Last Tuesday, Santa Monica’s City Council asked City staff to investigate allegations made by Third Street Promenade cart vendors against the City’s new vending cart management company, Provenzano Resources Incorporated (PRI).
The vendors alleged that there had been large increases in cart rental and merchandising fees (merchandizing is meant to improve product displays), mandatory changes in vendor products, and that the leases of vendors who had been critical of Provenzano’s practices had not been renewed.
PRI owner Ross Provenzano denied the allegations, stating, “We’re sensitive to the small business person. We’ve followed the letter of the City’s RFP (Request For a Proposal) request. We’re in the process of making custom made carts for the Promenade at very significant expense. What we’re trying to do is upgrade and make this a more vibrant program with unique products, than are now available.”
Provenzano also explained, in response to Council member questions, that the merchandizing fee would range from $1,800 to $6,000 depending on the type of merchandise, and the average fee would be $2,400. He also said that the six-month licensing agreement PRI was offering to the cart vendors was sufficient to “amortize” the merchandizing fee, as well as the cart rental fee increase which would jump from $2,000 to $2,400 – as the average income per month from a vendor cart is $16,000.
PRI has offered new leases to eight of the 16 current Promenade operators and five have accepted. However, the eight other operators will lose their carts, as leases have been offered and accepted by 12 new operators.
That appeared to contradict the “language in the RFP indicating that preference in the new cart program was to be given to the existing independent cart operators and that the new management company should maintain and enhance the existing successful Promenade cart program,” according to Council member Kevin McKeown.
Promenade cart vendor Doron Meidan echoed McKeown by pointing out, “Most of the existing cart vendors didn’t even get an interview” with the new master lease holder, “and for those that did the terms were so terrible that no one can afford to sign up under those terms…the new master vendor is going for a corporate look. They will be able to get higher rents but they will be driving all us little business owners out.” He went on to describe the new merchandizing fees and rents “unreasonable.”
In addition to asking staff to investigate the allegations, Council members also asked that staff find ways to allow current operators/carts to continue for as long as possible until the new program begins and analyze the profit margins the cart vendors would receive under the new program.
In other business, a number of residents told the Council what qualities and skills they thought the next City Manager should have.
The current City Manager, Susan McCarthy, will be retiring shortly and the City has hired the Mills Group to conduct a search for her successor.
Mayor Pam O’Connor stated that the City will be “moving forward with the selection process over the next six weeks” and that “applicants will be analyzed beyond their administrative and executive skills.”
Ocean Park Association representative Ted Winters told the Council the new City Manager should be “responsive and sensitive to community concerns and have a willingness to meet annually with neighborhood organizations and other local stakeholders.” He also requested that the three or four finalists should meet with the neighborhood organizations so they could advise the Council as to which finalist should be hired. He also asked that the new City Manager have “experience managing a small beach community and maintaining its character” and be hired with a fixed term contract.
Sunset Park resident Zina Josephs said it was vital that the new City Manager made sure that “public input is not manipulated.”
Co-chair of Santa Monicans for Renters’ Rights and consultant Denny Zane said the new City Manager should be “comfortable with a range of political philosophies but at the same time share important community priorities.” He also said the new manager should “not see their career success as tied to planning some big development projects or tied to the fiscal health of the community but have a broader range of concerns.”
Community activist Jerry Rubin stressed that the new City Manager should “maintain our environmental integrity, our sustainability while simultaneously keeping our AAA bond rating and making sure we protect our small businesses and residents.”
Those wishing to give additional input on the hiring of the new City Manager can e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy to the Mills Group at email@example.com, send a fax to (310) 458-1621, leave a phone message for the Council at (310) 458-8301 or send a letter to the Santa Monica City Council, P.O. Box 2200, Santa Monica, CA 9044407-2200.
The Mirror is also publishing letters on the subject (email: firstname.lastname@example.org). (See related story, page 4.)
The Council also voted to raise the in lieu fees developers pay to the City when they build apartments and condominiums. Developers pay the fees in order to exempt them from the requirement that they include a portion of affordable units in their projects. For apartments, the fee will jump from $6.14 per square foot to $22.33 and for condominiums, it will go from $11.01 to $26.08.
Council members also gave conceptual approval to the schematic design elements for the pedestrian and streetscape improvements for Second and Fourth Streets. (see related editorial , page 6).Finally, the Council appointed Amanda Nevers to the Commission on the Status of Women.