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OP-Ed Response to DTSM Board Chair Barry Snell and Plea to City Council Regarding Safety Ambassadors and Ambassador Program

I am responding to the OP-ED (dated June 7, 2022, Santa Monica Mirror) by City-appointed DTSM Board Member and now Board Chair, Barry Snell, regarding his support of DTSM using about $550,000 every month of Stakeholder Assessment money to pay for (1) Hospitality Ambassadors to greet and direct visitors from 6 am to 11 pm, (2) Maintenance Ambassadors to walk/follow City Maintenance crews around from 4 am to 11 pm, and (3) unarmed Safety Ambassadors to walk or ride bikes from Ocean Avenue to Lincoln Blvd. 

As crazy as this sounds, Block-by-Block is paying their Ambassadors between $16.40 to $19.10 an hour, then charging DTSM $32 + + an hour. In addition, DTSM has agreed to continue paying Block-by-Block for 3,900 hours….in advance. There is nobody who is making sure these folks are doing their job.

In addition, City Staff is recommending that City Council extend a contract with Allied Universal Security Services for hours between 12 midnight and 6 am, without competitive bidding through the end of the year. In making this recommendation to the City Council, Staff has not reached out to the assessment-paying Stakeholders for any input.

In the Garages and alleyways, incidents of theft, tire slashings, people sleeping in cars, people dealing drugs, have increased, not decreased. Allied Security has done an awful job, ‘ missing in action’, mainly because they do not show up and walk their assigned areas. When they do show up it is for a total of an hour at intermittent times. The assigned guard has stated he is afraid, and oftentimes will stay away from those sleeping in the garages or dealing drugs. They are armed, he is not. If the Guard sees something illegal he must still call 911. But we have insufficient police officers to even respond at night within 45 minutes to 911 calls on the Promenade and in Downtown. Guards and Ambassadors are afraid and intimidated by a new criminal element that has taken over, especially at night. 

The criminal element is fully aware there is no Police presence at night. 

Many Stakeholders and I are unrepresented by our current DTSM Board, and are adamantly opposed to wasting more funds on the Block-by-Block Ambassadors. $5 million a year spent on Ambassadors is better spent on 44 full time additional Santa Monica Police Officers or, about 20 Sheriff’s Deputies and 9 Sergeants at night. 

And these amounts should be coming out of the City Budget, not from DTSM Stakeholders. Santa Monica is one of the highest taxed cities in the state and country, and yet we are all fearing for our safety.

For the immediate future, our proposal is for DTSM to discuss using our Stakeholder funds for an interim contract with the LA County Sheriff’s Department to patrol and secure our streets nightly between 11 pm and 6 am. The Sheriff’s Department has stated this is an immediate and viable option. in the last DTSM Board Meeting, Board Chair Barry Snell said the idea would be met with “widespread opposition, that the idea was a non-starter”. We disagree. 

Barry Snell’s statement, and the follow-up suggestion by City-appointed DTSM Board Member Juan Matute, to raise assessments by 5%, without even having a budget in place, speak volumes about how they love making decisions using other people’s money.

Notwithstanding, before DTSM can enter into a contract with any third party for an amount over $250,000 (which both the Block-by-Block Ambassador Program and Allied Universal Security Systems contracts each amount to), there must be transparency and a competitive bidding process. The plans put forth by DTSM’s Barry Snell and his Board are defective and premature.

I also question the integrity of Richard Mongarro, hired in December as DTSM’s Operations Manager. He is pushing too hard for immediate approval of the contract with his immediate past employer, Block-by-Block.. We have asked if Richard Mongarro will be compensated or paid any consulting fee by Block-by-Block if their Ambassador contract is extended. But Barry Snell and Interim Director John Hunter have refused to answer. Why? We saw what happened during the last 2 years when certain DTSM employees had access to DTSM’s Credit card. DTSM is now being independently investigated by 3 public agencies. Please see link below –

https://www.mercurynews.com/2008/04/24/sergeant-charged-with-embezzling-from-cop-charity/

Many more statements made by DTSM Board Chair Barry Snell are incorrect. The truth is –

1) The Ambassadors are ineffective. Some are allowing the homeless and drug users to enter the Dumpster Rooms and sleep at night. We have photos and video clips to prove this. Some advise homeless of certain storefronts they can stay in front of all night. We have video clips of this as well.

2) The DTSM Board of Directors is NOT composed of an equal number of City-appointed and Property/Business Owner Members.The City Manager or his appointee makes the Board unequally represented.

3) The Ambassador Program, and specifically the Safety Ambassador program, have not been in existence since the Property-Based Assessment was established. The program was supposed to be a 6-month trial experiment. Since its inception, crime and homeless in our garages, alleyways and front and rear storefronts have increased. Even the fronts of residential apartment buildings and libraries in our Downtown are affected.

Without the Stakeholder assessments, there would be no DTSM. The City-appointed Board Members of DTSM need to listen to the Stakeholders. There is a huge disconnect:

DTSM’s agenda is a failed social experiment. 

Visitors, patrons and business owners have stated they WANT to see armed law enforcement – either more Santa Monica Police or in the interim, Deputies of the LA County Sheriff’s Department. Restaurant employees, business owners, even City Maintenance workers and Safety Ambassadors are being physically attacked as they perform their jobs, walk the streets, and arrive and leave their place of work. 

On average 7 residents, visitors and business owners are assaulted per month within our Downtown. There are 3 storefronts smashed each month. There are 6 “walk-in, grab and walk-out” incidents on the 3 blocks of the Promenade every week. Assaults and fentanyl, meth and heroin are killing 4 homeless people a month in our alleyways and parks.

It is clear to all who walk the Promenade and our Downtown that we are failing. City Councilmembers, please DO NOT approve renewing these same contracts. Your own studies acknowledge that 86% of our City residents are not patronizing Downtown or the Promenade.

John Alle

Santa Monica Property and Business Owner
DTSM Assessment-paying Stakeholder
Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association Member
Santa Monica Coalition Member

in Opinion
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