Longtime Downtown Santa Monica CEO Kathleen Rawson has announced her departure from the position to become CEO of The Hollywood Partnership.
Rawson has been with DTSM for 25 years and will depart Santa Monica in January.
“It has been an absolute privilege to serve this incredible community for the last 25 years. I am immensely proud of the work we have done at DTSM and would like to thank all those who I have had the pleasure of working with along the way,” said Rawson in a statement. “It has been my honor to serve alongside the many DTSM staff and board members, businesses, property owners, and citywide partners that have been dedicated to this community during my time here. I look forward to my next adventure in Hollywood but will miss Santa Monica dearly.”
DTSM flourished for most of Rawson’s tenure.
Downtown became the largest property-based assessment district in the state of California with a budget of just over $10 million annually and received accolades for its hospitality, marketing, program and maintenance efforts.
Rawson also oversaw development of cultural events including celebrations of Día de los Muertos, Black History Month, and SaMo PRIDE. She is also credited with establishing the now beloved ICE at Santa Monica. The ice rink attracted an average of 200,000 spectators and 50,000 skaters each season pre-Covid
“It is hard to think about Downtown Santa Monica without Kathleen Rawson who has skillfully served as steward and champion for our community’s living room for a quarter century,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich. “We are grateful for Kathleen’s lasting commitment to Santa Monica through prosperous times and difficult ones, always rising to the moment with new ideas to enliven our public spaces and to support Downtown businesses. My heartfelt thanks to Kathleen and her meaningful partnership. She leaves behind a lasting imprint.”
However, DTSM struggled in recent years with perceptions of crime, homelessness and blight tarnishing its reputation. Pre-pandemic, critics argued the retail mix skewed too heavily toward generic retailers and away from options that attracted locals. During Covid, the area saw a massive reduction in foot traffic and has struggled to attract new businesses.
DTSM does not control the retail stores in Downtown and it can’t mandate landlords rent to any specific tenant. The non-profit organization receives a share of taxes levied on Downtown property owners for programming, maintenance, marketing and advocacy services.
In recent months, DTSM released the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan to address current problems. The plan calls for more entertainment and hospitality options while improving the underutilized alley space.
“There is no overstating the positive impact Kathleen and her work with DTSM have had on the downtown district and city as a whole,” said Santa Monica City Councilmember Gleam Davis. “She has carried out the best vision for this community that we could hope for and we’re confident the foundation she has built will take the organization to even greater heights during its next chapter.”
Rawson worked in Santa Monica for more than 30 years. Prior to joining DTSM, she held roles with the Holiday Inn Hotel at the Pier (now the Wyndham), The Huntley Hotel and the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau. She currently serves as the Board Chair for the International Downtown Association and previously served as chair of the Santa Monica Malibu Education Foundation and the Venice Land Use and Planning Committee for the Venice Neighborhood Council.
“Kathleen has been an invaluable presence at DTSM, providing sound leadership and insight over the past 25 years,” said Board Chair Barry Snell. “We, as a Board, are extremely grateful for the dedication and hard work she has devoted to the prosperity of the district and only hope to continue to grow upon what she has accomplished.”
The DTSM Board of Directors will engage in an executive search for a new CEO in early 2022.