October 7, 2021 3:09 PM
by Anuj Gupta
As the Santa Monica community continues to show its resilience in the face of the lasting impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is worth highlighting all the continued efforts made across our entire community to help the people and businesses of Santa Monica on the road to recovery. Here’s a recap of some of the programs that have made a tangible impact:
- Rental Assistance - Connecting our commercial and residential tenants and landlords with rental assistance programs remains a priority. So far, over $36 million dollars in state rental assistance funds have been requested by nearly 2,300 Santa Monica households and 60 city commercial tenants have benefited from rent abatement support. Santa Monica residential and commercial landlords and tenants can also access free mediation support through a partnership with Pepperdine’s Straus Institute and access the latest information about the eviction moratorium that expired September 30.
- Hire Local – Santa Monica has helped our local businesses by creating a Hire Local Jobs Board and distributing information to raise awareness of this new resource. So far this has promoted 360 available jobs from 75 different businesses, aiming to connect our 4,200 residents still looking for work with our local business community looking to hire. See the most recent listings at santamonica.gov/hirelocal.
- Childcare – Supporting our small business childcare providers was crucial to ensuring that parents and caregivers could return to work during the pandemic. The City has provided 141 Santa Monica families with vouchers to assist with childcare costs, and 76 childcare providers with grants (averaging $700 each) for educational supplies. In addition, the City created a webpage at santamonicacradletocareer.org/childcare where residents can find local licensed childcare providers sorted by neighborhood.
- Emergency Food Pantry – In April 2020, we established an emergency food pantry at Virginia Avenue Park. It has served 200 families weekly. It is now an ongoing effort that is being overseen by the Westside Food Bank thanks to over $300,000 in community donations to the We Are Santa Monica Fund.
- Small Business Grants – In an effort to supplement losses and unexpected expenses due to COVID-19, the Small Business Recovery Grant program distributed 78 grants of $5,000 to Santa Monica small businesses. 475 local businesses applied, and grantees were chosen through an online, randomized application system managed by Local Initiatives Support Corporation. Thanks to generous community members, business leaders, and nonprofits that donated to the We Are Santa Monica Fund and the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce Foundation, along with funding provided by the City of Santa Monica, over $390,000 has been provided to local businesses so far.
- Virginia Avenue Park Commercial Kitchen – The City is also progressing in its effort to provide new space for businesses looking for a commercial space to prepare food. $640,000 in funding has been secured from public and private sources, an architect has been identified and onboarded, and pre-work is beginning now. Staff are working to identify a kitchen operator this fall.
- Santa Monica Outdoors - Knowing that 96% of Santa Monica residents want to eat and shop al fresco, Santa Monica has supported moving business operations outdoors. Over 170 businesses now offer outside services with 79% of businesses reporting increased profits from parklet operations. Zoning rules have also been adjusted to meet emerging needs, and the City is working now on developing a permanent outdoor program for City Council consideration in 2022. The City will continue to focus on reducing red tape and streamlining permitting so that local businesses can get outdoor operations up and running in as little as one day.
- Sharing an Open Main Street – Three weekends of transforming the street into a pedestrian plaza supported over 300 Main Street businesses and created more space for the entire community to reconnect with friends and neighbors, enjoy outdoor dining, shopping, live entertainment and activities, and experience the street in a new and exciting way. Led by the Main Street Business Improvement Association and the Ocean Park Association, this program builds on the successful Al Fresco sidewalk dining and parklet project launched earlier in the pandemic. Join us at the final weekend planned for October 16-17.
- Art of Recovery – Local artists have been transforming some of the City’s most iconic landmarks and public spaces into vibrant works of art that focus on: Economic Recovery, Racial Justice & Cultural Equity, Wellbeing & Public Health, and Community Connectedness. Since August 2020, this program has funded 24 art projects, employing over 100 artists, and strengthened and connected our entire community. Recent works include Birds in the Moon Opera co-produced with the Broad Stage and Downtown Santa Monica, and Americana in the Park co-produced with McCabe’s Guitar Shop.
- We Are Santa Monica Fund – The City established the We Are Santa Monica Fund to support critical community needs not funded through the City’s general fund. So far, private donors and businesses have contributed $1.3 million to help support Santa Monica’s recovery, the Black Agenda in Santa Monica, and the Emergency Food Pantry. Since June 2021, $500,000 has been distributed to address immediate reopening and recovery needs like food insecurity and the small business grant program. Thank you to our generous donors, and to the entire We Are Santa Monica Fund Advisory Board that started to meet this summer. If you’d like to support future needs, click here!
We were able to move quickly on many of these programs over the past 18 months due to the hard work and commitment of our residents, business community and City staff who collaborated to experiment with new ideas, test process improvements, and make connections across private and public platforms. Importantly, Santa Monica’s built environment provided a flexible landscape for pandemic-era recovery efforts thanks to past investments and strategic planning efforts that have focused on mobility and access, signature pedestrian and bike infrastructure, technology investments like our fiberoptic network, and progressive plans like the Land Use and Circulation Element and much more. As we look ahead at short-, medium-, and long-term opportunities to accelerate our recovery, the City will consider projects like the Third Street Promenade Stabilization and Economic Vitality Plan, the Housing Element, creating a Shared Identity, supporting our workforce, preparing a Beach Management and Master Plan, and preparing for incredibly unique opportunities like the 2028 Olympics.
The City of Santa Monica, in collaboration with generous donors, businesses, partners, and local non-profits, continue to strive to find ways to support the people and economy of our resilient city. While these efforts don’t paint the complete picture and there is more work to be done, these 10 programs are instrumental in continuing to support Santa Monica’s recovery, and we thank our entire community—including business partners, residents, and hardworking City staff across nearly every department—for the incredible efforts shared to accelerate our economy. For the full report provided to City Council, click here.
Deputy City Manager
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