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Santa Monica Poised to Spend Nearly Half a Million on Expo Party
Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark
Roque & Mark Real Estate
2802 Santa Monica Boulevard
Santa Monica, CA 90404
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Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Jorge Casuso and Niki Cervantes

March 21, 2016 -- The City of Santa Monica raised eyebrows after approving a $500,000 contract earlier this month to an outside media firm to handle marketing for the already highly publicized arrival of the Expo Light rail line on May 20.

Tuesday the City Council will be asked to approve another $407,000 for a one-day street party to celebrate the arrival of the Expo Light Rail Line in Santa Monica.

The amount, which will be voted on as part of the consent calendar, does not include marketing for the party, which will be paid as part of a $500,000 contract to an outside media firm approved earlier this month.

A City communications officer said Wednesday that the campaign to be conducted by GOOD Worldwide Inc. will embrace far more than helping to stage the publicity blitz planned for Expo’s big opening in the beach city.

"This is the largest public relations campaigns we've undertaken in a long time," said Debbie Lee, who heads the City's public information and communications team.

"It the first time the train comes, and it will change the way people get around," Lee said. "The purpose of this campaign is to let people know more than the train is coming. This is a campaign about mobility options in general."

On Tuesday, the Council is expected to authorize the City Manager to pay California-based Community Arts Resources (CARS) up to $150,000, and add $57,000 to its existing agreement, to produce an "open streets" event on June 5, two weeks after the opening of the line.

The event will be funded in part with a $200,000 Open Streets Program grant from Metro that requires a $50,000 in-lieu local matching grant, according to the staff report. The Council accepted the grant at its July 28, 2015 meeting.

The City also will redirect $100,000 from what would have been the 25th annual Santa Monica Festival and use $57,000 from its general fund to expand the event's boundaries and provide gap funding for City staff.

The original boundaries were Colorado Avenue from 5th Street to Ocean Avenue, and Main Street from Colorado Avenue to Marine Street on the City's southern border. The event will be expanded to include Ocean Avenue between Colorado and Wilshire Boulevard.

Coordinating the logistics and programming requires "a unique combination of skill, vision and experience to make the event become a reality," staff wrote in its report to the Council.

Publicity for the event will be provided under a separate half-million dollar contract awarded to GOOD Worldwide Inc. that was approved by the City Council on March 1.

The contract will pay to publicize the event and to conduct a regional campaign to convince the public to abandon cars for the county light rail into Santa Monica and to use transportation alternatives, said Constance Farrell, City public information coordinator.

The campaign will “educate people on how to ride it [the trains] and how to connect to other forms of transportation," she said.

It could be at hard sell, based on the results of a study on regional public transit ridership. The report released in January by County transit officials shows that ridership in Southern California has declined over the past ten years despite $9 billion spent for new light rail and subway lines.

Even among Santa Monica City employees, public transit ridership has been declining, despite efforts to get them out of their cars.
( Santa Monica City Council Member Pam O’Connor Defends City Employees, February 3, 2016.)

GOOD Worldwide Inc. has until April 4 to complete a campaign strategy for Expo's arrival. The campaign includes creating a single “unifying tag line", that could be used on websites social media, ads and brochures.

A total of 617 vendors were notified, and 75 prospective vendors downloaded the proposal, which capped the contract at $500,000, city officials said. Ten firms responded and were reviewed by a panel of staff from the City Manager’s Office, the BBB, Planning and Community Development and police.

The final two were GOOD Worldwide and 87AM/Allied Integrated Marketing, which focuses on entertainment marketing. The runner-up has 23 offices in the U.S. and Canada and its film clients include MGM, Paramount and CBS Films, as well as the television industry, according to its website.

"We had a lot of really great qualified firms that responded," Lee said. GOOD Worldwide, she said, "really focus on a lot of campaigns that have social awareness as one of their core values.

The contract, approved by the City Council on March 1, includes a one-year renewal option of $250,000, for a total not to exceed $750,000 for two years.

The contract is one component of what is likely the most expensive public awareness campaign undertaken by the City, which has been planning for the arrival of rail in Santa Monica for the first time in more than half a century.

In addition to the campaign Good Worldwide has been hired to conduct, the City, the Big Blue Bus system, Metro and City police are also engaged in public relations and outreach programs about Expo.

In December, City Manager Rick Cole said he had mobilized key departments, adding that local police, fire and emergency coordinators were working closely with the county transit agency and the county Sheriff's Department, which provides law-enforcement on Metro's trains ("Ensuring Public Safety Number One Priority When Expo Trains Arrive," December 1, 2015)

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority also is engaged in community outreach to promote safety around the rail corridor, Metro officials said. Metro has posted 24 safety ambassadors along the rail line from Culver City to the final stop in Downtown Santa Monica.

The ambassadors -- retired bus and rail operators fully trained in safety rules and regulations -- will be posted from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. on weekdays and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on the Colorado Avenue "to encourage safe behavior around trains and answer questions about the Expo Line," Metro officials said.

Metro, along with the City, is holding ribbon-cutting ceremonies on opening day at the downtown station, the 26th Street/Bergamot Station and 17th Street/SMC Station. Free rides are being offered. So are 6,000 commemorate TAP cards to be distributed by the City.

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