Councilmember floats idea of downtown ambassador program modeled after those in place in larger cities

An exploratory committee that would include business representatives, the police department, and various Palm Springs departments with downtown responsibilities could be the next step.
In downtown Los Angeles’s South Park, ambassadors provide assistance as well as upkeep. A similar program for Downtown Palm Springs will be up for discussion soon. (Photo: South Park Business Improvement District)

Taking inspiration from major downtown areas in cities including San Diego and Waikiki, Palm Springs City Councilmember Ron deHarte recently proposed a new program that would allow “ambassadors” for the city to engage with tourists, business owners and residents. 

As envisioned, deHarte said ambassadors would provide cleaning and landscaping work downtown, but also engage in outreach, customer service and personal interaction. 

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“In Palm Springs, the ambassador team’s purpose might be to provide directional information, help keep the area clean, add extra eyes and ears to report public safety concerns, and serve as a first line of communication for the unhoused,” deHarte said via email. 

On a trip to Hawaii in 2022, deHarte said he noticed people in yellow vests with walkie-talkies talking to tourists, greeting people, giving directions and using brooms to keep the sidewalk clean. Last month, he described his vision for a similar program during a Palm Springs City Council meeting.

The city and the police department would not manage the ambassadors; rather, deHarte said that these programs are often funded and operated by a separate entity, like a tourism improvement or business improvement district. 

The ambassadors would also not act as social workers, mental health specialists or security guards when interacting with homeless residents. Instead, deHarte said, they would step in during situations where business owners are having trouble communicating.

“[The ambassador program] is one way to allow businesses to have the power to control the maintenance, safety, and beautification around their business and in the public right-of-way,” he said. 

A major aim of the program would be to enhance tourism, shopping and the overall Palm Springs experience. 

During a July Council meeting, deHarte asked the city manager to establish an exploratory committee that would include business representatives, the police department, and various Palm Springs departments with downtown responsibilities. He would also like residents and groups that work with the local homeless community to have a “significant voice at the table.”

That exploratory committee would then decide if the idea should move forward and, if so, how many ambassadors would be employed, what their salary would be, and what their specific duties would entail.

The issue has not yet been taken up by the City Council, and has not yet been listed on any upcoming agendas. 


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