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City Embarks on $1 Million in Safety and Maintenance Projects
 

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By Jorge Casuso

December 17, 2021 -- Over the next several months, the City will boost maintenance in the Downtown parking structures, add private security at the Pier and hire a clinician to help reach mentally ill homeless individuals.

It also will fix broken lights and emergency phones in parks and along the beach, deploy more police drones and replace the truck that cleans the Promenade alleys.

Those are among a number of projects bankrolled with $1 million in one-time capital improvement savings funds authorized by the City Council in October to "enhance clean and safe services," City officials said this week.

"In addition to unprecedented challenges in this area that have emerged during the pandemic regionally and nationally, the City is anticipating a series of events that will increase visitors to the City and will strain existing resources," staff wrote in a report to the Council Monday.

The events begin with the holiday season and continue through the Super Bowl, which will be held in neighboring Inglewood on February 13, although some of the initiatives will continue at least into the summer.

"As City revenues recover, additional funding could be applied to these priority areas to enhance efforts as necessary," staff said.

The largest share of the funding -- $439,300 -- will be used to maintain eight Downtown Parking Structures on a more regular basis and replace a mobile vacuum truck used to clean the Promenade's alleys that keeps breaking down.

The increased maintenance, staff said, will include weekly power-washing (now monthly), daily light and mirror replacements (now weekly), daily elevator inspections (now on-call within 24 hours), hourly trash pickup (new service), and after-hours hazardous materials cleaning (new service)."

Residents and Downtown businesses have been complaining that the homeless are camping in the structure's stairwells and elevators, which are often dirty, dark and run down.

Funding will also be used this month to replace a gate in the bin room in Parking Structure 2 that houses maintenance equipment with a "heavier gauge" metal gate to keep non-City workers out.

Approximately $177,000 in contingency funds will be set aside in case additional maintenance is needed surrounding the Super Bowl, staff said.

The second largest share of the funding -- $325,500 -- will be used to increase safety deployment, with $275,000 going to beef up private security at the pier through June 30.

The additional security officers will help code enforcement "reduce the volume of unpermitted vending or other unlawful activity on the Pier, thus reducing the associated fire and environmental risks," staff said.

Earlier this month, the Council used words like "chaos," "melee" and "out of control" to describe the renegade vendors who overrun the Santa Monica Pier on weekends ("Council Revisits 'Out-Of-Control' Illegal Pier Vendors," December 10, 2021).

The safety funding also includes $50,500 to add remotely controlled unstaffed aerial systems (UAS), or drones, and lease mobile cameras during the holiday season.

One of the drones "will provide immediate response to 911 calls and will assist the Department in dispatching the most appropriate response to calls," staff said.

The other will be "used as needed to respond to and monitor high need areas."

The funding also covers the lease of four mobile cameras on trailers "that will be deployed and monitored to further enhance security."

Of the total funding, $155,000 will be used to help make public parks safer, including repairing six broken emergency blue light phones on Ocean Front Walk and repairing 14 damaged bollard lights at Tongva Park.

Funding also will be used to install cameras, emergency phones and lights at Reed, Palisades and Tongva parks and activate fountains at Tongva Park and Ken Genser Square to discourage camping "within the features."

A total of $80,000 in City funds will also be used to increase efforts to reach Santa Monica's homeless population.

The funding -- which will be matched with $75,000 from the federal American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) -- will be used to hire an additional full-time clinician to help the Police Department respond to mentally ill homeless individuals.

The City currently has one clinician who accompanies police officers responding to radio calls involving the mentally ill homeless and another "devoted entirely to the Homeless Liaison Program (HLP) Team for evaluations of individuals, both in the field and at the jail.

"Given the high comorbidity of mental illness and the homeless population, having these resources in the field has improved response times for assisting those in crisis" staff said.

The clinicians -- provided in partnership with LA County's Department of Mental health -- have "created a more efficient pipeline for sharing information between case managers, service providers, and first responders," staff said.

The clinician would continue working into the upcoming fiscal year, which begins July 1, "although additional funding may need to be allocated to this service" as part of the upcoming fiscal year budget, staff said.


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