Close to 30 years after its opening, the Third Street Promenade shopping center is showing some signs of wear along its four block stretch: rusty trash cans, faded curb markings and abandoned newsracks, among others.
Going into the new year, Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM) hopes to address some of these issues as part of its efforts to revitalize the shopping district. At a recent meeting, DTSM Director of Operations Richard Mongarro gave an update on the status of this work. While he reported that almost all of the lamp posts along the Promenade had recently been repainted, he said the majority of other projects are on hold as they await action from the City.
While DTSM, a non-profit organization, was created with the purpose of helping manage and maintain the downtown area, the infrastructure is still owned by the City and, in many cases, DTSM must get approval before proceeding with any work. This includes repairing or replacing the trash cans, painting the curbs or removing dilapidated newsracks.
“The trash cans are a major issue on the Promenade right now…” Mongarro said. “The cans are very old and because we are so close to the ocean — which is a fantastic thing for certain things, but not for metal — as you can see, they corrode very easily over time.”
He added that the locks on many of the cans are broken, allowing trash to be taken out and end up back on the street. According to the City, the model of the trash cans currently lining the promenade is no longer manufactured, so Morrago said replacing just the most damaged ones is not an option if they want to maintain consistency.
Mongarro said DTSM was looking for alternative replacement receptacles, including Big Belly, a solar-powered garbage system that compacts trash as it is deposited and alerts maintenance teams when it needs to be emptied. However, to install 20 of these bins along the Promenade it would cost an estimated $98 thousand, which the City said is not feasible at this time. Instead, the Public Works Department has said they plan to attempt to re-paint and repair one of the current broken cans to get an idea of how much time and money it would take to do all of them.
As for the curbs, for many of which DTSM CEO Andrew Thomas said it is difficult to tell where the red-painted no-park zones begin and end, Mongarro said that the City department previously tasked with curb painting was eliminated during budget reorganization.
“There is currently no department within the City that covers the painting that occurs throughout the entire city, so the projects are currently being contracted out to other vendors by the City,” Mongarro said. “So there are a lot of faded, damaged curb lines and colors throughout the promenade and also in the surrounding downtown area and this definitely does need to be addressed.”
He said DTSM could potentially consider bringing in a contractor themselves to do the work if “deemed necessary.”
The newsracks, on the other hand, are fully out of DTSM control. Many news organizations abandoned their racks in Santa Monica after the City Council raised permit fees in 2013. To remove the racks, Mongarro said DTSM needed to go through a process with the City which involves marking the racks and notifying the owners of pending removal. He said DTSM initiated this process in Dec. 2022 and is waiting to hear back from the City with next steps.
“We will be constantly reaching out continually to the City until we get a response on this because I’ve been here for over a year now and a vast majority of these racks have had nothing in them and have not been used are basically just used for trash receptacles.”
Other items on DTSM’s to-do list when it comes to promenade maintenance are cleaning up tree wells, more frequent landscaping work and potentially re-locating and replacing the current public art.
Along with improving the overall appearance of the area, realtor Barbara Tenzer was present at the meeting and said during public comment that she thinks such work would help attract retail tenants to the promenade, which currently has multiple vacant spaces.