Is it Compassion to Allow Vagrants to Take Over City Property or Something Else?
Himmelrich appears to be doing everything in her power to kill the Downtown business district
July 16, 2021
Santa Monica Mayor Sue Himmelrich thinks the key to saving the dying Third Street Promenade is to allow drug-using vagrants to use the business district's parking garages. Just kidding. What she really thinks will help is tearing down the garages and putting so-called affordable housing in their place.
Himmelrich has shown little interest in the problems with vagrancy, trash, drug use, and human waste in the city's public garages. She has not responded to the problem of missing lights and non-working elevators. She, along with other members of the city council, the leadership of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., and the manager of the city's parking garages, was warned about the presence of unauthorized people using the garages as their home and their anti-social behavior. She was asked to walk through the garages and alleys with property owner John Alle, but she declined to do so.
Why fix up the garages if the city is only going to demolish them anyway? Himmelrich and the rest of the council signed off on a plan to use every square inch of city-owned property to install affordable housing, ostensibly in order to satisfy an impossible edict from the state to put 6,168 units of affordable housing in the city by 2029. The first garage slated to go is Structure 3, with 337 parking spaces.
Himmelrich has made no secret of her desire to expand affordable housing in Santa Monica. Her husband, Michael Soloff, is the Housing Commission Chair. The Housing Commission's mission is "to improve the quality of life of residents and the City by supporting and helping to guide the production and preservation of affordable housing."
We will leave aside the question of whether the production of housing that is economically untethered to market forces is a good idea or if it is one that actually creates less rather than more housing. Our less provocative, more practical question is if an affordable housing project belongs next door to what is intended to be an upscale shopping district with regional appeal? In what way does a housing project of people who cannot afford to pay market-rate rent help the shopping district - and vice versa?
Even more fundamental than that, in what way does eliminating parking help a shopping area?
We find it impossible to conclude that helping the shopping area is the goal.
On Channel 9 News, property owner John Alle estimated that 65% of the Promenade stores are vacant. He attributed the attrition to the poor conditions in which the area has been kept, with the dangerous garages, rats in the topiary, and unchecked vagrants. DTSM, which is charged with promotion of this business district, seems unconcerned with the downturn - or at least unconcerned with addressing any of the safety and maintenance issues.
It is unclear what the goal of DTSM, Sue Himmelrich, and other city staff is regarding the downtown and Promenade. Turn it all into affordable housing? That would certainly eliminate the problem of complaining property and business owners.
However, it would also eliminate the presence of property and business owners, the people who make the money to subsidize the housing.
We are unsure how Mayor Himmelrich plans to solve that puzzle.
Unfortunately, we are under the impression her 'plan' is to use the affordable housing - which would take years to construct - to house the drug-addled vagrants currently camping out in the public garages, none of whom could manage to afford even the "affordable housing" and who would be more likely to burn it down than give up their substance abuse.
John Alle invited Himmelrich to a debate on the future of Parking Structure 3 and the Promenade in general. He has arranged for a professional TV producer to moderate, an Emmy-award-winning producer to film, and a space to film, and has offered to pay all related costs.
It would be shocking if Himmelrich agreed to come, but certainly interesting to hear her rationale.