Tucked away in the “consent calendar” for next Tuesday’s City Council meeting is a funding proposal to allocate another $327,969 to AG Coast (dba Panther Security) for an increased security presence on the pier on weekends to help the city enforce its rules regarding street vending. The proposal would add one twelve hour weekend shift to the existing two security officers at the pier in addition to any other city staff or SMPD presence.
The added security guard will be contracted through the end of the year when the city and AG Coast are expected to enter into a new, five-year contract. The city’s former Pier Task Force, now called the Direct Action Response Team (DART), is also expected to be renewed past its current expiration date of June 30, 2023. The staff report mentions that staff is working on an extension program for that as well.
Unmentioned in this proposal is how, if at all, this change would impact the effort to restore the Pier’s hours. Before the closure in March of 2020, there was Pier access for 24 hours. Today the Pier is only open to the public from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m.
While brick and mortar businesses on the pier have been supportive of the city’s efforts to regulate and police vendors; many of the vendors themselves are not happy to see the city continue on its current course. Last month, a group of three dozen vendors descended on City Hall to tell stories, mostly in Spanish, about harassment and abuse from the DART and demanded a meeting with the City Manager or Councilmembers.
“This is not where funding priorities should go,” writes Cynthia Anderson-Baker, a lawyer representing a coalition of vendors.
“The City is prioritizing enforcement action rather than allocating funds toward helping the vendors utilize space around the Pier to legally vend. Helping these low-income entrepreneurs find and use space around the Pier to legally vend has never been a priority of Santa Monica’s DART. Instead, expensive tickets, criminalization and court actions banning vendors from the pier area have been the norm.”
Vendors have vowed to speak out at Tuesday’s meeting after being denied a chance to speak at the May 9th meeting because they arrived after the cutoff time for public comment. Items on the consent agenda are placed there by staff who expect they will pass unanimously with limited public or Council debate. They can be moved by the request of any one Councilmember.
(Disclosure: Carter Rubin is a member of the Pier Commission and the California Streets Initiative Board of Directors. CSI is the non-profit publisher of Santa Monica Next.)