A local business partnered with a local graduate. Courtesy photo.

Finding good news this year has been tough! There are real public health challenges that surround us and basic unmet needs like rent, food insecurity, and jobs that remain. Everyone has been impacted in small and big ways. In this difficult time, we asked members of the business community to share their good news — glimmers of hope or inspiration — to show how some of the bright spots, even amidst the real challenges in front of us.

Anuj Gupta, Deputy City Manager

The unprecedented challenges brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have made this year extremely difficult for our entire community – residents, businesses, and workers. Santa Monica is a resilient city, and we are making every effort to support our local community in a safe and equitable way.

Our focus on accelerating economic recovery over the last year has included supporting vulnerable community members through rent relief and a food pantry, increasing flexibility in using public space, reducing red tape and fees, and implementing a series of innovative programs to make it easier for our businesses to reopen and our community to enjoy life as everyone adjusts to the new public health guidelines. These programs include opportunities for outdoor dining, fitness, retail, and personal services, and a new Art of Recovery program to harness the power of the arts in our City’s economic and community recovery efforts.

The City continues to focus on providing essential support to the community during this challenging time including:

Over $2 million in rental relief for over 648 Santa Monica families

Over 4,000 free food boxes for Santa Monica families

Over 90 families have been helped by finding childcare

Over 90 people have received career support

Over 300 businesses have partnered with the City to create fun, safe outdoor parklets– temporary dining, personal care and fitness areas in accordance with LA County guidelines (which will reopen once “stay at home” health orders are lifted)

We know there is more work to do to deliver on a brighter future for all, and we’re committed to working in partnership with our entire community in 2021 as we continue the hard work ahead. For a comprehensive update on Economic Recovery efforts in progress, visit santamonica.gov/economicrecovery or santamonicashines.com.

Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.

Downtown Santa Monica businesses, like many others, have experienced difficult challenges this year due to the Coronavirus pandemic. It has been encouraging to see our stores and restaurants find ways to reinvent themselves and adapt to the ever-evolving environment.

We are thankful for our partnership with the City of Santa Monica and are proud of the work we have done to implement a number of initiatives for the betterment of the district. These projects include expanded outdoor dining to help businesses continue serving residents and visitors in a clean and safe outdoor environment; an interim zoning ordinance that streamlines business permitting and provides more flexibility around how businesses can use their space and we launched our first Dia de los Muertos celebration with a public art installation on Third Street Promenade in tandem with the Santa Monica Pier.

And finally, we would like to thank all of the Santa Monicans who have supported their downtown throughout this very difficult year. We know life has been tough for everyone and your continued patronage has been a lifeline for our businesses and stakeholders.

These partnerships are emblematic of Santa Monica’s spirit as an innovative, welcoming and supportive community. We are truly stronger together.

Kara Taub, Chairperson Montana Avenue Merchants’ Association

Although we have lost some businesses this year, new businesses continue to open up on Montana Ave. Retail, services and eateries – it’s fast becoming the place for specialist food shops and bakeries. Coming soon: look out for Buena Vida Tea Bar & Garden at 7th St. (formally Fluer Florist), a new bagel shop at Euclid (formally Italian Gelato), a new cafe at 15th (formally Starbucks), acupuncture, jewelry, stationary and more. Montana Ave. continues to be the friendly neighborhood shopping district, eminently walkable, with a low-key vibe.

Sharon Town Lee, Chair, Pico Improvement Org

The challenging year has made it so clear that we are all in this together, and Pico Improvement Organization has never been closer to the needs of our Pico merchants and community. We relaunched the Pico merchant directory at www.picopassport.com, lined the 3.2 miles of the boulevard with more colorful street banners, opened a vibrant storefront called Pico Pop Up to celebrate the tenacity and spirit of our street with merchant photography, graffiti art, mural maps and free gifts to residents, held a Celebrate Pico promotion with valuable giveaways from dozens of merchants that attracted hundreds of email addresses to our promotional database, welcomed Pico families to a Halloween Costume Contest and put up the Pico Wishing Tree with glowing holiday lights and now dozens of the dreams and hopes of Pico residents hanging on it at the Pico Pop Up! We continue to use the ever-growing reach of our social media channels and website to encourage our followers to Buy Local, and to message gift card purchase for the holidays because ‘Everything You Need is On Pico!’ from dining, shopping, car care, services and fitness. Look for exciting new murals and more reasons to visit Pico merchants on historic Pico Boulevard in Santa Monica in 2021.

Laurel Rosen, President/CEO, Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce

2020 threw a lot of challenges our way, but it also showed the true giving nature of our community. The day after our downtown was devastated by violence and looting, the Santa Monica Chamber organized an effort with our partners at Morley Builders, the Santa Monica Police Officers Association, and Santa Monica Firefighters Local 1109 to join thousands of residents in cleaning up our streets and taking down plywood boards from our storefronts. We also established a Santa Monica Business Relief Fund, which enabled the Santa Monica Chamber Foundation to distribute over $100,000 in microgrants to help damaged businesses recover. These efforts showed what a giving, inclusive, and caring community we are a part of. We are truly grateful for the generosity and goodwill of our Santa Monica community.

Negin Singh, Executive Director Santa Monica Pier

Though the Pier’s offerings may be limited and we’ve had to suffer closures, limited hours, and more: one thing remains- our spirit. When we came up with our reopening campaign, #PierTodayPierTomorrow, we wanted to communicate that no matter what the world is going through, the Pier will always be here as a beacon of hope and fun. And through this year, we’ve still found ways to bring the fun in a safe way. This includes:

Launching the first ever digital app, The Secret Stour Tour, a 12-puzzle, site specific and immersive game that takes you throughout the Pier.

Creating art installations with the famed Bob Baker Marionette Theater for the holidays and Ricardo Soltero for Dia de Los Muertos

Creating a unique fitness program that has welcomed over 200 classes since October, with more growing every week. Both fitness instructors and their students have called this program “a lifesaver.”

Our incredible, resilient Pier Tenants have also been doing their best to keep the fun alive: Heal the Bay has been offering engaging weekly programming through their digital channels, Pacific Park keeps that Ferris wheel lit and beaming, restaurants like The Albright offer the cutest to-go boxes of fresh seafood on the westside (and we’re not biased) and so much more. So many of us showed up, and continue to show up everyday to tell our guests that though things may look different, there will always be a #PierTodayPierTomorrow.

Also we got Arnold Schwarzenegger to record the Pier safety message. How cool is that?

Stephanie Eglin, Senior Marketing Manager, Santa Monica Place

Although this was a dynamic year that presented challenges for all, we have much to be proud of here at Santa Monica Place. Our team was able to reimagine our common area spaces to enable socially-distanced outdoor experiences including patio extensions for our restaurants, special family programming for the Cayton Children’s Museum, and the addition of a SoulCycle studio to the upper dining deck.

We also worked directly with The Gourmandise School to create a new retail gift shop on Level 1 offering premium bakeware, gourmet ingredients, unique kitchenware, and more for the holidays, while still offering their popular online classes.

As we move towards the end of this monumental year, we are grateful for the resilience of our team members, tenants and community and wish everyone a happy, safe and healthy holiday from all of us at Santa Monica Place.

Kim Sidoriak, Chief Marketing Officer, Santa Monica Travel & Tourism

The Santa Monica Hotel community is a shining star within the city. Considering their business fell nearly 50 percent year over year due to the pandemic, they came together to stay open throughout the Spring and still continue to provide rooms for emergency workers like police, firefighters, doctors, and nurses, as well as essential travelers. In addition, through our nonprofit foundation Santa MoniCARES, tourism supporting the community, we collected an abundance of socks and over 150 blankets for West Coast Care and local homeless shelters, an especially important task during these very challenging times.