By Daniel Larios
August 22, 2014 -- Downtown Santa Monica is thriving, and with visitors spending at record levels, office occupancy at an all-time high, housing booming, bike lanes being added and a train fast approaching, the City’s central business district is entering a new phase 25 years after the Promenade was launched.
That was the message Downtown and City officials delivered at the annual meeting of Downtown Santa Monica Inc. (DTSM) attended by stakeholders, business owners and civic leaders at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel.
"Downtown Santa Monica is a thriving economic hub, a world renowned destination, and home to a caring community of residents, businesses and employees," said DTSM President and CEO Kathleen Rawson in a video presentation.
City officials then took turns touting the district’s success.
Mayor Pam O'Connor, who represents the bayside city on the Metro Board of Directors, focused on transit during her opening remarks. She noted that the City has added 13.6 miles of new or upgraded bike facilities, new Green Lanes on Main Street and Broadway and installed new bike racks to park 428 bikes.
"If you’re an avid cyclist, you’ve probably noticed it’s much easier to get around Santa Monica by bike these days," O'Connor said. "More than ever, it’s clear that the wheels are in motion to transform Santa Monica into a bike-friendly community, one that makes living, visiting and getting around the city a more enjoyable experience."
O'Connor also announced that the new Expo Rail Station is 75 percent complete.
"The new Expo Line is leading the way in regional efforts to shorten commutes and increase mobility," she said. "It will provide faster, more reliable public transportation and increase the capacity of the transit system in Los Angeles County."
Tourism in Santa Monica is thriving, said City Manager Rod Gould. Visitors spent $1.056 billion last year, up 4.7 percent from the previous year, and $470 million of taxable sales were generated by the Third Street Promenade alone.
"Santa Monica’s Downtown is one of the most healthy, attractive, clean, safe and inviting Downtowns in California. Period," said Gould. "Its economic impact in the community includes the many high quality jobs it provides, plus critical market rate and affordable housing for Santa Monica workers.
“The revenues generated underwrite the safety, quality of life and sustainability services enjoyed by all residents of Santa Monica," Gould said. “Without Downtown, Santa Monica cannot claim to be a world-class city."
According to DTSM’s annual report, office occupancy is at 92.2 percent, more than 40,000 tourists from around the world are flocking to hotels, stores and restaurants each day and the residential community has almost tripled from 1,340 to 3,904 between 2000 and 2014.
"We have slightly more men than women in Downtown, but the women are on average smarter & better looking," joked Gould.
Downtown officials pointed to some of the services provided by the agency, citing survey results from DTSM stakeholders.
"It's been 5 years since the inception of Downtown Santa Monica's Ambassador and enhanced maintenance program and we're stronger than ever," said Rawson, adding that visitors had given the program a 90 percent approval rating.
"These enthusiastic and hard working employees are the face of Downtown and spend each day greeting visitors, scrubbing parking structures, collecting trash and making downtown Santa Monica the pristine place we enjoy."
Last year, hospitality workers helped 608 visitors with car-related issues, including battery jumps and finding lost cars. They've also referred more than 62,000 individuals to Downtown businesses and have informed more than 22,000 visitors about the rules and regulations of the area, Rawson said.
Locals who said they had visited within the last 30 days reported that they came often, 8.4 trips per month, said Rawson.
"When we ask locals what they like best about Downtown Santa Monica, we hear things like: the atmosphere, that it’s close to home, and the wide variety of stores and activities," she said.
"Though Downtown may be just steps from your own front door, every visit offers the potential for an exciting, unexpected experience. What’s not to love about that, right?"
In the end, Rawson reported that 97.7 percent of stakeholders feel optimistic about the future of Downtown.
"Twenty five years ago, the development of Third Street Promenade activated a declining Downtown," Rawson said. "Now, at the top of our game, we look forward to what the next twenty five years has in store."