Local property owners are continuing calls for increased oversight on the Third Street Promenade to curb the growing number of individuals who camp out in public elevators and garages.
John Alle, who is suing the city over maintenance of the Promenade, was one of the first to begin documenting the number of people who regularly smoke, defecate and erect tents to sleep in the Promenade’s public elevators and garages. He spoke last month to the Daily Press about the topic, which arose during the most recent Santa Monica City Council meeting when city leaders gathered to discuss the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan.
Due to the ongoing lawsuit, councilmembers who could be reached Tuesday declined to comment.
But Councilmember Phil Brock said during a Feb. 3 City Council meeting, “Our reputation has become, unfortunately, one of an unsafe downtown with unsavory alleys, parking garages and boarded up storefronts. We have to change that now; we can’t wait.”
Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association member Laurie Sasson agreed when she called in during public comment to speak about the lack of proper property management on Third Street Promenade.
“Basic property management is being neglected right now;” Sasson said to Council, referring to the instances that have been detailed by Alle over many months.
Sasson added that property owners believe there should be bold innovative visions but also feel there should be more attention given to operations before she specifically took issue with Downtown Santa Monica Inc., an organization responsible for managing events, programs and other activities in the shopping area.
When Alle complained about the Promenade’s problems last month, CEO Kathleen Rawson said DTSM Inc. does not have the ability to lock elevators or refuse bins because they do not own the public property.
“I think where the confusion lies is what Downtown Santa Monica’s ability is to control space… We are not a traditional property manager in that we don’t take care of the trash bins…,” Rawson said to council. “We do eyes and ears; We help with interaction with the homelessness through our quality of life team, but the actual street (and) street parking structures are all owned by the City of Santa Monica; the City of Santa Monica maintains it and manages it.”
Brock asked how the City can better help DTSM Inc., in keeping the Promenade safe, clean and inviting.
Rawson noted the region is in a perfect storm of increased homelessness in Downtown Santa Monica because of the pandemic.
“There is no sugarcoating that at all. There are more people on the street who are more desperate and more disabled than we’ve seen in a very long time. And that’s a fact. We also have a lack of people who are shoppers and diners and office workers and there’s less of us… so there’s less eyes on the street,” Rawson added, stating she is far from a police chief but she believes increased visibility and pedestrians on the street will help address the problems.
City Spokesperson Constance Farrell said security details responsible for covering parking areas, elevators, stairwells, and refuse enclosures have been in place overnight for seven days a week at Parking Structures 1 through 6, 9 and 10, since last week.
“I want people to think about places, locally or even around the world, that they think are really great places… I think most of those spaces are truly public spaces; And I think that’s important to remember about the Promenade — that when you have a truly public space you’re going to have some grit to it. That’s not to say that we shouldn’t emphasize safety or we shouldn’t emphasize cleanliness,” Councilmember Gleam Davis said last week. But when one looks at great public spaces, like Piazza Navona in Rome, it’s clear the problems aren’t limited to Santa Monica.
“It’s got residents, it’s got trees, it’s just a place where people can hang because it’s public. And, yeah, it’s got some grit to it; you see things in Piazza Navona that make you kind of go ‘OOH! — that might make me uncomfortable,’ but it’s nevertheless a great public space. Trafalgar Square in London is another one,” Davis said.
Because last week’s discussion was part of a study session on the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan, no action was taken by Council. However, City Manager Lane Dilg concluded last week’s conversation by inviting the community to join City Council at the upcoming February 23 meeting where a study session will be held on homelessness citywide.