For the Third Street Promenade and Downtown Santa Monica to Succeed, DTSM Inc Needs to Be Disbanded Immediately, Say Some Business Owners
Current board members care more about their salaries than restoring a once-regional draw that is now a dilapidated repository for the anti-social homeless
January 30, 2023
January 25, 2023 - Citing a budget that is heavy on salaries and failed programs, incompetent leadership, and the economically and physically depressed state of the Third Street Promenade, property owner and business leader John Alle is calling for the disbanding of Downtown Santa Monica Inc (DTSM).
DTSM is a "private" non-profit organization that is supposed to work with the City government to manage services and operations in downtown Santa Monica. The 13-member board of DTSM is made up of 6 members appointed by the City Council, 6 members elected by the dues-paying property owners in the downtown district, and 1 member who is either the salaried City Manager or his/her designee.
In a letter to DTSM members and the Santa Monica City Council, Alle accused DTSM's executive director and city-appointed board members of being "more interested in discussing and advancing their own projects" than concerned with restoring what had once been a regional tourist and shopping draw but what has become a dilapidated, high-vacancy repository for highly visible and anti-social homeless people. Alle said DTSM's organizational structure disincentivizes progress, its leadership is incompetent and acts illegally, and the budget concentrates on failed programs rather than core issues.
"Board and Sub-committee meetings are held without ample notice to the Stakeholders, and public comment and participation are discouraged," Alle wrote. DTSM's Audit and Budget Subcommittee has not met for months. Furthermore, the Brown Act prohibiting discussions by board members in private is "consistently violated." An additional violation of city guidelines is the service of Barry Snell and Ericka Lesley on the DTSM Board. City rules prohibit individuals from serving on more than one city board or commission. Snell was recently reelected to the Santa Monica College Board of Trustees. Lesley recently won election to the Santa Monica Rent Control Board.
The situation in downtown Santa Monica is too dire to be left to those with "no skin in the game," Alle argued, referring to city-appointed board members whose income is not affected by the area's degradation. "From figures provided by restaurant owners and the City itself, business is down 20% to 25%, general sales tax revenues are down more than 22%, and pedestrian traffic is down 19% from the previous quarter. And these are likely conservative estimates," Alle wrote. The reason, he believes, is "open drug use and deals on the sidewalks during the middle of the day, in addition to the mentally ill who are defecating and masturbating in full public view." Crime is a big issue. Some landlords have been broken into so often they are refusing to remove the plywood covering their broken glass storefronts.
Contributing to the decayed aura is lack of attention to physical infrastructure. "Common areas are rife with tagging, chipping paint, and light bulbs that have been burned out for months and do not match. Even swastikas have been etched into light posts," Alle wrote.
Alle said the current budget for the money collected from the business area district includes $1.5 million for salaries and benefits for do-nothing staff and $5 million for an Ambassador program that is unable to provide real public safety. Ambassadors are not armed police but rather call the police if they see a problem - something anyone with a cell phone can do.
Alle concluded that, "Business and property owners would be better off and flourish, WITHOUT a "non-profit organization" ruining its Downtown." Instead, he supported a "'business improvement district' run by business and property owners." Alle claimed that the Promenade and Downtown areas have been turned around at least twice before "WITHOUT a bureaucratic DTSM, Inc." Only thus, Alle argued, with leaders who are highly incentivized to succeed, can we "bring back the 86%+ or our residents who no longer visit our Promenade and Downtown."