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After 25 Years, Rawson Steps Down as Downtown Head

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By Jorge Casuso

December 21, 2021 -- Kathleen Rawson -- who for a quarter century oversaw Santa Monica's wildly successful Promenade and central business district -- will step down as head of Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., the agency announced Tuesday.

Rawson, whose final day is January 21, will take the reins as CEO of The Hollywood Partnership, which runs the high-profile area's Business Improvement District, including its world renown entertainment sector.

"It has been an absolute privilege to serve this incredible community for the last 25 years," Rawson said in a statement.

"I am immensely proud of the work we have done at DTSM and would like to thank all those who I have had the pleasure of working with along the way.

“It has been my honor to serve alongside the many DTSM staff and board members, businesses, property owners, and citywide partners that have been dedicated to this community during my time here," Rawson said.

"I look forward to my next adventure in Hollywood but will miss Santa Monica dearly.”

Rawson steered the Promenade through the best of times and the worst of times, seeing sales and foot traffic plummet after the 2001 terrorist attacks and the Great Recession of 2007.

More recently, the riots that swept through Downtown in May 2020 and the COVID shutdown dealt major blows to a brick and mortar economy facing stiff competition from virtual markets ("Downtown Santa Monica Thriving But Faces Challenges, Officials Say," September 3, 2019).

As the Great Recession hit in the Winter of 2007, Rawson tapped her Minnesota roots and launched ICE at Santa Monica, one of the first outdoor ice skating rinks in the region, which has become a Santa Monica holiday tradition ("Making Memories on Ice in Downtown Santa Monica," November 1, 2019).

She also championed arts programs that saw revolving outdoor art works bloom in the center of the city and hosted regional events, including the LA Marathon, which for more than a decade raced to the finish line through the Downtown.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Rawson personally visited and worked with local businesses "to ensure that they had the information, supplies and permits needed to operate safely," Downtown officials said.

An effective lobbyist, Rawson successfully urged the City Council to make a series of periodic code changes recommended by the Downtown Board that shifted the balance of uses on the Promenade.

In September, the Council approved a blueprint for Downtown's economic recovery that allows more varied new business uses and gives existing businesses more flexibility to compete ("Council Paves Way for New Uses to Revitalize Promenade," October 4, 2021).

“There is no overstating the positive impact Kathleen and her work with DTSM have had on the downtown district and city as a whole,” said Santa Monica City Councilmember Gleam Davis.

“She has carried out the best vision for this community that we could hope for and we’re confident the foundation she has built will take the organization to even greater heights during its next chapter.”

Said DTSM Board Chair Barry Snell, “Kathleen has been an invaluable presence at DTSM, providing sound leadership and insight over the past 25 years.

“We, as a Board, are extremely grateful for the dedication and hard work she has devoted to the prosperity of the district and only hope to continue to grow upon what she has accomplished,” Snell said

The DTSM Board will engage in an executive search for a new CEO in early 2022.

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