Third Street Promenade

Santa Monica, California
Source: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center (PBIC)


A pedestrian mall in downtown Santa Monica was avoided by pedestrians due to abandoned storefronts, poor pedestrian connections to the mall, and a large homeless population.


Third Street Promenade today.

The Third Street Promenade was a commercial district made into a pedestrian mall in the 1960s. Over the years it had become neglected and had fallen into disrepair. By the early 1980s, competition emerged from a new regional shopping center nearby. Twenty years after it was created, the Third Street Mall, or "The Old Mall," as it was known, was blighted, and considered an economic disaster. It felt isolated and there was not enough pedestrian activity to make shoppers feel comfortable walking along the mall. Efforts to restore economic health to the district and the greater "Bayside District" community surrounding it were badly needed.


New design guidelines mandate a pedestrian scale to new development and encourage pedestrian amenities.

The Third Street Promenade was developed in the late 1980's by the City of Santa Monica and supportive property owners who worked to revitalize the deteriorated downtown area and create a vibrant center for community life and retail activity. Financed through a citywide bond measure, the Third Street Development Corporation hired architectural firm Roma Design Group to plan the redesign the 25-year-old outdoor Santa Monica Mall. The renamed Third Street Promenade opened on September 16, 1989.

A three-block segment of Third Street was closed to vehicle traffic to enhance the pedestrian experience on the Promenade. Shop owners said that they initially felt that preventing cars from accessing their front doors was destroying their business. As a result, when the project was built, the City constructed a road through the Promenade, but placed removable bollards at the ends of each block. The bollards were put in place the first weekend to test it as a pedestrian mall, and the experiment was so successful that it was eventually closed for good. Now, Third Street provides a festive pedestrian space protected from auto traffic in the heart of downtown Santa Monica, which is a frequent destination for both locals and tourists worldwide.

Downtown Santa Monica, Inc (formerly the Bayside District Corporation), established by the City to manage the Promenade, is a private/public partnership paid through an assessment on the properties in the Promenade. In 2007 the management of the District changed to a Property Based Assessment District. This change created a new hospitality ambassador program and an enhanced maintenance program that helped the District become the multi-million dollar retail and entertainment district that it is today.

There are 13 Board members, 6 of whom are appointed by City Council, 6 of whom are elected by property owners, and 1 who is chosen by the City Manager. DTSM maintains the public space, assists in the implementation of the design guidelines, and represents the entire Downtown Santa Monica area in marketing, promotions, special events and especially long term planning.

The majority of the project involved the creation of a set of design guidelines, which promote the preservation of historic buildings along Third Street, mandate a pedestrian scale to new development, and encourage the addition of pedestrian amenities by property owners. Some of these amenities include street trees, benches, fountains, landscaping, decorative and functional lighting, lampposts, banners, textured pavement, street vendors, and street performers. Street vendors and performers are regulated by the City and are licensed for business on the Promenade.

The City is currently undergoing an update to the Downtown Specific Plan that was last modified in 1997.


The District has become and continues to be an award-winning downtown revitalization project. Even after 25 years, Downtown Santa Monica thrives.

The District has more than surpassed the City's original objectives and has become one of the most successful award-winning downtown revitalization projects in the country. Not only has the Third Street Promenade been an economic boost to downtown businesses, its outstanding success has made Santa Monica a major Southern California destination. The revitalization of downtown spurred city wide hotel development and corporate investment into the community.

Local residents and tourists from around the country come to Santa Monica to enjoy the pedestrian experience on the Promenade. Weekend crowds are often very dense with a swarm of pedestrian activity radiating from the Promenade to other downtown establishments, Palisades Park, and the Santa Monica Pier. Parking in various City lots surrounding the Third Street Promenade is plentiful but can be difficult to find during peak hours.

It is often said that nobody walks in Los Angeles, but at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, pedestrian activity is everywhere. Don't be surprised to find a crowd, especially on a Friday or Saturday night, although practically any time of the day it is a popular place for both locals and tourists.

From a pedestrian safety perspective, the three-block pedestrian mall essentially shields pedestrians from risks of being struck by motor vehicles. Also, the implementation of this pedestrian mall has led to increased diversion of pedestrian activity from other parallel streets, where pedestrian crash risks are much greater. Therefore, although no formal evaluation studies have been conducted, pedestrian safety has likely been enhanced not only on Third Street, but also on adjacent streets, since conflicts between pedestrians and motorists have been virtually eliminated on that street.


Kathleen Rawson, CEO
Downtown Santa Monica, Inc.
1351 Third Street Promenade, Suite 201
Santa Monica, CA 90401
Phone: (310) 393-8355
Fax: (310) 458-3921
Email: or

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