PROMENADE: While some foot traffic is returning, parts of the street have a high vacancy rate. Scott Snowden

The long simmering discontent over the future of the Promenade reached Council last week with a small but significant discussion item targeting the future of the City’s flagship street.

Three members of the council, asked City Manager David White to work in association with Downtown Santa Monica Inc (DTSM) along with stakeholders, to develop strategies to revitalize the 3rd Street Promenade.

DTSM is a private, non-profit organization that works together with the City to manage services and operations in the Downtown area, while promoting economic stability, growth and the community.

The strategy, requested by Mayor Pro Tempore Lana Negrete, Councilmember Christine Parra and Councilmember Oscar de la Torre, should include, but not be limited to, establishing an arts and entertainment district in the 1200 block of the 3rd Street Promenade, expanding outdoor dining opportunities, promoting available space and development opportunities, zoning code amendments to expand allowable uses, and opportunities to partner with DTSM on street performers.

“This is not to suggest that this isn’t already in the works, but rather that we create a process and vocalize what we’ve been hearing both from the community [and] various stakeholders … specifically in the promenade, as we continue to see vacancies,” Negrete said.

“We want to bring everybody together to the table, because we know there are separate meetings and separate groups that have different ideas, so that we can really be innovative and and do what we can as a city to make everything possible to get back our promenade as we move forward in this quest for economic recovery.”

“We need to lean into this partnership to reinvest in the Promenade so we can continue to evolve and be the iconic destination that is beloved by Santa Monica residents and visitors from across the region and globe.”

Parra agreed, adding, “[We should] continue to think outside of the box and be creative on what we can do … let’s reinvigorate the space and let’s get it going, even if that means that we pilot something new and different and exciting just on the 1200 block, I want to see it happen.

“This is our opportunity to do that. And if I can give further direction, I would love to start having updates on a regular basis. Maybe in the City Manager report on where we are … from a regulatory perspective, from a meeting with DTSM and stakeholders, whatever it may be, so that we are informed.”

De la Torre said, “I want to reiterate that we have a partnership with our business community, their success is our success. We can’t succeed without them succeeding, the tax revenue won’t come to us if they don’t succeed.”

“I think it’s really important that we look at everything, from outdoor dining [to] zoning code amendments to expand allowable uses, it’s very important [to] be creative with how we can do that and how we can be strong partners.”

He made reference to the comprehensive presentation made earlier in the evening by Chief Operations Officer Peter James with regards to the Santa Monica Airport park proposal, which included examples of similar projects that are, or have, taken place globally.

“We looked at that from an international scale [and] what’s working in other parts of the world. I think we need to do the same thing here and look at what’s working at a regional level and a national level on an international level and bring those best practices.”

Councilmember Phil Brock reiterated the concern of cleanliness, “We cannot forget the role of safety, cleanliness … The Promenade first and foremost is for our residents. We welcome visitors near and far to the Promenade … and we need to make sure the area is safe and clean, [that] our parking structures, our alleys, the entire area feels safe and fantastic 24 hours a day.”

Finally, Mayor Gleam Davis raised a potential concern regarding the current zoning code. “Currently in our zoning code, we list all the permitted uses and the problem is, when someone comes up with a use that we hadn’t thought of, it’s gone under the permitted use list, so they either have to come to get a variance or we have to revise the zoning ordinance. And so as we go through this, perhaps Downtown could be an incubator for [looking at] how do we think about our zoning? Maybe it’s just something we should invite people to think more broadly about.”

While of paramount importance to the economic development of the Downtown area, the first step in taking action along these proposed lines was to raise it as a “discussion item,” also known as a “16 item” (in essence, a matter that one or more Councilmembers is in support of exploring further) in accordance with the Brown Act, which is precisely what was done in this meeting. Councilmembers voted unanimously to move forward with this, which in essence authorizes the Council to raise the subject in the future as an actual actionable item on the agenda.

The 3rd Street Promenade currently has 98 ground-floor retail spaces and of those, 27 are currently vacant.

“Any vacancy on the Third Street Promenade is a concern, and the levels we are experiencing today are certainly higher than we’ve experienced in the recent past. However, the Promenade has had dips in the past and it has successfully reinvented itself thanks to the private public partnership between our commercial property owners and the City of Santa Monica,” Andrew Thomas, CEO of DTSM told the Daily Press.

“We need to lean into this partnership to reinvest in the Promenade so we can continue to evolve and be the iconic destination that is beloved by Santa Monica residents and visitors from across the region and globe,” Thomas said.

Scott Snowden

Scott Snowden started with the SMDP in 2023 with a long list of journalistic experience. He has written local and international investigative work in Forbes, The Sunday Times, The Financial Times, The...