February 27, 2024 Breaking News, Latest News, and Videos

OP-Ed: DTSM Chair Barry Snell on Safety Ambassadors

By Barry Snell Chair, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Board of Directors 

The Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) Board of Directors and staff are fully aware of concerns regarding public safety along our beloved Third Street Promenade and the downtown district as a whole. We share those concerns and are continuing to adjust and develop new strategies to address them. 

As the guardians of our downtown, it is our mission to provide a welcoming, clean, economically vibrant and engaging downtown for all to enjoy, and we take this responsibility seriously. 

We believe that a layered approach to addressing public safety and homelessness is the right one, and that includes maintaining our multifaceted Downtown Ambassador Program, which includes hospitality, maintenance, outreach to the unhoused and public safety. 

Recently, there have been calls to eliminate our dedicated, effective, compassionate and loyal ambassadors. We are here to say that this is not on the table. 

In fact, the DTSM Board of Directors, which is composed of an equal number of City Council-appointed and Property Owner-elected members, is extending our ambassador contract with Block by Block, a nationally recognized leader in the industry with ambassador programs in nearly every major city in the country. They have a tremendous wealth of experience and have provided valuable insights as it pertains to addressing quality of life issues and homeless outreach. We have used those insights to make adjustments to deployment schedules and staffing levels so we can be more effective. 

For those who are unfamiliar with the Downtown Santa Monica Ambassador Program, it has been in existence since the Property-Based Assessment District was established by a vote of the City Council and downtown property owners to supplement services provided by the City. The Ambassador Program has consistently been one of the most popular programs provided by DTSM, according to surveys, online reviews, and in one-on-one conversations with folks in the community.

Hospitality Ambassadors help visitors to the Promenade and elsewhere find shops, restaurants and public transit. They snap photos of tourists in front of our iconic Dinosaur fountains, escort employees to their vehicles late at night, find lost phones, lost keys, and yes, even lost cars and kids.

Our Maintenance Ambassadors are hard at work every day removing graffiti, stickers, picking up trash, cleaning stairwells, and our public restrooms. They pressure wash our sidewalks and doorways, and respond to calls from businesses who need a little extra cleaning along their storefronts. In the month of April alone our Maintenance Ambassadors removed over 60,000 pounds of trash and pressure washed nearly 318,000 square feet of public space.

Ambassadors were critical during the pandemic, sanitizing high-touch surfaces and providing face coverings while many of us were sheltered safely at home. 

Our specially trained Quality of Life Ambassadors work with the City to identify and engage with those who are most in need; collaborate with property owners, businesses, and the police department’s HLP team (dedicated group of SMPD sworn officers focused on homelessness) to devise strategies to reduce anti-social and criminal behavior; and deter camping with No Trespassing/No Sleeping signs in doorways.

Our Safety Ambassadors are specially trained to patrol Third Street Promenade, sidewalks, and alleys addressing quality of life issues, acting as a deterrent to unwanted behavior and activity, and responding to incidents called in by businesses and patrons.

DTSM operates a dispatch center to help triage calls and relay valuable information to our friends at the SMPD. 

All ambassadors observe and report unwanted or criminal activity. But they cannot enforce the law. Only police officers can do that. 

What they can do is provide an extra layer of support. Police Chief Ramon Batista recently sent a letter in support of our Safety Ambassador Program. 

So when we hear people saying we should eliminate this program, we say they are clearly not aware of all the facts. 

We share your frustrations, but the solution is not eliminating ambassadors. Instead, we need to all collaborate on finding other ways to make an impact. We call on the City Council, elected officials at the County and State level to properly fund the creation of affordable housing, dedicated resources to homeless outreach, mental health services, and drug and alcohol treatment, and to reconsider some of the policies that have emboldened people to commit crimes.

DTSM was never intended, nor should it be expected to, solve the many social problems we face today, some of which have been exacerbated by the pandemic. What we are committed to, however, is playing a role in supporting those who have far more authority, and, frankly, more funding to make an impact. 

We applaud the City’s recent efforts to dedicate more police officers to the Promenade, and enhance patrols of the downtown parking structures. We support the City’s dedication to exploring all options to solve homelessness, and the City Council’s allocation of resources to enhance outreach efforts. Santa Monica has always been a leader on this issue, and because we are outfront, we are often targets of criticism. It is easy to criticize. It is much harder to do the real work necessary.  

We’re here to say that we continue to remain allies in the fight. We reaffirm our commitment to ensuring your downtown remains Santa Monica’s living room, a space that you can feel safe in, relax, laugh, love and thrive. 

#WeAreSantaMonica

Sincerely, 
Barry Snell
Chair, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Board of Directors 
Interim Chief Executive Officer

in Opinion
Related Posts

S.M.a.r.t Column: Gelson’s Looms Large

February 22, 2024

February 22, 2024

Our guest column this week is by SMCLC (the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City). SMCLC is a well-established...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Top Toady Town

February 18, 2024

February 18, 2024

Throughout history, from the ancient Romans and Assyrians to Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine, siege warfare has served as an...

S.M.a.r.t Column: The Sunset of Home Ownership

February 11, 2024

February 11, 2024

We are watching the sunset of our historical and cultural American dream of home ownership as we now are crossing...

SMa.r.t. Column: B(U)Y RIGHT

February 4, 2024

February 4, 2024

“By Right” state housing laws that give developers, in certain projects, the ability to ignore codes ‘by right.’ Well, that...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Serf City

January 28, 2024

January 28, 2024

Homelessness is a problem in California, and nowhere is this more evident than in our fair city, where the unhoused...

S.M.a.r.t  Column: Bond Fatigue

January 22, 2024

January 22, 2024

Last week’s SMart article,  described two critical problems faced by our Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD): the declining...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Peace on Earth

December 27, 2023

December 27, 2023

We are all, by now, saturated with jingles, holiday cards, “ho ho ho’s,” countless commercial advertisements, and exhortations to feel...

S.M.a.r.t Column: On the Clock with Mayor Brock

December 17, 2023

December 17, 2023

I became Santa Monica’s Mayor on Tuesday, December 12, 2023, following a simple “switch of the chairs” transition with outgoing...

S.M.a.r.t Column: SANTA MONICA CITY COUNCIL 2024

December 10, 2023

December 10, 2023

Position:Seeking Santa Monica City Council Candidate(s) Introduction:Exciting opportunity for the right candidate(s) to work with like-minded Council members committed to...

S.M.a.r.t Column: ARB (NOT Ready to Build!)

December 3, 2023

December 3, 2023

Santa Monica City’s Architectural Review Board (ARB), established in 1974, acts “…to preserve existing areas of natural beauty, cultural importance...

SMa.r.t. Column: We are thankful for….

November 27, 2023

November 27, 2023

SMa.r.t. would like to wish you all a great Thanksgiving with friends and family and also to thank its readers...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Make the City New Again

November 19, 2023

November 19, 2023

When the COVID crisis struck, it cut the city’s income in half, demolishing many businesses and causing widespread layoffs and...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Four Futures

October 29, 2023

October 29, 2023

As well described by Paul Krugman, all cities have a core competency: things they do well or better regionally or...

SMa.r.t column: Beautiful Quartz Countertops Are Hurting Workers and Should Be Banned

October 9, 2023

October 9, 2023

Quartz countertops are super popular because they’re tough and can handle stains, scratches, and heat. But there’s a big problem:...

S.M.a.r.t Column: Architect’s Son Reflects On Civic Auditorium

October 2, 2023

October 2, 2023

Welton (David) Becket (1902-1969), pictured above, backed by a picture of our Civic Auditorium, was the designer of that famed...