By Jorge Casuso
March 23 -- Worried there were only two Downtown
property owners there to testify, the Bayside Board approved
a series of recommendations to the City Council Thursday that
would be funded with potential property assessments.
The key recommendation is to launch an “ambassador
program” to provide concierge services for visitors
and serve as “eyes and ears” on the bustling Third
Street Promenade. Although they would not provide “security,”
the ambassadors would alert police to nuisance crimes.
Other recommendations include funding for a homeless “outreach
team,” hiring full-time attendants for the public parking
structure restrooms and funding for traffic analysis and management
and for a supplemental analysis of infrastructure needs.
The board also will recommend that the council boost the
Bayside District’s $500,000 budget for marketing and
promotions, include a special improvement district and urge
the City to move forward with a $180 million plan to add 1,712
parking spaces over the next ten years.
Rather than being specific, the recommendations address “much
broader issues” that will be fined tuned during a public
process that will begin after the council considers the suggestions
later this month, Rawson said.
“We have a whole other phase,” she said.
The recommendations are the result of a seven-month study
by Denver-based Progressive Urban Management Associates (PUMA)
that allowed Bayside stakeholders to weigh in on the area’s
biggest challenges that could be addressed by a new assessment
Last month, the board recommended that the council change
the Bayside’s management structure to give the private
sector a bigger say and carve out a larger assessment district
that would require all commercial property owners, and not
just retailers, to pay for the enhanced services.
Property owners, who must sign off on a new district, have
long complained that the council controls all 11 seats on
the board and that they have little say on how the money is
So when Bayside officials looked around the boardroom Thursday
night and saw only two property owners who have long been
involved with Downtown issues, they were concerned.
“This seems a hefty list for people not to show up,”
said Board member Johannes Van Tilburg, an architect who owns
property Downtown. “The moment we make a decision, they’re
going to show up to protest.”
But other Bayside officials said the absence of property
owners was not necessarily a bad sign.
“I think they like what the money is being used for,”
said Bill Tucker, a board member who owns property on the
“Generally, I think they concur,” said Rawson.
“I think we’re on the right track… The community
has bought off on how we spend the money.”
After laying the concerns aside and grappling over parliamentary
procedure, the board tackled what is likely the most important
recommendation approved at the meeting– an ambassador
program for the Promenade similar to those in the Pasadena
and Long Beach downtowns.
But the vote was preceded by a lengthy discussion over the
role of the ambassadors.
Board member Patricia Hoffmann, who cast the only dissenting
vote, took issue with a proposed motion that would have recommended
that the ambassadors “provide assistance to the SMPD
through a coordinated effort to address nuisance crimes.”
“If we want people to put a smile on the Promenade,”
she said, “they should be different from those who are
going to keep an eye out for nuisance crimes.”
The word “security” was eventually struck from
the final motion, but the board agreed that the ambassadors
should keep an eye out for nuisance behavior and report it
“I think if something really bad is going on, I don’t
think there’s anything wrong having a guy on the ground”
to report it, said Board member Jennifer Hranilovich.
“They would provide eyes and ears,” said Board
member Rob Rader. “That doesn’t mean it’s
a policing function.”
“It’s a mater of degrees and focus,” said
Board member John Warfel. “I don’t have a problem
with someone picking up a walkie-talkie and calling police.
I think it’s a misnomer calling it a ‘security
Rawson said Police Chief Tim Jackman “likes the ambassador
program” and “thinks it has worked well in Long
Beach,” where he served as deputy chief before taking
over the top spot in Santa Monica in December.
“There is a strong connection between ambassador programs
and the police chief,” said Rawson, who added that she
had spoken with Jackman about the issue on three separate
Another hotly debated recommendation was funding a traffic
analysis and management, with the board considering hiring
an advocate to address transportation issues.
“I want a warm body we’re funding to take care
of this,” Hranilovich said.
Board member Barbara Bryan agreed. “It’d be nice
if we had someone in our corner whose loyalties are here,”
The final motion, however, did not fund a new position.
The board also debated a recommendation to fund an ongoing
analysis of the Downtown’s aging infrastructure. While
the board agreed the analysis was needed, some board members
worried that the City could request additional funding in
the future if complesx issues arise.
In the end, the board unanimously approved a carefully worded
motion to fund “supplemental analyses of existing infrastructure
and future improvements and special projects to advise the
If the council buys into the Bayside’s general recommendations,
it could take three months to draft a plan, another three
months to launch a petition drive to get the go-ahead from
property owners and three more months to get final council