I’ve often wondered how the luxury hotels in Santa Monica handle having so many homeless people in the immediate neighborhood. Shutters has a reputation as one of the first independent luxury hotels in the United States – how does that image fit with the dozen-odd homeless people, cocooned in blankets, sleeping in the park above the hotel?
It turns out that the hotels in Santa Monica are choosing to take the matter into their own hands, by influencing the upcoming election. The Edward Thomas group, owner of Shutters on the Beach and Casa del Mar, has funded a series of political ads attacking councilman Kevin McKeown for not doing more to solve the homeless problem. The commercials, written and produced by someone to lazy to even come up with statistics to skew, claim that “visibly…the homeless population has at least tripled [in the last four years]” And even though that particular commercial has been pulled, the L.A. Times’ Steve Lopez still covered it last week.
When I looked at the City of Santa Monica website, I found that there is an extensive section addressed to the homeless problem. And one of these questions is whether Santa Monica’s city services for the homeless might be attracting more than the City’s fair share of the L.A. region’s 88,000 homeless people. Perhaps the Edwards Thomas group thinks that this might be the case, and that Councilman McKeown’s voting record (and promise to combat the homeless program if elected contributes to this. But the answer, according to the City, is consistent with what you’d expect: the homeless are attracted to the Santa Monica climate, to the parks to sleep in, and to the tourists who provide the panhandlers with money. If the programs the city provides are attracting the homeless, then it should result in fewer homeless people.
But according to Lopez, it is the possibility of affordable housing on land adjacent to Casa del Mar that is what the Edwards Group doesn’t want. They’re supporting two other candidates, current mayor Bob Holbrook and environmentalist Terry O’Day. O’Day’s official campaign website doesn’t even mention the homeless issue, although Holbrook lists it as a top priority Maybe his policy to bring more affordable housing to the community is referring to affordable housing far from Shutters on the Beach, because, as Lopez hypothesizes, that may be the reason that the hotel owners are paying for ads attacking McKeown.
So now I don’t wonder quite so much, about how the hotels are handling the homeless problem on their doorsteps. I wonder how much business it might be costing them to have this issue so visible in Santa Monica? Certainly more than the few thousand dollars it takes to invest in an attack ad.