Santa Monica Lookout
New Online System Makes It Easier for Santa Monica to Get Active
By Jason Islas
August 14, 2013 -- Santa Monica's new online registration system for activities and facilities allows visitors to quickly sign up for classes, makes it easier to reserve tennis courts and other public facilities and cuts down on staff time once devoted to managing signups.
The system, which staff says has been very popular since it was launched on August 5, can also in a matter of seconds confirm whether those who are signing up on the site are residents of Santa Monica or not, a task that until recently was done by hand and took several days.
“We wanted to make it easier for the community to access our resources,” said Venay Sehgal, an administrative analyst for the Community Recreation Division.
The system integrates activity registration and allows users to pay for “Activity Passports” which allow them to use City facilities like the Swim Center, The Cove Skatepark and Memorial Park Gym and Fitness Room.
Since Santa Monica often charges more for non-residents to use facilities, the system's ability to verify whether people live in the city without requiring them to provide utility bills or mail speeds up a process that sometimes could take several days.
“We streamlined the process of determining who is a resident and who isn't,” Sehgal said, adding that the process is now “instantaneous” because it's linked with a database of "all residential addresses within the City."
Recreation and Parks Commission Chair Phil Brock said, “There was a lot of inefficiency with everything done by hand.”
Since the City sometimes charges different rates for non-residents to use facilities, he said it made sense to streamline that process, though he did have some reservations.
“I can see the purpose of it, but it does smack of Big Brother,” he said.
In the case of The Cove, Santa Monica's Skatepark at 14th Street and Olympic Boulevard, the differences in fees are negligible.
A Santa Monica resident 18 years and older can buy a day pass for $5, while that same pass would cost someone living outside the city's borders fifty cents more. An annual pass costs a Santa Monican $140, compared to $154 for a nonresident.
However, the new fee schedule at Santa Monica's swim center, which goes into effect at the start of September, will require non-residents to pay twice as much as residents for some services.
For example, a student pass -- good for 20 swims -- will cost a resident $30 and a non-resident $60.
Anyone who wishes to qualify for the low residential prices has to present a valid ID or current utility bill. However, by registering through the online system, users can avoid the paperwork.
“Our old portal required more steps,” Sehgal said, adding that it would also require that staff spend more time on the phone with residents to help them navigate the registration processes.
“The staff has been very happy with the results,” Sehgal said. “They're not spending as much time on customer service calls.”
Brock is also happy with the new system.
“We've been asking for that for quite a while,” he said. “We think technology should keep up with the people.
“Everyone is doing things online,” he said.
In addition , the new system allows users to share different activities with friends and family.
The new design, the ease of access and the overall usability of the new system has led to more people signing up, Sehgal said.
“So far, the transition has been seamless,” she said. “The response has been good.”
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