Santa Monica: Lost Cause
City Hall has revived its “Buy Local Santa Monica” campaign, which features a website (www.buylocalsantamonica.com), Facebook and Twitter pages, newspaper ads, community events, and “discount days.”
The City’s Office of Sustainability and the Environment, Housing and Economic Development, the City Manager’s Office, City TV, the Chamber of Commerce, the Bayside, Pico, Main and Montana business improvement districts, the Pier Restoration Corporation, Sustainable Works, Santa Monica Jaycees, and the Santa Monica Convention and Visitors Bureau are all involved in the campaign. But it isn’t “generating enough sales,” according to City officials.
Of course it isn’t, because there’s very little “local” locally. The City has spent millions of dollars creating and promoting downtown Santa Monica in general and the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Place in particular, and, in the doing, has overseen the wholesale exodus of unique local shops and basic services to make way for the ubiquitous chain stores that can be found in the Westside Pavilion, Century City, the Grove and other places where parking is not a nightmare.
There once were nearly a dozen independent bookstores on and near Third Street. The City imported Barnes and Noble and Borders, because it knows nothing about the book business, and now all the independent bookstores — except Arcana and Hennessey and Ingalls — are gone — along with Borders.
The City’s merchandising touch is so lethal that it managed to kill two legendary bookstores — Midnight Special, which literally strangled on City red tape, and Dutton’s, which couldn’t abide in the crass commercial climate that enveloped the area.
Just as the City labored to turn downtown Santa Monica into a “regional commercial hub” and perpetual traffic jam, it ignored the basic needs, particular charms and local focus of Main Street, Montana and Pico. Most of the galleries. boutiques. stores, services,cafes and restaurants on those streets were owned and operated by residents and were of a piece with Santa Monica. They were here because we needed them to be here. A great many of them are gone now, owing to the City’s capitulation to commercial landlords.
All the local independent stationary stores are gone, but Staples is here. Call a plumber or electrician and these days he’s more apt to come from Beverly Hills than Santa Monica. But the Wherehouse and Blockbusters are gone, and Vidiots is still here, no thanks to the City’s mercantile wizards, who once charged it with violating the sign code because it featured painted scenes from films on its windows.
Those same wizards vetoed the only chain store residents have ever wanted — Target.
Never mind. We may not have a Target, but we have a Tiffany’s.
Now, having dramatically cut local business, the City has tuned up its loony BUY LOCAL campaign and simultaneously adopted a “transaction and use” tax, which will hit some of our oldest and best businesses hard.
Barrett’s Appliances has been in business for 64 years. It’s a Santa Monica
institution. It sells great appliances. Its service is impeccable. There’s a Barrett art gallery at Santa Monica College. The new tax will add enough to the cost of a dishwasher or refrigerator at Barrett’s to encourage naive shoppers to go out of town in search of “bargains.”