Following the departure of 25 year CEO Kathleen Rawson, Downtown Santa Monica Inc. has selected Andrew Thomas to lead the next chapter of its history. 

While Thomas is new to his role, he is not new to the organization, having served as its Director of Operations from 2001 to 2010 during the heyday of the Promenade’s commercial splendor. 

Following his departure from DTSM, Thomas became the founding Executive Director of the Westwood Village Improvement Association, a nonprofit organization that seeks to make the village clean, safe, and friendly for the community. Thomas has also served as the President of the California Downtown Association and former Chair of the Los Angeles Business Improvement District Consortium.

DTSM is a non-profit organization that works with funding from the City and an assessment paid by Downtown businesses to promote the safety, cleanliness and vitality of the Promenade and Downtown business district.

Thomas rejoins DTSM at a pivotal point in time as the Downtown area faces the challenges of increased homelessness and property crime alongside the declining popularity of brick and mortar retail shopping.

The pandemic had a profound impact on the economics of the Downtown commercial area, which suffered a precipitous drop in revenues, tourism, and retail tenancies. The organization also dealt with high levels of staff turnover and criticism from a limited yet vocal group of Downtown property owners. 

As he steps into this new position, Thomas is charged with spurring economic growth, assisting with the homeless crisis, and grappling with reductions in funding and city services. 

“The Board is excited to welcome back Andrew Thomas, whose wealth of experience in the placemaking industry and deep understanding of the core values of Santa Monica will allow him to make an immediate impact in DTSM,” said Barry Snell, chair of the DTSM Board of Directors. “We trust Thomas will help the Board as it embarks on a thorough reassessment of the organization’s programs so we can continue to best serve our community, the property owners and businesses.”

In consultation with the 13 member Board of Directors, Thomas will also be in charge of restructuring the organization’s staffing. 

Prior to the pandemic, DTSM had fourteen employees. Through staff attrition and the elimination of two positions, this number has shrunk to five full-time employees and one part-time employee. 

Since the beginning of the year the three top leadership positions—CEO, Deputy Chief Executive, and the Director of Marketing & Communication—all departed DTSM for new leadership roles at The Hollywood Partnership. 

In his new position, Thomas will also inherit the Promenade Vitality Plan and be tasked with moving it from ideas to implementation. This plan was published in August 2021 with the assistance of MIG planning firm and seeks to modernize and revitalize the Promenade as a dining, entertainment, and retail destination with a more diverse range of businesses and experiences that appeals to locals and visitors alike. 

“It is an exciting time to be an urban placemaking professional, as our expertise and leadership has never been more needed given the challenges our traditional city partners are facing,” said Andrew Thomas. “Downtown Santa Monica, and particularly the Third Street Promenade, remains an economically vibrant, welcoming, diverse and innovative district with so much to offer. I am confident that with the support of the DTSM Board, the City and our many stakeholders, we can make great things happen and continue to be the envy of other cities across the globe.”

Clara@smdp.com