Editor:

The article entitled: “City Evaluation deems Open Main Street pilot a success,”  https://www.smdp.com/city-evaluation-deems-open-main-street-pilot-a-success/213573 warrants several questions.

First the city staff defined success as “it did not create any unforeseen traffic issues or have a significant negative impact of the character of the neighborhood.” But a closer look reveals that by the city’s own released numbers, traffic increased by 65 percent on 2nd Street, 65 percent on 3rd Street, 32 percent on Neilson Way and 22 percent on 4th Street during the first 1st weekend of the pilot alone. Why was traffic not monitored during the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th weekends of the pilot program? It’s not like those numbers improved.

Second within the closed pilot area, 54% of businesses reported increase in revenues, (24% of businesses outside the pilot area experienced increased revenue). Question: by how much did revenue increase at those businesses? 2% 3% 5%…will that translate into increased tax revenues for the city? What about the 46% of businesses that did not experiences increased revenue within the pilot area? 19% of businesses within the pilot area reported a decrease in revenue. And what about the 76% of business outside the pilot area that did NOT experience revenue increases?  Is it really worth it to close the streets off for a block party, with such negligible upticks in revenue? The long stated goal of this pilot program was to help businesses on Main Street recover from the pandemic, but by the city’s own released numbers, this pilot was a failure. 

Finally, the article states the overall costs of the pilot was $141,070. The articles fails to mention that the City reports that this total did not include staff time and overages. What was the real number of this pilot program? Is this the best use of this money? Will this pilot program have any long term effect of the viability of businesses or quality of life on Main Street?

If the city wants to make Main Street more appealing to residents and a more profitable place to do business the solution is clear: Use available funds to implement a holistic approach to reducing homelessness — addiction, mental health and affordable housing, rather that to fund a block party. It’s not as sexy or glamorous and it’s a complicated problem to solve, but that’s where the funds need to go. If people don’t feel safe taking a stroll on Main Street, they won’t go there. It also doesn’t help to have so many vacant Storefronts on Main Street, as landlords hold out for top dollar rather than devalue the paper value of their assets. How can the city incentivize landlords to lease storefronts for a reduced price rather than to have them remain empty? This is where the real work needs to be done.  

In the end, the best way to revitalize Main Street is to make it a safe zone, with real destinations & amenities, not just a weekend block party.

Thank you for considering these thoughts.

Robert Maschio, Santa Monica