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  • by Matthew Hall

Desperate businesses seek new coalition to tackle crime and homelessness

by Matthew Hall November 29, 2023

Businesses are still struggling with the impact of homelessness and a new group is pushing for changes at the local level. Credit: Scott Snowden

A group of more than thirty local businesses have formed a new coalition under the auspices of the California Restaurant Association (CRA) to advocate for businesses facing what they describe as a crisis driven by homelessness and crime.

CRA is a statewide organization that provides advocacy, advice, support and resources for the hospitality industry. They traditionally operate regional chapters that work on the full spectrum of issues impacting restaurants but the Santa Monica initiative is a new model for the group with a tighter focus, both geographic and topical.

CRA said Hospitality Santa Monica, a CRA coalition, has grown out of the frustration felt by local businesses.

“Our Santa Monica members have reached a breaking point as they face a barrage of crime and homelessness issues,” said Jot Condie, California Restaurant Association President and CEO. “The safety of their guests and team members is at risk every day that the city doesn’t do more to turn things around.”

Jeremy Adler, of Cobi’s and Lanea, said while crime and homelessness are present everywhere, they are having a disproportionate impact in Santa Monica.

“I want my employees to be able to walk back to their car without fear and I want my guests to be able to sit on the sidewalk unencumbered by externalities,” he said.

Adler said the reality of crime and homelessness hits hospitality workers harder than others due to the already stressful nature of their work and the reality of working hours late at night.

“I don’t want to lose my people and I love them, feel responsibility to them and the families they are taking care of. I take that responsibility humbly, responsibly and seriously,” he said. “I want to make sure their physical mental health wellbeing is cared for as much as the financial.”

He said a recent incident with an individual trying to tamper with his restaurant’s gas line is the kind of problem that wears on the mental health of employees.

“I want that person to get support and get housed and whatnot but that could have been a catastrophe if one of our employees wasn’t aware and prevented this person from affecting a main gas line to a restaurant,” he said.

Coalition members said workers who do not feel safe will find work in other places and the cost of providing basic security is making it difficult to do business in Santa Monica.

“Due to the lack of action in ensuring safe and clean streets, we’ve had to allocate additional labor to secure the hotel perimeter. This is essential for the protection of both our team members and guests,” said Diego Ruiz de Porras, General Manager of Hotel Oceana in a statement. “Unfortunately, we frequently face the need to evacuate homeless individuals sleeping in the back alley and the safety of our guests on the Palisades Promenade is a growing concern.”

Condie said the first step is organizing like-minded businesses. From there, he said the group would expand to education with outreach efforts to customers, politicians and residents regarding the issue.

“It’s about engagement,” he said. “Those that are involved here are members of the community, they love Santa Monica and want the best for Santa Monica. What they’ve been seeing and how it’s impacting their customers, their employees, it’s just reached a crisis level. This is about organizing. The quality of life, preserving the unique experience that Santa Monica offers, that seems to be — based on discussions with restaurants — the sheen is wearing off as they talk to a lot of their customers and they want to do something about it, we’re responding to what we’re hearing from our members.”

Members of the new group said they are not trying to replace any of the existing organizations in Santa Monica but they said the hospitality industry has unique challenges that require a focused approach.

“We joined this coalition effort to affect positive change through better policies that will clean up our streets and lower the cost of staying in business here,” Lucian Tudor, CEO of Global Dining Inc., which includes 1212 Santa Monica, said in a statement. “We aren’t standing by because we believe in Santa Monica.”

Adler said the industry needs to feel its value and a priority for city leaders.

“You know, anytime anyone needs a donation and they come and ask a restaurant, we always help out and set them up for success. We just want to be set up for success too. We want to be able to focus on hospitality, we want to be able to focus on quality of service and quality of product, it’s very hard to take care of others when you yourself don’t feel taken care of.”

Anyone interested in joining can visit for more information.

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