlets with their seaworthy canoes called ti'at. These vessels were constructed using planks that were sewn together, caulked and coated with either pine pitch or tar from the now-famous La Brea Tar Pits. The Tongva were known to travel up and down the coast to trade with other tribes for commodities, and for ceremony and socializing.
Santa Monica grew rapidly after the Spanish turned the area now known as California over to Mexico and subsequently to the United States. Its location on the Pacific Coast and close proximity to Los Angeles made it an ideal commercial transportation hub. Businesses supporting the import markets flourished, bringing many people from the East Coast to seek their fortunes and take advantage of the year-round temperate climate.
During the 1970s a remarkable number of notable fitness and health-related businesses started in the city. The Supergo bicycle shop (now a large chain) opened in 1971, and coincidentally, work on the bicycle path along the beach was undertaken by the city. The Santa Monica Track Club, founded in 1972 by Joe Douglas, has helped the careers of many Olympians, such as Carl Lewis. In 1974 Sensei James Field opened his dojo, which became one of the primary Shotokan karate schools in the U.S., and is now called the Japan Karate Association (JKA) Santa Monica. Joe Gold, who had sold his chain of Gold's Gyms years before, started the World Gym chain in 1977. Nathan Pritikin opened the Pritikin Longevity Center in the Casa Del Mar building in 1978. Ocean Park resident Jane Fonda opened a small aerobics studio on Main Street.
Because of its agreeable weather, Santa Monica became 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. The 1990s saw continued development in Santa Monica. Colorado Place, Water Garden, and other nearby office developments on the east side of town attracted MGM, Sony, Symantec, and other corporations. The Shutters Hotel was the first of several new hotels built between the pier and Pico Boulevard. One of them, the Loews, is on the site of the long forgotten Arcadia Hotel. The Casa Del Mar returned to its former glory as a luxury hotel in 1999 after a reported $60 million renovation by the owners of the Shutters Hotel. Even the comparatively dowdy Miramar Hotel found new prominence with the many visits from President Bill Clinton. In 1994 an old rail station was transformed by the city into Bergamot Station, a collection of art galleries that has become a center of art exhibition and retailing.
A 2006 population report for Santa Monica gave an estimated population of 88,050, while a 2007 estimate from the California State Department of Finance places the population at 91,124. 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. Santa Monica is sometimes referred to with the colloquial abbreviation "SaMo," a precursor to similar terms such as NoHo and WeHo.