Private property and business owners, frustrated with the city’s response to homelessness and crime, came up with the idea of hiring the Sheriff’s Department as extra security in the boardwalk area.
LA County Sheriff Alex Villanueva toured downtown on July 6 with a group of these owners who made suggestions about actions they could take to address issues surrounding crime, homelessness and trash.
According to property owner John Alle, one of those suggestions was to hire the sheriff’s deputies to patrol select areas of downtown and step up the security efforts of the Santa Monica Police Department.
Everyone the city is suing for maintaining the promenade has been complaining for months about the number of uninhabited people camping in the elevators, stairwells and cars in downtown parking lots.
“We’ve spent about 14 to 20 months of lawlessness in the garages at night, and even during the day people live in their cars and openly have sex on the top levels of the garage,” Alle said. “The front door to the boardwalk looks just awful and that’s what people have to go in and they won’t go in. That’s why I partly think that the promenade is suffering right now. “
Everyone believes that the condition of the garages and the recent criminal incidents involving uninhabited people are hampering the economic recovery of the boardwalk businesses.
“The two elevators in Garage 5, which are closest to the promenade, and many stairwells are littered with puddles of human urine and slushy shit, or people blocking these areas asleep, high or with medication,” Alle said in a recent e- Mail to city officials.
City officials were not informed in advance of Villanueva’s visit and said they were surprised to find out about his tour.
“As far as I understand, this happened at the request of a broker who is suing our city for conditions in our inner city, especially in our parking garages, which were created during the pandemic,” said Mayor Sue Himmelrich on behalf of the city and the SMPD. “The sheriff didn’t tell the town he was coming. He did not invite me as the mayor of the city, our city manager or a representative of our police to his tour, nor did he inform us about their purpose, their observations or their conclusions. “
Everyone said that he and his Downtown associates, many of whom are part of the Santa Monica Bayside Owners Association, are interested in Downtown Santa Monica Inc. replacing their unarmed Downtown ambassadors with appointed sheriff deputies.
“We’d love to work with the city and get it over with, but if the city doesn’t work with us, we’ll do it alone,” Alle said, adding that his stakeholders are willing to pay the MPs themselves.
The legality of the employment of sheriff deputies by individuals or the deputies working in Santa Monica in general is unclear.
Villanueva recently asserted the sheriff’s authority to operate within a community when he threatened to patrol MPs and make arrests in Venice in response to the Boardwalk’s homeless crisis.
His homeless outreach and service team has been working on the boardwalk for the past month trying to connect unhodged people to services. However, they have not yet taken enforcement measures or made arrests of those who have not been detained.
Himmelrich said the city of Santa Monica is aware of the homelessness problems in downtown parking lots. At a recent council meeting, councilors announced that tackling homelessness was the city’s top priority.
One of the key components of the city’s longstanding efforts to tackle homelessness is the construction of more permanent supportive housing. A project is underway to demolish Downtown Parking Structure 3 and convert it into affordable and supportive housing, although these efforts are also being opposed by some downtown stakeholders.
Himmelrich said the city has decades of experience working with surrounding partner organizations to combat homelessness.
“I would like to show Sheriff Villanueva how we continued to work together in Santa Monica,” said Himmelrich. “If Sheriff Villanueva wants to take me, my fellow councilors, our city manager, and our chief of police on a real tour of Santa Monica to see Santa Monica emerge from the pandemic with pride and compassion, I welcome him. ”