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Council to Focus on Security

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By Jorge Casuso

May 17, 2023 -- From maintaining police radio towers on Santa Monica's tallest rooftop to retaining ambassadors at its busiest parks, Tuesday's City Council consent calendar focuses largely on security.

The Council also will consider renewing a contract for security services at the Pier and accepting two federal grants for homeless security when it approves consent items that are routinely passed with no discussion.

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With a rooftop lease at 100 Wilshire Boulevard set to expire next month, the Council is expected to authorize renewing the lease with Douglas Emmett for five years for $409,000.

"This site is a strategic location for the communications equipment due to the building’s height, its centrality within the downtown area, and the building’s existing emergency power equipment," staff wrote in a brief report to the Council.

The iconic 21-story white tower at Ocean Avenue also "has the appropriate emergency power equipment for operation during an electrical outage," staff said.

"There are no practical alternatives for relocating the equipment presently installed at 100 Wilshire Blvd and the current license agreement runs through June 2023."

The Council also is expected to authorize a five-year contract with Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM) to provide Park Ambassador services at Palisades, Reed and Tongva Parks at an annual cost of about $1.5 million a year.

"Ambassadors greet and welcome visitors, advise visitors of park rules and local laws related to appropriate behavior, as well as provide directions and other hospitality services as needed," staff said.

"They are the eyes and ears of the parks -- reporting problems to the appropriate authorities, ensuring that parks are safe, inviting places for all."

DTSM began providing ambassador services Downtown in 2009, when it hired Block by Block to operate the program. The program was expanded to Palisades and Tongva Park in 2017 and to Reed Park in 2019.

The three parks "have been impacted by the regional increases in homelessness, greater use by street performers, and reported illegal activity and anti-social behavior."

Ambassadors are also stationed near the public restrooms "to discourage anti-social behaviors, conduct intermittent restroom cleanings, and check and stock restroom supplies."

Outreach/quality of life ambassadors stationed in Reed Park -- which is a gathering place for homeless individuals -- possess California Guard card and advanced mental health training, according to staff.

"These ambassadors focus on social service outreach discourage antisocial behaviors and track public safety incidents in an incident management system."

Ambassadors work with police officers and receive regular training from the Police Department but cannot enforce municipal codes, staff said.

The Council on Tuesday also is expected to give the go-ahead to extend a contract with CA Panther for security services on the Pier that also expires on June 30.

The extended contract through December 31 -- at a cost of $327,969 -- will help code enforcement continue to crack down on illegal vendors who overrun the Pier on weekends, City officials said.

The City beefed up private security in October 2021 shortly after the Council cracked down on unpermitted vendors City officials said posed health and safety risks ("Council to Consider Banning Risky Vendor Activities," August 18, 2021).

When the security company providing the part-time service pulled out, the City signed a $250,000 contract with CA Panther in January to provide services that was subsequently amended. If extended again, the contract amount wuld total $1,059,969.

The Council not only is expected to authorize spending on security on Tuesday, it also will authorize accepting two grants totaling $2,120,000 for homeland security projects.

The federal funding from the 2021 and 2022 Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) will be used in the Fire and Information Services Departments.

The UASI grants will help the departments develop "integrated regional systems for prevention, protection, response, and recovery from natural or human-made disasters<" staff said.

"These funds cannot be used for general purposes and must be specified at the time of application," staff said. "Homeland security purchases must be pre-approved by the state and align with grant guidelines."

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