Community, Diversity, Sustainability and other Overused Words

REI's Departure from Santa Monica Due to Crime According to Local Business Group

The loss of this retail anchor is significant when it is already difficult to get retail tenants to move into downtown

December 5, 2023 - REI announced last week that it is closing its location in downtown Santa Monica. The store replaced the previous tenant, Toys 'R Us, in 2006 at the two-story location at Santa Monica Boulevard and 4th Street. The Santa Monica REI location will close on February 29 of next year.

Statements from the company about the reason for the store closure vaguely refer to "the positive impact of the store, our market presence, and external factors" as reasons for the departure. "The overall operating environment has also changed and the cost to do business," said store spokesman Megan Behrbaum.

But according to John Alle of the Santa Monica Coalition, a local business group, the primary driver for the store closure was the high crime and unsafe and unpleasant environment that has been expanding on the Third Street Promenade and throughout downtown Santa Monica. "It was specifically crime that made REI leave," John Alle said in a telephone interview. He said that along with the demolition of Parking Structure 3 that serviced downtown shoppers and workers, the store management could not tolerate the regularly smashed storefront windows in the area, the daily theft, and employees who were both scared to be on premises and to travel to and from work. The bus stop alone that is in front of the store is known as the most dangerous in Santa Monica, with people "physically accosted, threatened, and robbed directly in front," according to Alle.

Alle says that in April, when REI was starting to consider whether or not to renew their lease, he suggested city officials meet with the management of REI and of Burke Williams, Foot Locker and other retail and restaurant owners to discuss the deteriorating conditions in downtown and possible actions to clean up the area. Alle said he asked now-Santa Monica Mayor Gleam Davis, Councilmembers Phil Brock, Oscar de la Torre, and Police Chief Ramon Batista to meet and at least "show they cared." He received no replies to his invitation.

According to Alle, the managers of Foot Locker and REI were eager to talk and "rattled" by the robberies at the Adidas store and the storefront window smashings. According to management, REI employees were "really scared to walk in and to walk out."

Santa Monica officials made light of REI's departure. Santa Monica Communications and Public Information Manager Lauren Howland told the SMDP, "While we hate to see a business close, we're pleased with the level of economic investment and activity we're seeing in downtown Santa Monica and throughout the city."

Alle disputes this characterization of the city's downtown. "Aside from the Santa Monica Place (half empty mall), the [REI] retail space is one of the largest single-standing in all of Santa Monica," he wrote in an email. "This loss will have yet another negative ripple effect on the Promenade, all of Downtown business, and needed City revenues."


Reader Comments(3)

alangold00 writes:

it is a shame that the democratic blue crime wave strikes again

SMResident writes:

A terrible shame, reflecting the consequences of the city's politics . What is the most shameful is the meeting refusal between the city and the business manager from REI. The city should do everything in its power to keep this kind of business. Sometimes I feel SM is just an experimental labs for higher politics to see how far a city can get destroyed by injecting homelessness and criminality, and keeping it in place.

rene writes:

REI just opened in Marina Del Rey. It could be an issue that now is time for a change like when Westwood went down Santa Monica became the popular destination. Also, to keep or get more viable businesses, owners may have to negotiate better due to the situation in Santa Monica. With compromise I feel Santa Monica can become important again. But if owners are going to keep their lease rates like when Santa Monica was say 6-7 years ago then we will end up like Westwood Village which is a practically a ghost town.