This is an expanded version of a news story
that ran in The Lookout on November 2.
By Jorge Casuso
November 20 -- Most Santa Monicans visit Downtown, including
the Third Street Promenade, at least once a week and, along with
regional and foreign visitors, they’re keeping the Bayside
economy humming, according to a survey released last month.
The survey found that Santa Monica area residents go Downtown
because it’s nearby and offers a wide array of stores and
services. Visitors from outside the area are also lured by the
shopping opportunities, but come primarily for the beaches and
More visitors – from both Santa Monica and beyond –
are coming to dine, while fewer are coming for the movies.
The survey – which polled 400 Santa Monica area residents
by phone and 423 visitors in an “intercept survey”
on Downtown streets – also highlights issues, such as the
homeless, parking and maintenance, that are high on the list of
concerns for Bayside District officials.
The findings are consistent with those of surveys conducted
in 1997 and 2003, Bayside, officials note, adding that although
the percentages reflected by the responses may be down in some
cases, the number of visitors has risen.
“The survey shows we have a wide range of users coming
for a wide range of offerings,” said John Warfel, vice chair
of the Bayside Board. “It also shows that a majority of
Santa Monicans visit the Downtown on a regular basis, and they
have the same concerns they had in the past.”
The notion that locals don’t go Downtown “Anecdotally,
we hear that no one comes to the Promenade anymore that lives
in Santa Monica,” said Bayside Board member Patricia Hoffman.
“That’s not true. The survey shows that it is a real
downtown for the people of Santa Monica.”
The survey, which was commissioned by the Bayside District,
found that 82 percent of those who live in the area (two-thirds
of them in Santa Monica) had gone Downtown in the 30 days prior
to the survey, averaging more than one-and-a-half trips a week.
And nearly all of the area residents surveyed – 97 percent
– had visited the Downtown in the year prior to the survey,
which was conducted in September and October by CIC Research,
Inc., a San Diego- based consulting firm .
“Just about everyone has come about once a week.,”
said Warfel when the findings were presented at a Bayside Board
meeting October 26. “It’s hard to believe almost.”
More than half (51 percent) of the area residents polled visited
the Downtown to shop, up from 38 percent in 1997 and 48 percent
in 2003, according to the phone survey.
That compares with 37 percent of those polled in the intercept
survey, 37 percent of whom lived or worked in Los Angeles County,
25 percent outside the county and 16 percent in foreign countries.
Dining lured 15 percent of the area residents, mirroring 1997
and 2003 trends, while 24 percent of those surveyed on the street
said the “main purpose” of their visit was eating
out, up from 7 percent three years ago.
Of the area residents polled by phone, 11 percent went Downtown
for personal or business reasons or to run errands, while 17 percent
of those who responded to the intercept survey said they went
Downtown to socialize.
Perhaps most striking, only 10 percent of area residents went
Downtown to catch a movie, down from 17 percent in 2003 and 31
percent in 1997. The downward trend was also reflected in the
intercept survey, with only 8 percent citing the movies as the
main purpose of their visit, down from 22 percent in 2003.
The drop is due to a wider array of offerings and increased
competition from state-of-the-art theaters opening in surrounding
communities, said Robert O. York, a consultant to the Bayside.
“The movies were a much more significant part of the offerings
many years ago,” he said. “The Downtown wasn’t
as fully developed.
“We have a more balanced offering now,” York added.
“The theaters are not as compelling. People coming for
the movies are probably coming from a smaller geographical area.”
Sixty-one percent of the area residents surveyed said they visited
Downtown Santa Monica rather than somewhere else, because they
live nearby, while 8 percent said they worked nearby.
The “variety/quality” of the stores and services
were the main reason 37 percent of area residents said they visited
the Downtown, while 12 percent said it was entertaining with “lots
to do,” and 11 percent said they came for the “nice/pleasant
A little more than a third of the visitors polled on the street
said they “choose to shop in Downtown Santa Monica rather
than somewhere else,” because the area is close to the “beach/ocean.”
A little less than a third (32 percent) said they did so because
it is “open/ outdoors.”
“These reasons were given by significantly more visitors
in 2006 than in previous studies,” according to the report’s
Nearly three quarters, 73 percent, of area residents who had
visited the Downtown in the past 30 days said they went to a store
that sold clothing, shoes or accessories; 70 percent visited bookstores,
64 percent frequented a restaurant that sold only food, while
60 percent went to a restaurant that served both food and drinks.
Most area residents also visited a business that featured “entertainment/theater”
(62 percent) “food stores/delis/specialty” businesses
(56 percent), and stores that featured “housewares/ accessories”
“They’re visiting for a big variety” of stores,
said Pamela Jaffe, of CIC Research. “They’re coming
to eat and drink, as well as for the entertainment.”
Most of those who responded to the intercept survey (76 percent)
also said they visited shops featuring “clothing/shoes/accessories”
in the past 30 days.
That was followed by “eating and drinking places”
(74 percent), “entertainment/theater” (57 percent),
eating places (57 percent), bookstores (49 percent) and “food
stores/deli’s/specialty” stores (44 percent).
Nearly two-thirds of the visitors polled in the intercept survey
spent more than $51, with the average visitor spending $86. That
compares to 41 percent of the area residents who spent more than
$51, with an average shopper spending $43.
Both area residents and outside visitors continue to rely on
the car to get Downtown.
Nearly three quarters of the area residents (74 percent) drove
Downtown, down from 81 percent in 2003. More of them (16 percent)
walked, up from 11 percent three years ago, according to the survey.
Of those polled in the intercept survey, 69 percent drove, down
from 79 percent in 2003, while 23 percent walked, up from 10 percent
three years ago, which is likely a result of more visitors staying
in hotels, researchers said. Those who took public transit dropped
to 3 percent, from 14 percent in 1997.
The survey results also reflect problems Bayside officials have
been grappling with as they reevaluate the state of the area and
chart a future course that could require changes in the district’s
management structure and new assessments to address the most pressing
“The top issues have been consistent for many, many years,”
York said. “I think that helps make sure that people stay
When asked what needs to be changed, 28 percent of area residents
said there should be something done about the homeless, while
17 percent wanted “more/better” parking, 13 percent
wanted “better/ different” stores and 12 percent cited
“traffic flow/congestion” as issues that needed to
When asked what they liked least about the area, 25 percent
of those surveyed Downtown said the homeless, up from 23 percent
three years ago; 20 percent cited parking, down from 25 percent,
while 15 percent said “traffic, the same as three years
Fifteen percent said the area was “crowded/congested,”
up from 13 percent in 2003. “The focus on the homeless in
the past two years really shows,” Hoffman said.
“It sure seems the same things are popping up again,”
said Bayside Board Chair Bill Tucker. “We know the homeless
is a big issue and parking is a big issue. We’re always
looking at ways of improving.
“It’s good to take a snapshot at where we are today,”
said Tucker, “but we’ve got to do something about
it, which we think we’re doing.”
“I was pleased by how much the survey results mirrored what
Bayside is trying to focus on,” said Bayside Board member
Kelley Wallace.” It justifies the direction we’re taking.”