Even though the topics weren’t on the Santa Monica City Council’s agenda, over a dozen Santa Monica residents addressed the council June 13 over their concerns regarding an increase in crime and homelessness that they said has left some fearful to walk the streets.
John Farzam, co-owner of the Shore Hotel—located on Pacific Coast Highway near the Santa Monica Pier—told city councilors that hotel owners are losing reservations because of the city’s growing homelessness problem.
“I’m here this evening on behalf of several large hotel operators in Santa Monica to plead for your help in addressing what’s become an untenable situation of homelessness, crime, harassment, and filthy conditions on Ocean Avenue and Palisades Park,” he said during the meeting.
He read a note from a guest who recently said they wouldn’t be returning because of the issue.
“This city has handed itself over to homelessness. Businesses like yours should have taken a stand a long time ago. Your hotel and any other hotel here is no longer safe for families,” he read.
Farzam’s comment gained the attention of former Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva, who posted a short clip of it on social media June 15 and called out the city for not addressing the issue.
“How Santa Monica, California is destroying their community: By following the lead of the City of Los Angeles and the County of Los Angeles – a really bad idea,” Villanueva wrote in a Twitter post that has now been viewed over 30,000 times.
A mother of three teenagers said during the meeting the city is preventing her children’s growth and independence, since, she said, they feel they can’t safely walk the streets anymore.
While taking her sons to school, a homeless woman near the intersection of Fourth Street and Olympic Boulevard started “pounding on my car violently,” she said, and then the woman started taking off her clothes.
Later that day her son saw “two homeless people defecating,” she said.
“You are stifling the development of the children of this city. … The idea of going to the public library is not even something we entertain anymore,” she said.
Her husband also spoke during public comments.
“We’re all liberal democratic people for the most part here. It’s gone too far. The homeless people should not be running the city,” he said.
Resident and homeowner Jack Levy said his wife and dog were spit on by a homeless man during a recent walk. He told the council to stop focusing on issues like banning plastic straws or increasing bike lanes until public safety is addressed.
“The Promenade, the Library, they’ve turned into absolute hell holes. … Stop coddling homeless vagrants and [the] mentally ill. It’s not fair to people who pay taxes,” he said.
Another resident said under the current city council leadership, Santa Monica has changed from a “safe beach town,” to an “unsafe and dangerous city,” where “criminals, homeless people and drug addicts have more rights than the residents.”
Another speaker, who said he attends Santa Monica High School, said he is afraid to go out at night and a friend was recently stabbed, with the assailant still outstanding.
“So many of my friends have been victims of so many crimes, including my friend last week who was stabbed in the stomach. No justice was served,” the student said. “I’m afraid … and have to look over my shoulder every 10 seconds. I’m really terrified of what I’ve seen in the city.”
A point in time count conducted in January reported there are an estimated 926 people experiencing homelessness in the city, compared to 807 individuals counted last year, according to the city’s website.
On Feb. 14 the city declared a local emergency order on homelessness and extended it in May for a year.
According to the Santa Monica Lookout, an online news outlet, the city spends an estimated $42.5 million a year on homeless services and programs but doesn’t have any specific plan to track or collect data on its progress.
The information comes from a 110-page homeless study by an accounting firm— published last year, and presented to the city’s audit subcommittee in December— according to the news website.
John Alle, a resident who also owns property on the Third Street Promenade—an outdoor shopping area for businesses and restaurants—ridiculed officials during the meeting.
He mentioned a county funded program that hands out syringes and condoms in some of the city’s parks that he said has led to more homelessness.
The “overdose prevention program”—which is overseen by a division of the Los Angeles County Department of Public Health—currently distributes syringes, first aid kits, opioid overdose reversal medication, and hygiene kits every Friday at three city parks, according to a spokesperson for the department.