The only thing The SM Coalition should have added in the empty lower white part of its now-infamous sign is NAMES: the names of the local politicos who bear responsibility for utterly destroying this town.
Back in September 2005 I was walking down the main drag of Auckland, New Zealand, when I spotted a travel agency's breathless window ad for a dream package trip to "glamorous" Los Angeles-Hollywood-Santa Monica (!!!). The ad featured a composite photo of both the Hollywood sign and SM Ferris wheel. I chuckled, feeling smug. This little window sign served to confirm my growing confidence that the 1996 timing of my departure from Marin County/San Francisco, in favor of sunny Santa Monica, was spot-on the right decision.
At the time, the national economy was flying, as was the economy in L.A. and Santa Monica. Locally, the late 90's/early 2000's saw an encouraging stream of real, visible physical improvements, and statistically measurable social improvements. Richard Riordan was mayor until 2001, followed by James Hahn. Bill Bratton was LA chief of police from 2002 to 2009. It seemed a sort of golden age of genuine progress. The dark years of Antonio Villaraigosa's term were just beginning in 2005, and the unimaginably dystopian nightmare of Eric Garcetti was even further down the road. Yes, everything seemed to be hitting on all cylinders---as rapidly as a huge city can turn around, LA was turning around, and Santa Monica was turning around with it, even though it still proudly/pointedly wore its infamous "The People's Republic" crown, earned in the 60's and 70's. There were homeless and characters around, but the issue seemed then to be under control.
Yes, in the late 90's/2000's, SM was flush with cash from its wildly-successful Third Street Promenade, the envy of cities worldwide. A three block retail strip, generating tremendous tax revenue, two blocks from the world-famous beach with its "Queen's Necklace" view, in a palmy Mediterranean climate. Major name national chains set up shop, and they were thriving. There was even a Disney Store, on a prominent corner. There was a cacophony of noise from the buskers, placed every 100 feet, with strict time limits imposed before rotation. The Screening Exchange handed out free movie passes for yet-to-be released films, the producers seeking opinions of actual movie-goers, before making the final cuts. Huge frantic crowds of kids and their parents and kids in full Harry Potter costume descended on Barnes and Noble as each new H.P. book was released sharply at midnight. AAA-bond rated Santa Monica had money for street furniture and even animal-theme bronze water fountains; some of their non-functional residual remains are still to be seen in the downtown core. And does anyone still remember the popular silver-painted, heavy-set black man mime, thronged by tourists from near and far? Ha! How sweet was that!
This is all mere memory, now, amidst the silence, dilapidation, decay of today's downtown and beyond. Move the time machine forward to a recent evening, January 24, 2023; Broadway blocked off with yellow crime tape, there having been a serious shooting; helicopters hovering and news cameras set up; all too-familiar props, of late. Thugs just drove a car into the Louis Vuitton at Santa Monica Place, and, worse, it seems the powers-that-be apparently tried to keep it quiet. This, only three years out from the George Floyd riots that destroyed downtown---and it has never really recovered from this outrage, facilitated by a clueless police chief and only-in-Santa Monica political correctness. Now, the whole region, state, nation (via Fox News) and now, even people in Auckland, have seen the news reports about frustrated downtown property owner-businessman John Alle allowing a concerned citizen group, The Santa Monica Coalition, to erect on his storefront an embarrassing sign screaming out the high crime, "depravity", and "outdoor mental asylum" conditions indisputably infesting today's Santa Monica. The only thing The SM Coalition should have added in the empty lower white part of its now-infamous sign is NAMES. The names of the local politicos---SMRR members, past and present, city attorneys past and present, city managers, city councilmen/women, past and present, who bear responsibility for utterly destroying this town. It's time to name those who have brought Santa Monica to its very knees. These folks of course blame the freefall on the national economy, the "Retail Apocalypse", and Covid, rather than their own insane, radically progressive policies.
Well beyond the confines of the empty shell of the deceased Promenade itself, now largely vacant though deceptively filled with silly temporary pop-up shops, the festering blight spreads city-wide. In parking garages and alleyways, in parks, in front of notorious nexuses of evil---the pair of horrid 7-11's, that all-night donut shop, the "Crime Vons" on Broadway, the downtown McDonalds, the CVS on Lincoln--the vagrants and criminals mug shots/out-of-state warrants set---make themselves ever more at home. Homeless sleep in doorways all over town, passed out. Drugged schizophrenic mentally ill zombies, attracted from across the nation by the mild climate and SM's tolerant attitudes, take a free choo-choo train from Skid Row straight to our city's welcoming arms, and don't even pay the (unenforced) fare. Somehow, SM leaders back in the early teens somehow thought that a free train from downtown to the beach would be a good idea. Never mind that the train's odd route never really made any sense, this now proven by low ridership. Would Laguna Beach citizens agree to a train line down Laguna Canyon from troubled downtown Santa Ana? Were SM residents given the opportunity to vote on the train's arrival, or, more pointedly now, on its future? NO. But that train's existence ALONE has indisputably contributed mightily to SM's decline.
Symbolizing today's Santa Monica, at 2907 SM Blvd., a new "residence" has opportunistically sprung up in the doorway of a defunct iPhone repair business. This kind of obvious blight would not be tolerated for one hour in Newport Beach, but it's ignored here.
Finally, circling back to those precious, coveted, dear, prospective Kiwi visitors considering that visit to experience some of that LA/Santa Monica "glamor" for themselves: consider postponing that trip. Santa Monica is in the ICU on life support, its future very much in doubt. On its present course, it's aiming to be the Camden, New Jersey of the west coast.