I spend a great deal of time each week Downtown. I have set lunches on Monday and Fridays that put me on the Third Street Promenade. Friday dinner means that you can usually find me at T’s Thai on Fourth, sitting at a table with my travel buddy and his wife, who rarely travels with us to exotic locales like Parker, Ariz., where the double-wide trailers haven’t been painted since Nixon was in office.
Frequently the restaurant has on the show “How It’s Made,” which is one of our favorites. He’s a machinist by trade and I’m a lover of factories. So while we chow down on the short ribs (which are awesome there, by the way) we chat about the various ways in which things like lawnmowers are manufactured. It’s odd, I know. Usually any two men sitting over dinner would be discussing sports, but I don’t think we could name the last two World Series champs.
We do, however, have some very strong opinions on the way the city is run. Generally, we’re both very positive and passionate about this city. He has in his living room a 2-by-3 foot sign that says, “never leave the beach” — which pretty much sums up his attitude. I too am a big booster of the city. As much as I hate to pay local taxes and fees, I recognize that they serve a purpose.
Taxes and fees are supposed to be used to maintain common services and assets; common services like the police and fire department, and assets like the parking structures. Our parking structures are crucial to a vibrant Downtown. The parking experience will have a direct and dramatic effect on people’s desire to stay or return to the city.
It wasn’t that many years ago that stepping into the elevator, or worse, the stairwell, was like stepping into a toilet. The stench was overwhelming and, personally, I wanted to have a decontamination shower afterward. Thankfully that situation has for the most part been corrected.
However, there is another problem that is occurring with the parking structures, and that is the erratic workings of the elevators. It seems like there is always at least one elevator out in each of the structures. I realize that my complaining about the status of a parking structure seems a bit ungrateful, however, let’s remember that the structures are publicly-owned and that we all pay for them.
I wanted to track down who was responsible for the condition of the elevators, so I started with Kathleen Rawson from Downtown Santa Monica Inc., the property-based assessment district CEO to discuss the situation. Downtown Santa Monica, which used to be called the Bayside District, has on their website the following as part of their purpose:
“In an effort to create a clean environment in Downtown Santa Monica the Enhanced Maintenance Program will maintain all parking structures, alleyways and sidewalks.”
Kathleen and I had a great conversation about the status of the elevators and she filled me in on the overall conditions. It seems that the inner workings of the elevators are as old as the structures themselves. This means that they have had decades worth of muck and sea air to contend with and some are showing the signs of age.
Downtown Santa Monica is supposed to keep the Third Street and surrounding areas in good condition, and they’ve been doing a great job, but they are not responsible for capital improvements like renewing the elevators; that needs to come from City Hall’s budget. I recognize that there are many places for the City Council to spend money and the competing choruses for cash are always unhappy with how little they each receive, but when it comes to something as visible as the elevators, I think we need to put them at the top of the list.
I think this is not just because it is a convenience factor, or that it is one of the first and last experiences someone has of the city. I have actual concerns about safety. These elevators have been exposed to years of abuse and sea air, and yes they are inspected on a regular basis, but inspections obviously don’t catch everything that is wrong, otherwise the elevators wouldn’t break down.
There are multiple redundant safety measures in every elevator. I learned that one day watching “How It’s Made,” but that is no guarantee against an accident and I’d like to avoid that.
The City Council needs to address this issue, and do so quickly. Elevators are the first and last memorable experience people have in our city so I would like to see the entire experience of being Downtown, be an uplifting one.
Sorry, just couldn’t resist that joke.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.