November 11, 2020 2:31 PM
by Jennifer Taylor
During the toughest of times, Santa Monica is proving to be a resilient community. We are on the road to economic recovery, but it has been an extremely challenging time for our businesses and residents. COVID-19 has brought about an array of public health safety measures to guide a safe re-opening and has also presented new opportunities to transform the way our business community provides goods, services, and experiences to its patrons. As the world navigates the new uncertainty, Santa Monica is making every effort to support our fragile local economy in a manner that is safe and equitable by increasing flexibility, leveraging City assets as community support resources, reducing red tape and fees, and supporting economic recovery through a series of innovative programs that are highly visible throughout the city. Here are a few examples:
Many restaurants have quickly transitioned to outdoor dining out of necessity for survival. Citywide, tables and chairs are being set up on the sidewalks, in areas called “parklets,” and in private parking lots. These areas are teeming with life and serving as a financial lifeline for local restaurants who are governed by public health requirements. Currently, over 150 restaurants and food businesses have taken advantage of these free temporary permits that allow their operations to move outdoors. As a compliment, the City and Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. are providing free parklet materials that include railings, planters, and safety equipment. For diners that want to grab their meal and go, a curbside pickup program allows for temporary free parking adjacent to the restaurant, and third-party delivery fees have been capped to put more money in the pocket of the restaurants.
Outdoor Retail, Fitness, and Personal Services
Restaurants are not the only businesses to benefit from the economic recovery effort. Retailers have moved their wares outside and set up in parking lots and on sidewalks. Gyms and fitness studios are utilizing approved pop-up fitness zones at the Santa Monica Pier, the Beach, in City parks and parking lots (e.g. 5th and Arizona), as well as in parklet spaces across Santa Monica to attend to the health and wellbeing of our community. Nail salons, spa and treatment salons have also moved outdoors so that patrons can enjoy fresh air while pampering themselves and experiencing a touch of normalcy.
Community Development and Enrichment
Supporting residents during these unprecedented, uncertain times is also a top priority of the Economic Recovery effort. In the absence of Federal relief measures, these local efforts are helping to fill the most critical gaps and are more important than ever. Starting in March, the Santa Monica Economic Recovery Task Force recognized the urgent need to provide meaningful relief to the City’s most vulnerable populations. The COVID-19 Emergency Rental Assistance program has provided almost $2 million dollars in rental relief to over 350 Santa Monican families. The City’s rental and commercial eviction moratorium is also helping to protect people from eviction due to COVID-19 and helping to retain our small businesses.
Staff set up and operationalized a food bank at Virginia Avenue Park that has provided over 4,000 boxes of food to residents since it first opened in April, and local businesses and residents have helped to donate food, funding and services thru the We Are Santa Monica Fund to assist our most vulnerable residents and first responders. Work is also underway to develop a community kitchen at the Thelma Terry building. The City’s goal is to provide a community-led commercial kitchen designed to provide equitable access and economic opportunity for local residents and will be an empowering catalyst for economic growth in the form of small business incubation, development, and as a site for job training. The City is currently preparing an RFP for an operator of the Kitchen.
Local Hire Campaign
A local hire campaign is being developed in partnership with employment partner agencies to provide targeted outreach to employers and residents to foster local job creation. This effort is complimented by a virtual Entrepreneur Series to help support community wealth-building opportunities for our residents. Six local agencies hosted “Ready to Work” Webinars in English and Spanish attended by 90 people to share local job seeker resources. To date, 28 people have enrolled in job seeking support services with partner agencies. As businesses start to rehire and recruit employees, we hope they will hire local residents.
Communication and Outreach Efforts
A broad range of communication and outreach efforts have been spearheaded by 10 partner organizations to increase awareness for health and safety and economic recovery related information under the “Santa Monica Cares” and “Santa Monica Shines” umbrella. Efforts have included the development and distribution of a business toolkit with reopening signage, small and large format signage at highly visible locations throughout our city, creation of the COVID-19 Assurance Program, the purchase and distribution of over 50,000 face coverings for use by local businesses, weekly communication to over 10,000 local businesses, partnering with local publications to increase awareness through ads and the “Santa Monica Shines” series, and timely updates to our website and social media resulting in over 64,000 views of our websites and 200,000 impressions on social media. Over 75 articles in regional media outlets have mentioned Santa Monica’s Economic Recovery contributing to over 307 million impressions, and regional and statewide advertising efforts led by Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. and Santa Monica Travel and Tourism have garnered 22.7 million impressions and over $726,000 in hotel bookings. Over 25,000 potential visitors engaged with business promotion tools featuring Buy Local special offers and personalized tours for visitors and safety messaging has been incorporated into all visitor guides.
Our work is not done but thank you to the entire community for your partnership and commitment to seeing Santa Monica to a brighter future. For more information or to participate in these programs, visit the City’s economic recovery website at santamonica.gov/economicrecovery or santamonicashines.com.
Results (so far):
- Over 225 free, approved outdoor permits
- $2 million in rental relief to over 350 Santa Monica Households
- Over $726,000 in hotel bookings
- 4,000 free food boxes to Santa Monica families
- Over 90 families helped with finding childcare
- Over 90 people supported with job seeking
- Over 5,000 health and safety signs distributed to businesses
- Over 25,000 face coverings distributed at local business patrons
- Over 110 businesses and 200 employees participated in the COVID-19 Assurance Program
- Over 75 articles, 64,000 website views, and 200,000 social media impressions
Economic Development Manager