Spending the day on the Santa Monica Pier brings together friends and families in our community, across Southern California, the state, and the world. I know, for I have seen it and lived it for over 32 years. The Pier is the soul of our city and one of the most iconic places in the state.

Why is the Santa Monica Pier so special?

The easy answer to that question is to point out the unbelievable views, the ocean breeze blowing in your hair, and the feeling of escape from the hustle & bustle of the city. But what really makes the Pier so unforgettable is its people: the people who work here, who have started businesses here, and who have created a culture here. It is the vendor program we have had for over three decades, the street performers, the family-owned businesses, and Pacific Park.

However, in recent years, the Pier experience deteriorated, to a degree, for not only our visitors, but our employees, licensed vendors, street performers, and businesses. A surge in unpermitted vending overcame the Pier, resulting in blocked fire lanes and pedestrian pathways. Rules and regulations aimed at the safety of all of the Pier’s visitors and workforce were being ignored, and at times there was an atmosphere of near-lawlessness. In addition, both the Pier and beach began to suffer environmental damage due to improper waste disposal.

Fortunately, the City Council took thoughtful actions focused on public safety on our Pier and surrounding beaches by launching a Pier Task Force that consisted of personnel from Santa Monica Fire, Police, Code Enforcement, Public Works, and Los Angeles County Health Department. Over the past eight weeks, it has been tremendously successful, and we commend the decision by the Council to keep the commitment to ensuring public safety on the Pier and surrounding beaches for the ongoing future.

As the Executive Director of the Santa Monica Pier Corporation, I spend much of my time on the Pier interacting with residents, employees, business owners, and visitors and I can attest to the Task Force’s success in making the Pier not only safer but more accessible.

We are very proud of the broad access to opportunity presented at the Pier for the past several decades and the decision to continue the Task Force will cultivate a safe environment for entrepreneurs, street performers, and local vendors to work.

In addition to traditional brick and mortar businesses, the City has creatively and thoughtfully developed programs to include 13 vendor carts and 23 street performance spots, opening up a variety of opportunities for individuals to become active members of our thriving Pier community through both vending and expression of their First Amendment rights, while also ensuring the safe and easy thoroughfare along the Pier’s busiest walkways.

Our vending programs have been part of the Pier’s fabric for so long and thus, the City’s efforts toward developing them is sometimes overlooked. Modifications to quantities, spacing, and logistics have occurred over the years, and the programs can still be modified, with public safety and access to opportunity always foremost in mind.

It is this great history of balance, honoring both public safety and the creation of opportunities, which should light the path forward. The City has already placed the steps in motion with the assembling of the Task Force and now ensuring its continuation in the near future.

Through this collaborative effort, we can focus on safe vending practices alongside increases in access and equity for vendors and promoting entrepreneurship. This decision demonstrates that although safety is the main concern, we have not forgotten our commitment to the entrepreneurial spirit that is alive in our community. As the City continues to explore other opportunities for anyone interested in vending, we will continue to support their efforts to educate and renew safety on the Pier. 

Jim Harris, Santa Monica Pier Corporation