This past year Downtown Santa Monica remained the city's activity center, welcoming millions of people who came to work, shop, dine and be entertained. On the Third Street Promenade alone we recorded over 24 million pedestrian impressions. Our outstanding ambassadors assisted more than 100,000 people, referred 5,629 individuals to social services and collected more than 100,000 pieces of debris.
And that's just our every-day routine, being a presence in our neighborhood, keeping it clean, safe and welcoming for all.
What many people do not see is the hard work we do behind the scenes. Here's a recap of all that Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) accomplished in 2019. It has been a year of tremendous progress, as we've set ourselves on a path to meet the challenges of today and those of tomorrow.
Promenade 3.0: The Experiment
As part of the extensive public process to reinvest in the beloved Third Street Promenade, known as Promenade 3.0 and funded jointly by the City of Santa Monica and DTSM, we placed new seating elements on each block of the Promenade and built a stage at the north end that featured a different activity each day which were free and open to the public. Those events included trivia and comedy nights, free exercise classes and live music.
Visitors to the Promenade were surveyed and provided feedback. Merchants also weighed in on the success of the late summer pilot project, which ran from August through September. The findings were very encouraging, with 89 percent of those providing opinions on the activations saying they were happy with them. More people stayed on the Promenade longer than on previous visits, with the Promenade witnessing an uptick during the lunch rush and in the evening.
That translated into an increase in sales, according to 23 percent of businesses surveyed. Forty-five percent of merchants said the late summer pilot had a positive impact on their business overall.
In a public space, public life survey conducted before The Experiment, more men than women stopped and stayed on the Promenade. After the activations the street saw a shift to an even gender split, with greater age diversity. More seating options invited visitors to stay on the Promenade longer instead of walking through and leaving.
The late summer pilot project proved there is a demand for a richer, more playful, programmed and social Promenade experience. DTSM and the City are using these findings to help inform a final master plan and design concepts for Promenade 3.0. More public meetings will follow in 2020.
DTSM Command Center
In an attempt to streamline operations and provide better service to merchants and those living or visiting downtown, a new command center was opened with the sole purpose of answering and routing calls to the Downtown Santa Monica Ambassador Program.
The command center is staffed 24 hours a day, seven days a week and can be reached by dialing the ambassador hotline - 310.877.7731. The center serves as a base of operations for quality of life ambassadors who are specially trained to help downtown's unsheltered population. In addition to the command center, DTSM doubled the number of quality of life ambassadors to four.
DTSM spends roughly $4.5 million a year on the ambassador program. Currently there are 75 ambassadors on staff. Ambassadors do everything from clean restrooms in public parking structures, take photos for visitors, help residents find certain stores, engage and assist those experiencing homelessness, remove graffiti and monitor nearby parks.
The collaboration provided by the Command Center recently helped locate a missing autistic child. Ambassadors were contact by the child's family members. Provided with a description, dispatchers contacted Santa Monica Place Security and the Santa Monica Police Department. Santa Monica Place security located the child within minutes and kept him safe until his family could collect him. This is just one of several positive outcomes thanks to enhanced communication provided by the Command center.
Expansion to Reed Park
DTSM contracted with the City to provide hospitality ambassador services at Reed Park. Ambassadors roam the park on Lincoln Boulevard near St. Monica's Catholic Church on a daily basis, monitoring restrooms and keeping the park clean and welcoming for all. The pilot program began last August and is expected to be extended for another six months.
While the ambassadors are not a substitute for police, they have made an impact on the perceived lack of safety that has plagued the park for several years and generated complaints from residents living nearby who say anti-social behavior makes the area unsafe for their children to play. Feedback from park users has been overwhelmingly positive.
Ambassadors have a presence at the park from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
DTSM was proud to present the city's first-ever PRIDE celebration in June, teaming up with the City, Santa Monica Place, and the Santa Monica Pier to produce a robust calendar of events for the community to celebrate love in every color. DTSM hung thousands of rainbow-colored lights along the Third Street Promenade for the entire month of June, which connected to decorative lighting elements at Santa Monica Place, City Hall and the Santa Monica Pier.
The highlight was a massive PRIDE festival on the Promenade that featured dozens of booths staffed by local nonprofits, LGBTQ+ advocates and sponsors. The festival featured two stages and live performances, including everything from theatre to dance to music to comedy. Thousands attended the festival and the majority of merchants surveyed said the event was a boon for business. Many merchants along the Promenade participated via decorations, special promotions and giveaways. DTSM produced the festival as well as a video featuring members of the Santa Monica LGBTQ+ community sharing their stories of love, acceptance and empowerment. We look forward to producing PRIDE on the Promenade once again in 2020. Save the date: June 20th.
Business recruitment website
This year, the Economic Development and Data and Research team launched ChooseSantaMonica.com. The informative site tells the story of Downtown, presents key data sets, displays available retail spaces in an interactive map, and guides users through a set of questions to inform them about the steps required to open a business in Downtown Santa Monica. The audience for the site includes prospective businesses, brokers, property owners, and new merchants.
Economic Development provides ongoing merchant support to prospective and existing businesses. This year, several restaurants were assisted in obtaining permits for outdoor seating which makes our streets more vibrant and bolsters business.
Speaking of economic development, in October 2019, DTSM hired a new operations supervisor, Martin Ronzio-Garcia, to help guide new businesses in the downtown through the permitting process. Ronzio-Garcia previously worked as an assistant planner at the City of Alhambra where he reviewed and processed commercial, industrial and residential development applications, prepared staff reports and made presentations at Planning Commission meetings.
In his time working in city government, Ronzio-Garcia gained valuable experience collaborating internally with different departments and assisting members of the general public. His notable experience also includes work as a project manager for a permit expediting firm where in 2015 he secured permits for numerous retail tenants at the Del Amo Fashion Center as part of Simon Property Group's million-dollar remodel.
Ronzio-Garcia obtained his master's degree in architecture with an emphasis in urban policy from Woodbury University and his bachelor's degree in studio arts from Loyola Marymount University. Ronzio-Garcia is a long-time Santa Monica resident who attended Franklin Elementary, Lincoln Middle and Santa Monica High schools.
Ronzio-Garcia's efforts were instrumental in the opening this December of the "Friends" pop-up experience on the Third Street Promenade. The company behind the project, AT&T, wanted to recreate the Central Perk coffee shop from the hit series inside of a vacant retail space on the 1400 block of the Promenade. AT&T requested assistance from DTSM to obtain the necessary approvals from the City of Santa Monica.
For years people have called on the City to do something to clean up and add color to the alleys adjacent to the Third Street Promenade, as they often serve as a visitor's first and last impression of Downtown Santa Monica.
But the challenges have been difficult to overcome. The alleys serve as the main space for businesses to receive deliveries, making it nearly impossible to close them off permanently and make them extensions of the Promenade. The alleys are also home to bin rooms where most restaurants and retail dispose of their trash.
So what's a district to do? DTSM believes one strategy is to add art, which is why we launched Artist Alley, a public art program transforming mundane back-of-building service doors into works of art.
"The ultimate goal of Artist Alley is to enhance the pedestrian experience by reclaiming the alleys and adding a sense of exploration to the downtown fabric," said Nick Efron, DTSM's public space and operations director. "But Artist Alley is much more than just a means to an end. It activates forgotten spaces, expands the cultural network, and brings color to otherwise mundane service alleys."
So far DTSM has installed three artist alley doors, thanks to sponsorships from downtown property owners. Artists were paid $500 to license their works. DTSM continues to field inquiries from property owners for future doors. If you would like to learn more, contact Efron at [email protected]
New restroom & transit center opens
People who love taking public transit can now do their "business" all in one place.
The new GoSaMo Center, which replaces the former Transit Store at the ground level of Parking Structure 5 at 1444 Fourth St., offers Big Blue Bus (BBB) and Metro riders a one-stop shop for purchasing passes, including TAP cards, planning trips using guides and maps, and recovering lost items. The City's Parking Operations office is also located there, allowing people to purchase residential parking permits, beach parking permits, parking validations, and pay parking citations.
"I don't know if we've ever been this excited about a bathroom," said Steven Welliver, deputy chief executive of DTSM. "We identified early on the need for a new, larger restroom in the downtown, close to the Expo Line terminus, knowing that we would be welcoming thousands of people every day who may have previously been driving into Santa Monica."
The GoSaMo Center is open Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Parking validations for downtown employees can be purchased Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. — 3 p.m. at the SP+ counter. SP+ is the City's parking vendor.
The restroom is open from 8 a.m. — midnight.
Mobile delivery pilot program
In April, DTSM launched a pilot program setting aside two parking spaces in front of popular restaurants on Second Street for drivers contracting with food delivery apps like Postmates and DoorDash. Two spaces in Parking Structure 1 on Fourth Street were also made available with the help of the City. The goal of the pilot was to reduce congestion impacts caused by mobile delivery services while increasing restaurants' ability to use the services to further their business.
Bringing free meals indoors
The last public food distribution was moved off the Promenade in May. Cornerstone Church is now partnering with the Salvation Army to host the program at their facility on Fourth Street. The move to the Salvation Army ensures that social services are available to those in need, in addition to a hot meal served in a space that provides dignity and comfort. We are thankful to all of the partners who helped encourage Cornerstone to make this change.