Thanks for advice. We want to stay near the beach and Santa Monica looks fun and could go out without driving all the time. Shutters looks a bit OTT (and v expensive) but there's one next door called Cassa Del Mar which we could get a better rate for. What about the Oceana? That looks quite funky....Any other suggestions?
www.tripadvisor.com has up to date reviews and photos. I would go by the photos of the hotels (oceanas pool and building does not generally look child friendly) more than anything else as comments can be subjective (unless people overall are complaining about the same problems).