By Jorge Casuso
September 17 -- During the
past two decades, the Third Street
Promenade has become the living room
for Santa Monica and a playground
for millions from around the world.
Yet few people stop to think about
how it all happened and what it takes
to keep it going.
Following are the answers to some
frequently asked questions, including
what it takes to perform or promote
a product on the thriving public strip
and the reason for the bronze dolphins
that seem to pop from the ground.
And what exactly is the Bayside District
Q: When did the Promenade
A: The Third Street Promenade officially
opened on September 16, 1989, and
it was an instant success, transforming
the strip in a few short years from
blight to boom.
But it wasn’t just market forces
that spurred the change. The Promenade
was the result of a groundbreaking
partnership between the public and
private sectors that capped a 25-year
effort by the City to pump life into
its dying downtown center.
Two years were spent developing plans
and designs that were adopted by City
Council, a $13.3 million bond issue
was approved by voters to make much-needed
public improvements, an assessment
district was formed to help pay off
the bond and a non-profit corporation
was created to oversee the downtown
In case the experiment – which
had been tried with little or no success
in some three-dozen centers across
the country – didn’t work,
the City made the traffic barriers
They stayed up, though, and the Promenade
became a worldwide destination and
one of the most desirable commercial
locations in the country. Today, some
4 million people a year – or
an average of 10,000 to 12,000 a day
– visit the Downtown to conduct
business, eat, shop or simply take
in the ambience.
Q: What exactly is the
A: The Bayside District is bounded
by Wilshire Boulevard on the north,
Broadway on the south, Second Street
on the west and Fourth Street on the
east. The Central Business District
is a larger area defined by Wilshire,
Colorado and Ocean avenues and Seventh
The Bayside District Corporation,
which manages the area, was formed
to “promote the economic stability,
growth and community life within the
district through responsible planning,
development, management and coordination
of programs, projects and services
designed to benefit the community
as a whole, which includes the District's
business, property owners, visitors
and residents,” according to
its mission statement.
Anchored by the Third Street Promenade,
Downtown Santa Monica boasts 6,900
parking spaces, four movie theaters
with 21 screens, more than 75 restaurants
(40 with outdoor dining), hundreds
of retailers and one of Southern California's
oldest and most successful Farmers'
Q: Who is that guy who
sits with the board at Bayside meetings,
but isn't a member of the board?
A: If you want to know what a space
is going for on the Promenade or who’s
negotiating to move into that empty
space on Fourth Street, ask Rob York.
The retail consultant for the Bayside
District, York has been involved with
efforts to revitalize Downtown Santa
Monica since 1991.
As a consultant, he advises the board
and staff on a variety of issues impacting
both the short and long-term success
of Downtown Santa Monica, including
parking, mix of uses and capital improvements.
He has recently focused his efforts
on helping expand ground-floor activity
throughout the District, while keeping
the Promenade a flourishing commercial
The president of York Consulting Group,
LLC, York also acts as a resource
to Downtown property owners and brokers,
as well as prospective retail, restaurant
and entertainment tenants who would
benefit the Downtown environment,
informing them of specific opportunities
and general market conditions.
Q: What does it take
to stage a special event on Third
A: Everyone from major retailers to
obscure non-profits stage promotions
and special events on the Promenade.
To help them navigate through the
process, Bayside District staff will
explain the rules, show them how to
fill out the necessary forms and calculate
Daily event fees range from $1,500
to $3,800 per block per day depending
on the size of the event and its impact
on the Promenade, said Nicole Nez,
Marketing and Special Events Coordinator.
A partial list of possible fees includes
an application fee, a site fee, a
trash/clean up fee and refundable
bollard key and electrical access
deposits. An event may also require
paying for the necessary police and
If an event is held in a store, Promenade
businesses must still obtain an event
certificate from the Bayside, since
“any use of, overflow onto or
queue that forms on the Promenade
is considered use of public space,”
according to the guidelines.
For more information contact the Bayside’s
Marketing Department at 310.393.8355.
Q: What does it take
to perform on the Promenade?
A: Everyone wants to be a star, or
at least get their 15 minutes of fame,
but not just anyone can pick up a
guitar and start singing on the Promenade.
Although it may not require stellar
talent, playing for the crowds that
stroll the thriving commercial strip
takes a personal visit to City Hall
and obtaining a permit. Applicants
must bring two passport size photos
and one valid form of ID (Drivers
license or Passport). Those ages 16
and under must have an Entertainers
Permit from the State of California.
Permits cost $37 and are valid through
December 31, 2007. By the next business
day, except on Fridays when City Hall
is closed, the performer will likely
have the permit that could help pay
the rent or just might lead to being
discovered as the next big thing.
For more information call the City
Hall Permit Office at 310.458.8745.
Q: What is that dolphin
on the Promenade?
A: No, it’s not a bronze sculpture,
although it is that. It’s also
a piggy bank, where you can drop your
change to make change, since the money
collected goes to non-profit service
agencies that help the homeless get
a new lease on life.
Dolphins were chosen as the key element
of the program, because of their sensitive,
giving and intuitive nature and because
Santa Monica is a seaside community.
The dolphins were sculpted by internationally
acclaimed naturalist sculptor Peter
Since the Bayside's Dolphin Change
Program was set up in 1993 to give
residents an opportunity to help the
homeless without giving money directly
to panhandlers, the loose change has
added up to $7,500 just this year.
Similar dolphin banks seem to leap
out of the ground at the Santa Monica
Pier, Main Street and the Canyon Charter
Q: Who manages all those
vending carts outside the Promenade
A: For nearly two years, the vending
cart program has been run by Provenzano
Resources, Inc. (PRI), which also
manages vending cart programs across
the country, including those at The
Grove in Los Angeles and Paseo Colorado
Rolled out during the 2005 holiday
season, the 26 carts – which
include one for visitor information
and three that sell art only during
weekends – replaced the carts
that had been operating on the popular
shopping strip since it opened as
the Promenade in 1989.
The new vending carts feature built
in displays, cash registers, awnings
and matching chairs and offer less
variety, but more depth of merchandise,
PRI officials said.
The carts operate seven days a week,
with vendors allowed to close for
Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas and
New Year's Day. The minimum hours
of operation are from 11 a.m. to 9
p.m. Monday through Thursday; 10 a.m.
to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and
11 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday.
Q: I lost my wallet while
I was shopping Downtown. What do I
A: It may be waiting for you at the
lost and found at the Downtown Santa
Monica Police Substation, 1433 Second
Street. You can also call them at
This article was also printed in the
"Bayside Beat," the monthly
newsletter for the Bayside District