In its ongoing effort to regulate shared mobility options — electric scooters and bike shares — the City of Santa Monica is working to launch a “contracted model” for shared mobility.
When Bird Scooters first came to town five years ago, the burgeoning industry was largely unregulated, leading to frustration among both residents and visitors that devices were clogging the boardwalk and downtown sidewalks and being used unsafely.
In response, the City put in place a program that only permits certain companies to operate in town, in accordance with various rules about how many of each type of device can be operational in town at any time and where devices should be placed.
The next step in the program is moving toward a “contracted model,” which city staff say will “reduce the number of operators but maintain enough devices to meet rider demand.”
Currently, four approved companies — Lyft, Spin, Veo and Wheels — supply about 2,200 devices in Santa Monica neighborhoods, all regulated by the Santa Monica Department of Transportation.
But in about a year from now, city staff hope they will be ready to shift to the contracted model, shrinking from four down to one or two providers that will be responsible for providing all devices in the city.
A staff report for the Tuesday, Aug. 23, City Council meeting cites Portland, Oregon, and Denver, Colorado, as two exemplars — “Denver communicated to staff that they have seen improvements in operation and service since switching to a contracting model,” staff wrote, pointing to a 73% increase in daily rides reported by the City of Denver from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022.
Of particular interest to city staff is the potential that the city may be able to set its own rates.
“Under the current Shared Mobility Pilot Program permit structure, the City does not set rider rates or equity efforts and could not do so without a contract or other binding action,” according to the Aug. 23 staff report. “Under a contract model, the City seeks to ensure dependable quality service by negotiating contract terms pertaining to affordability, equity, community engagement, operational service levels, penalties, and contract termination.”
On Tuesday, councilmembers will be asked to weigh in on a proposed ordinance extending the current Shared Mobility Device Pilot Program to September 30, 2023, in order to give staff time to implement a contracting model. Councilmembers will also consider adding the contracting model to the municipal code.
Also on Tuesday, council will discuss what staff describe as a “relatively modest but meaningful modification to the City’s local sidewalk vending ordinance,” allowing legal street vendors to operate in the 100-to-500-foot “buffer zone” at the southern end of Palisades Park. Up to this point, no stationary vendors have been permitted to legally operate in that zone.
In order to improve stationary vending within the current “buffer zone” near the foot of the Santa Monica Pier, city staff estimate “modest physical enhancements” including leveling and paving designated vending spaces in Palisades Park at the estimated cost of $2,000 per space.
City council will be asked to weigh in on a proposed ordinance that would establish restrictions on street performers in streets “buffering” the areas where regulations are currently in place.
According to the staff report preparing for the Tuesday meeting, street performers must acquire permits to appear on the Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Pier and on the Transit Mall (Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway from Ocean Avenue to 5th Street).
Permits allow the city to restrict the number of performers in areas that are heavily traveled, to “protect and enhance the appearance and appeal of the City’s most popular public spaces, support the arts, and maintain public health, safety, and welfare.”
The proposed new regulations add “buffer zones” around the areas where street performers must currently obtain permits to perform; however, some of the staff proposals appear to replicate restrictions already in place.
According to the Santa Monica Municipal Code, the Transit Mall is defined as “The sidewalks on Santa Monica Boulevard and Broadway from the east side of Ocean Avenue to the west side of Fifth Street.” Staff propose to enact permitting requirements on Santa Monica Boulevard, Broadway, Wilshire Boulevard and Arizona Avenue between 2nd Court and 4th Court — but two of those four stretches are already restricted under current regulations.