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So You Want to Know

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 anyway?

Q: When did the Promenade start?

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 center.

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 removable.
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 Bayside District?

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 Street.

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' Markets.

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 strip.

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 Street Promenade?

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 the fees.

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 fire personnel.

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 Ehrlich.

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 School.

Q: Who manages all those vending carts outside the Promenade stores?

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 in Pasadena.

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 do?

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 310.458.8588.

This article was also printed in the "Bayside Beat," the monthly newsletter for the Bayside District Corporation.

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