Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM), the non-profit organization created to help manage the Downtown Area, is seeking to clarify who is responsible for what when it comes to overseeing cleaning, maintenance and security in the public areas of the roughly 30-block region surrounding the Third Street Promenade.
Currently, management of these services is split between DTSM, the City of Santa Monica and several outside contractors. Some DTSM Board members feel this mosaic of responsibility is leading to a lack of accountability and resulting in issues going unadressed. While specific issues include trash cans not being regularly emptied and sidewalks not being properly cleaned the patchwork is also being blamed in part for the rise in problems associated with homelessness, particularly in downtown parking garages.
The DTSM Ad Hoc Services Agreement Committee, formed in November 2022 to evaluate the organization’s current management, maintenance and custodial agreements, met this week to discuss the matter.
“I think we need to have a conversation about expectations,” Board Member Michele Aronson said. “For all we know, the departments within the City could think they’re doing a bang up job – that their expectations are just different from our expectations – so we need to sort of get on the same page with what we all think is going to happen and who is going to be doing it.”
DTSM CEO Andrew Thomas said he doubts whether the current web of agreements in place to clean and maintain downtown will ever allow for services to be provided at the level the Board would like to see.
“I hate to be skeptical, but I have real questions about whether the City can deliver the services that need to be delivered in downtown,” he said.
Thomas said he would like to see DTSM take over sole control of managing services in the district but board members expressed concern it would be too large of an undertaking for DTSM and too much of a challenge to alter the current arrangements.
“We’re entrenched right now, we’re tangled,” Chair Eric Sedman said. “I don’t think it’s practical in the short amount of time we have to start talking about untangling when we have such big issues.”
The committee did agree that something needs to be done to increase accountability and oversight to ensure services are being carried out to a satisfactory standard. They agreed to evaluate the current way quality of work is being measured and schedule meetings with the City to share their concerns and explore options.
Board members also discussed the downtown parking structures which are currently managed by the SP Plus corporation. While DTSM is responsible for cleaning the structures, they have no control over their operation or maintenance. Recent issues, including exit gates not working properly, have prompted discussions as to whether DTSM should take greater control, which members committed to discussing further at future meetings after looking into the situation more.
The next meeting of the Ad Hoc Services Agreement Committee is scheduled for Feb. 15.