It isn’t news that COVID-19 tanked Santa Monica’s economy. The economic shutdown and lack of tourism dollars kicked off two years of uncertainty, with the city tightening its belt in all sorts of ways. However, City Hall recently found some extra cash to spend on maintenance projects.
In October of last year, Council determined a one-time $1 million capital improvement saving meant city staff could spend an extra seven figures on one priority in particular: clean and safe Santa Monica.
“Savings in the capital improvement program budget can be attributed to projects coming in under budget, having a reduced scope, or alternative grant resources that substituted General Funds during the budget cycle,” Santa Monica Public Information Officer Constance Farrell described in an email.
According to an information item presented in December, “Staff will request that Council appropriate the additional funding to the FY 2021-22 Budget along with Midyear budget adjustments on February 8, 2022.”
The largest share of the funding — $439,300 — was allocated toward enhanced maintenance through the Department of Transportation’s Parking Operations Division. In other words, the city will spend it increasing the frequency of parking structure maintenance.
That maintenance “will include weekly powerwashing (now monthly), daily light and mirror replacements (now weekly), daily elevator inspections (now on-call within 24 hours), hourly trash pickup (new service), and after-hours hazardous materials cleaning (new service),” and will be conducted at parking structures 1-6, 9 and 10, as well as the Civic Parking Structure and the Main Library Parking Structure. Cleaning will be conducted by third-party contractors.
There will also be a new mobile vacuum truck to clean alleyways around the Third Street Promenade, which will allow the alleys to be cleaned five days a week. That truck replacement was expected to occur between February and May of this year.
The second-largest share of the $1 million was to be set aside for private security at the Pier, which will use $275,000 of the funding.
“The addition of security officers has helped in the enforcement effort to reduce the volume of unpermitted vending or other unlawful activity on the Pier, thus reducing the associated fire and environmental risks,” according to Decavalles-Hughes.
Next up was $155,200 for “enhanced park activation and safety elements,” including repairing six code blue phones along Ocean Front Walk and 14 damaged bollard lights at Tongva Park. Each of those repairs was expected to be delayed due to supply chain issues, according to the information item, with blue phone repairs expected by summer 2022 and light repairs expected by March 2022.
Other park improvements include activating the fountains at Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square.
“These fountains provide additional lighting, enjoyment of parks, and their reactivation would discourage camping or other unpermitted activities within the features,” Decavalles-Hughes wrote.
Money would also go toward continued progress on the Park Safety Enhancement Project, which already set aside $427,900 to install new cameras, code blue phones and/or lights at Reed, Palisades and Tongva Parks, plus additional lighting at Tongva Park and along Ocean Avenue.
The City also set aside $80,000 in funds toward hiring a third clinician to assess the mental health of homeless individuals on the streets and/or in jail.
Finally, staff allocated $50,500 to increase the police department’s use of remotely controlled unstaffed aerial systems (UAS) during the holiday season from Nov. 26-Jan. 1. The UAS was designed to “provide immediate response to 911 calls and … assist the Department in dispatching the most appropriate response to calls, while another UAS [was] used as needed to respond to and monitor high need areas.”