The aggressive ticketing is not the only policy or practice that makes Santa Monica feel anti-resident and sometimes even unsafe.

I parked my car on 5th Street and Broadway at a meter yesterday, went to work in the WeWork office space on the Promenade I’m paying to use, and came back about five minutes after my meter had expired to find a $65 parking ticket. My resident tag is prominently displayed on my car, and the nearly $400 DMV annual renewal is sitting at home on my desk. That ticket made me feel not protected by the SMPD, not respected as a resident, and not cared about.

When I came to Santa Monica a decade ago, it still felt like a beach community for locals. Yes, all of us South of Montana pay a crazy amount of rent for smallish apartments with little privacy. But it felt like we were lucky lottery winners to be living by the ocean, dazzled by the natural beauty, greeting our compatriots in this lifestyle as we walked our dogs to Palisades Park. Now it feels different. It feels like our own police department is against us. It feels like I could get a parking ticket at any moment. It feels like homeless people and our misguided policies around them have made the parks unsafe, the walk to work unsettling, the Promenade a gritty strip of abandoned storefronts smelling of urine. Yes, we have the beautiful new John Reed gym, where I am writing from now, and the exciting Santa Monica Art Museum—attempts to bring back the Promenade. Yet, right this minute, I’m on edge as I write because a raving man is hanging from a free just past the topiary dinosaur and I’m not sure he isn’t carrying a weapon and won’t come in here.

The aggressive ticketing is not the only policy or practice that makes Santa Monica feel anti-resident and sometimes even unsafe.

I was late to my parking meter, not only because I’d gotten wrapped up in work that I have to do to pay my rent—and high-priced food, and gas and parking—but also because I’d been stopped by a homeless person in front of Target and had a long conversation about whether or not I was going to give him money. Did that five-minute conversation cost me $65?

I didn’t bike to work because my electric bike had been stolen from behind my home a couple months ago. I’d bought the electric bike to make it easier to commute around the half-dozen building projects going up around town that add another 10 or 15 minutes to the already-rage-inducing commute from the north side of Santa Monica to Ocean Park—with no accommodations for residents like a change in traffic light timing to increase flow, a widening of the streets or free Circuit rides past Lincoln Blvd. There’s nothing for residents. But everything for tourists and the unhoused.

Actually, there’s not enough for the unhoused either, despite the city now feeling like it’s been completely turned over to the homeless, and sunken under by the regional and national housing crisis. On Wilshire Boulevard last night, I drove a visitor past one empty storefront after another—empty because of rapacious landlords and no policies to make commercial real estate affordable. Instead of a bustling city, we saw homeless people camped out or sprawled out, block after block.

I also bought a beach cruiser on sale from Performance Bicycle before that store went under. I came home from my parking ticket to discover that my second bike had also been stolen. Where were the police? Busy issuing parking tickets, I assume. Before my second bike got stolen, I’d sometimes slowly bike through the mostly empty Promenade in the morning from the Wilshire side to the WeWork near Broadway. This is a violation of the no biking policy, and I always felt on-edge about breaking this rule, worried I’d be stopped by cops who seem to be no longer charged with protecting and working with residents, but rather to rotate between issuing parking tickets and being called to deal with homeless people, almost always ineffectively. Perhaps the department has decided to take out its own frustration on us locals who are hanging onto our own homes with white knuckles?

Here’s what we should do:

—Have some free parking spots, and a grace period on meters, longer for residents. A working resident running from the job of earning to the job of parenting might let a meter expire. Other cities have grace periods on expired meters. We should too. Better yet, just have some free, two-hour parking spaces.

—Use city money, maybe from all those parking tickets, to pay for the Circuit system to run from 9 am – 10 pm, and extend up to 26th street, where residents actually live. If we’re going to make it increasingly impossible to drive and park, make an actual alternative. One exists. Just invest in it and expand it so that residents can get to the grocery store, or home. Why do we have this free, electric vehicle program if it is only useful for tourists? The city should kick in more.

—Make it illegal for anyone to sleep outside in the day. Period. Well, with a five-minute grace period to wake up and get moving. Instead of allowing open day sleeping, open the parks for sleeping at night and have the police monitor them. In fact, take half the parking ticket force and make it the park sleeping force. Make it safe for sleeping. It is asinine to close the parks to people who need to go to sleep at night, when residents are not using them, and open them to sleeping during the day, when residents could use them if they felt safe. If the only time a person can sleep is during the workday, that person has no ability to work. That person is further marginalized by being exhausted during the day. It may sound entitled to want our parks to be safe for our locals; after all, the unhoused need somewhere to sleep. But the unsafe, unsavory, dirty, gritty parks mean that only people with private back yards can play safely and comfortably in the grass. This is not a liberal, inclusive policy. It’s just anti-resident.

—Make anyone arrested for public day sleeping or urinating required to do community service. This community service should include training in bicycle repair and then repairing all the broken bicycle parts lying around the city after the wheels and seats have been stolen. The city should have a monthly free bike giveaway for residents who had their bikes stolen and for others who need transportation and can’t afford to buy a bike.

—Have public showers and public toilets throughout the city, not just at the beach. And have public lockers. Make it illegal to urinate or defecate in public and provide alternatives. Other cities around the world have coin operated toilets and lockers. And hey, tourists could use them too.

Wendy Paris, Santa Monica