I was leafing through old district newsletters this week, a batch published 15 years ago, sorting through headlines and articles about homelessness, cleanliness, safety and security, and it occurred to me that our current topics of concern are the exact same issues. It’s not that we haven’t made progress, we have, but in COVID-19 all of the innovative solutions put in place over the last decade plus began to show flaws and the stress of a strained system.
In some ways, it feels like we are starting over, back to basics.
We are in middle of a perfect storm. Homelessness —already on the rise in many of our communities— has been exacerbated by the pandemic leaving sicker and more desperate souls in our districts and neighborhoods. These members of our communities are faced with a lack of vital services such as shelters, congregant housing and medical and mental health care options have been drastically reduced. Our streets are empty of shoppers, diners and office workers who provide the critically important social surveillance that results in less anti-social behavior, reduced vandalism and criminal activity. Empty and boarded up buildings provide a haven for those involved in dangerous activities. Our criminal justice system is facing unprecedented issues with capacity, backlogs, morale and public scrutiny.
This is the type of storm in which urban place managers thrive. Like many downtowns throughout the world, we in Santa Monica have had to take a good look at our efforts and realign our work to face the immediate needs of the of the district focusing in on good old fashioned clean and safe.
In this moment, I could not be more proud our industry and the people in it. Let’s not forget to lean on one another as we get through this difficult moment. As the surges of the pandemic begin to wane, and the vaccine is rolled out we will be poised, once again, to welcome our communities back to clean, safe and welcoming city centers. We will be a year older, significantly wiser, substantially more enlightened and ready to greet each other face-to-face once more.
Can’t wait to see you.