Hospitality ambassadors may continue to patrol Reed Park for at least the next six months as City Hall tries to mitigate the impact of the homelessness crisis on public spaces.

The Santa Monica City Council will vote Tuesday whether to extend the city’s contract with Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the downtown business improvement district, for ambassador services in Reed Park. The six-month, $207,000 contract would provide 228 service hours each week from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily, with two ambassadors working during the day and four during evenings and weekends.

The ambassadors were first deployed in August after residents complained that some homeless individuals were using drugs, relieving themselves and engaging in sexual acts in several parks, including Reed Park.

The Recreation and Parks Commission originally asked the city to station police officers in Reed Park, but officials said a permanent police presence would be too expensive and make the park feel unwelcoming. DTSM already stations ambassadors in Palisades Park and Tongva Park, so the City Council decided to extend the ambassador program to a third park.

According to the report, the Reed Park ambassadors engage and assist visitors, keep the park and restrooms clean, and alert the Santa Monica Police Department of illegal or dangerous activity. They also work with local social services providers and SMPD’s Homeless Liaison Program to refer homeless individuals to services.

“They constantly monitor for criminal behavior, illegal vending, and other illegal activity and advise Reed Park users if an infraction is taking place,” the report said.

While the ambassadors have made a dent in the trash and drug paraphernalia that accumulates in the park and connected hundreds of people experiencing homelessness to services, the level of potentially criminal activity in the park has remained stable.

According to the report, the ambassadors have collected more than 17,000 pieces of trash and 100 pieces of drug paraphernalia, with the quantity collected of both types of debris spiking in November. (4,129 pieces of trash and 47 pieces of drug paraphernalia were collected that month.) The ambassadors and the city’s homeless outreach teams have given more than 1,100 referrals to services since August.

The Santa Monica Police Department was called to the park 1.6 times per day on average throughout the six-month pilot program. Officers responded to Reed Park 55 times in August, 35 times in September, 54 times in October, 41 times in November and 54 times in December, according to the report.

The report also notes the success of the Meet Me at Reed events series and the fact that 86% of the roughly 200 people who use the restrooms each day reported a positive experience.

Marcy Kaplan, a member of the Recreation and Parks Commission, said the ambassadors have made the park and bathrooms cleaner and made visitors feel safer. She said the commission supports extending the pilot because it has succeeded in bolstering public perception of the park.

“Before, you’d see stuff strewn around on the grass … and people would camp out in the bathrooms,” she said. “The bathrooms are much cleaner now, and I’ve heard from a lot of families that they feel safer using the bathrooms. The ambassadors have done a lot to clean up the park itself, and they have balls and frisbees for families to check out, which has really helped to build community in the park.”

City Council will meet Tuesday, Jan. 14 at 6:30 p.m. in City Hall, 1685 Main St.

madeleine@smdp.com

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  1. Is smoking in public parks legal? Is defecating and urinating in public parks legal? I’m talking about the public Reed Park in Santa Monica, Ca; I m not talking about parks in South America or Africa. Reed Park is not a park existing in any 3rd world country. Why aren’t these bums, ticketed (I’m positive you will find many criminals in that park who have at least 2 arrest warrants, escaped from previous jails, is wanted for assault, breaking and entering and various other violent crimes) What is so wrong with asking for ID for some thug dumping their innards in my park?

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