By Jorge Casuso
June 12, 2009 – Downtown Santa Monica should become a more welcoming and cleaner place after the Bayside District officially launched two new programs this week bankrolled by a new $3.6 million assessment district.
Some two dozen ambassadors hit the streets to greet visitors, answer questions and generally point the way. They also will help keep an eye on the street to discourage wrongdoing and anti-social behavior.
When their day is done, cleaning crews will scour the area, hosing down sidewalks, alleys and parking structures.
“This baby’s finally walking,” Kathleen Rawson, executive director of the Bayside District Corporation, which runs the Downtown, said during a press conference Tuesday. “It’s taken a long time to come down this road. It’s all coming together today.”
The enhanced services are the cornerstones of a new assessment district approved by Downtown property owners last year that marks the first major management overhaul for the district in two decades.
The new Downtown management now oversees $3.6 million generated by assessments based on a property’s size, type of use and location. The money will be used to boost maintenance, enhance marketing efforts and create an “ambassador program” to inform visitors and help keep the streets safe.
The $1.2 million in additional maintenance will both increase the frequency and expand the area cleaned by power-washing crews, Bayside officials said.
The company H20 Power Wash and Steam, which has been cleaning the area for a decade, will add between eight and 12 workers, said Andrew Thomas, operations manager for the Bayside District.
The larger crew will clean sidewalks and alleys more frequently and clean the entire Promenade once a month, instead of every three months, Thomas said.
In addition, the Promenade will be cleaned “from property line to property line,” instead of eight feet from each curb, he said.
The crews also will tackle a larger area, adding Ocean Avenue and the Colorado Avenue alleys and add the parking structure stairwells, which have long been the source of complaints.
The ambassadors -- who are on the street from 10 a.m. to 12:30 a.m. – have been busy pointing visitors in the right direction and providing tid-bits of knowledge picked up at the Convention and Visitors Bureau’s “I Am Santa Monica” program.
Although the ambassadors don’t a have the authority to enforce laws, they can keep an out on the streets and inform visitors about local laws that prohibit smoking on the Promenade and other select areas, or laws that bar aggressive panhandling.
Funded with $1.2 million a year generated by the new assessment district, the ambassador program is “a step in the right direction towards creating a more inviting Downtown,” Rawson said.
The assessment district also is boosting the Bayside’s marketing budget by some $500,0000 a year. To increase its marketing efforts, the bayside hired Ballantines PR, which has offices in Los Angeles, New York, London and Santa Fe.
Laurel Rosen, who heads the local Chamber of Commerce, says the new services will help draw more visitors to the aea, persauding some who may otherwise have concerns about visiting an area widely known for the homeless who hang out there.
“”You have tools to say, ‘There is change, there is movement,” said Rosen, who is the chambers president and CEO. “I think the ambassadors will provide a sense of safety.”