The ferris wheel in the pier
MLB came to town last year Credit: SMDP

Santa Monica officials want the city to regain its luster as a venue for organized events but specifics on how to bring more organized visitors to town are sparse while staff prepare a report on the subject.

Mayor Gleam Davis, Mayor Pro Tem Lana Negrete and Councilman Jesse Zwick raised the issue at the July 25 meeting.

“And so the idea is to address some of the impediments to whether it’s bringing the events directly to Santa Monica, or having events that are being held in nearby venues and making sure that folks who are attending those events come to Santa Monica, to stay in our hotels to eat at our restaurants to enjoy our shore,” said Davis on July 25.

Davis said the City has had success with “one-off” events in recent history like the Superbowl and the MLB All-Star game hosting events on the Pier. However, she said the city lacks a standard process for working with large partners, preventing the city from pursuing additional opportunities.

“So the idea is to try and come up with policies and procedures, working with stakeholders to make sure that we can do our best to bring these events or if the events are happening in neighboring communities, we can benefit from the events that are happening in neighboring communities,” she said.

Misti Kerns President/Chief Executive Officer of Santa Monica Travel and Tourism said the city has some low hanging fruit for improving its attractiveness to events. She said the city should consider easing regulations for hanging banners, streamlining paperwork and just reaching out to potential partners as easy first steps.

“I hear from local businesses, business improvement districts, even residents representing local soccer groups or other large scale events, it’s difficult to secure an event in our community,” she said.

Kerns said events, and an analysis of how to attract them, should be part of the city’s larger economic recovery plans.

She said there have been recent successful events tied to major sporting events but to hold those events, organizers had to work through an independent process with DTSM, the Pier and the City. At the same time, the lack of centralized planning makes it difficult for the City to secure all the possible community benefits from event partners.

However, she said the Frieze arts festival is an example of another event that brought benefits to the city.

“That consistently, firmly puts us back on the map especially in the arts world,” she said. “There’s wider economic benefits that will ripple through the community including retail, hotel, restaurant, local cultural venues that tend to see an uptick in visitors and that can even result in additional local jobs when this type of stuff is happening.”

Kerns said the City’s request last week was the very first step in what should be a larger discussion, including some thought into what kind of events are appropriate for Santa Monica.

“Very big events, maybe not with the headaches of traffic and parking but that’s something that’s up to us,” she said. “It’s a collective ‘us’ of residents, businesses and city leadership. If we’re going to take a look at hosting or will allow events to take place here on a more regular basis, they have to play by our rules and that’s very important.”

At the July 25 meeting, Council directed staff to “…explore and propose policy and regulatory changes needed to elevate Santa Monica’s attractiveness as a major event venue. Positioning Santa Monica is a sought after location to attract inclusive, local and international events…”

Councilman Oscar de la Torre requested any potential events also be inclusive in nature. Any changes requiring council authority will return at a future meeting.

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...