Councilmember Brock is lucky his letter to John Alle and other community leaders was leaked the same week as the draft Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade. I’m sure he’d like for it to quickly fade from progressives’ memories in the avalanche of news, op-eds, and tweets flooding our newsfeeds about the pending assault on womens’ rights. While I’m as enraged as anyone over the draft Court opinion, I could not allow this local issue to subside unnoticed. I am very disturbed at the direction Brock is pushing for Downtown, which will leave our unhoused neighbors’ discriminated against and possibly put in severe danger at the behest of the City.
In his letter, Brock scapegoats Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM), an organization that was never chartered to solve homelessness in our city, and states his support for “a dissolution of the current board of DTSM” due to their inability “to sufficiently tackle these urgent issues.” Yet, it is the City’s responsibility to tackle homelessness, not DTSM’s, and while the situation is indeed urgent and tragic, it certainly isn’t apocalyptic like our neighbors in Venice face or at Skid Row in Downtown Los Angeles. For that, we are lucky, and I am grateful to our community leaders for policies and programs that have prevented such an extreme situation here.
Disturbingly, however, Brock proposes extreme solutions for Santa Monica’s unhoused. He calls for the privatization of Third Street and for a private, armed security force to patrol the downtown area. “We can remove [Third Street] from the public streets index,” he states. “I fully support the removal of the [DTSM] safety ambassador team as currently constituted and that they be immediately replaced by a high quality, armed, private security force…” As one of the residents he ostensibly is fighting for, I do not want one of our community’s most valuable public assets privatized, nor do I want untrained, unaccountable, and armed private security interacting with our unhoused population, many of whom have mental health issues.
Parallels were immediately drawn by some to the Task Force that is currently providing amplified security at the Santa Monica Pier. As a Pier Commissioner and U.S. Army veteran who understands security operations intimately, I voted to support that Task Force at our Pier Corporation Board meeting and publicly stated my support to Council before their authorization vote. Security at the Pier has a clear mission; it is small-scale and relatively unobtrusive while protecting a historic landmark and community treasure from the very real threat of fire and combustibles. Securing Downtown is a wholly different operation that cannot be solved by posting a handful of guards at entry points, as at the Pier. “Securing” the Promenade 24/7 in a similar fashion would require multiple shifts of dozens of guards and significant fencing. Is THAT what we want at the Promenade? Is THAT the image we want to present to our community members and to the tourists who are the lifeblood of our downtown economic strategy? Is THAT a good use of our resources? Instead, we should be using those resources to provide mental health care, addiction treatment, and build affordable housing to prevent homelessness in the first place!
I cannot help but see similarities to 1972 when the City attempted to privatize our bay by developing an offshore luxury resort island and replacing our iconic Pier, the heart of our tourism industry, with a private causeway. Local activists fought back and the Pier and our bay were preserved. Council members who voted for the project were sent packing in the next election. Privatization of public assets is not what this community has ever stood for, not then and not now!
Finally though, I am weary of politicians who campaign on security and safety issues – without any background in either – spouting dangerous ideas. The themes of scapegoating, privatization, and fear mongering that are present throughout Brock’s missive feel more at home with today’s Republican Party than here in Santa Monica. Brock campaigned on “change” but what he’s promoting is more in line with Trumpist conservatism. THAT is not the Santa Monica I chose to make my home. I strongly urge the community to stand against these proposals.
Dan Hall, Santa Monica