The City of Santa Monica’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau Annual Beach Summit has become a way for the City’s many beach stakeholders to give input on how to make visiting Santa Monica’s beaches a more positive experience. This input is being sought by the City’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau as part of their effort to improve the City’s ability to live up to its brand promise.Santa Monica’s brand promise states “Santa Monica…the best way to discover L.A.; an unforgettable beach experience filled with eye-catching people, cutting-edge culture and bold innovations. It is the essence of the California lifestyle.” Having a brand promise is important for the City because they want to be better equipped to compete for both domestic and international tourism dollars. This is vital to the economic health of the City because tourism generates millions of dollars for City coffers every year.City Council member Pam O’Connor helped open the May 12 summit by stating, “It’s the theme of partnerships which really drives the community and drives our visitor and our beach experience. While we may have tough times economically we still have the beauty of the beach and the strength of the community that enriches all.”Summit participants then got the chance to rotate to each of three groups so they could receive an update on the progress that has been made since the summit program began. They also had the opportunity to ask questions and give suggestions for future improvements to Santa Monica beach experience. The groups were safety perceptions, amenities and services, and environmental stewardship.At the safety perceptions groups Santa Monica Deputy Police Chief Phillip Sanchez noted that the current Neighborhood Resource Officer program was developed after the input at the first beach summit in 2006. Another outcome from the summits was the development of early morning beach sweeps to make sure people are not on the beach when they shouldn’t be. The police are also working with the City’s Open Space Management Department and Transportation Management Department to educate the public about not walking on bike paths and not having people bicycle on Ocean Front Walk. He also stressed that the low incidences of problems on the beach are usually seasonal, and are related to the number of people using the beach.The City’s Open Space Manager Callie Hurd discussed the number of beach projects that have been recently completed in the amenities and services group. They were the Annenberg Community Beach House, the Beach Green, Perry’s Café improvements, installation of new accessible walkways, adding additional trash cans, starting a pilot program for beach trash recycling and a trash valet program for the central beach. She also mentioned a number of beach works that are in progress including better beach and bike path signage, updating the beach restrooms, volleyball court pole replacements and having real-time beach parking signage.Lastly, Dean Kubani from the City’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment led the environmental stewardship group. He discussed the City’s multiple approaches to dealing with urban runoff to reduce its toxicity to Santa Monica Bay. Another project currently underway is to replace the Pier storm drain and use bird deterrents to help improve water quality around the Pier. He also mentioned the success of the polystyrene container ban and the exploration of an ordinance to ban single use plastic bags. Many of these plastic bags end up on the beaches or in the bay where they are dangerous to marine animals.
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