Santa Monica Launches “Hack the Beach” Contest to Improve Mobility, Civic Engagement


Hack the Beach

Do you have an innovative idea that can bring your city into the 21st century? How about a new app that will improve how we get around? Or how we interact with our local representatives?

The city of Santa Monica is partnering with the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Santa Monica, Inc., WeWork, Cross Campus, Expert Dojo, General Assembly, and the Santa Monica Pier to plumb the talent of Silicon Beach in search of new and innovative ways to get people around and involved in their community.

“Much more than a hackathon, Hack the Beach: The Contest, allows anyone in the community to submit proposals for apps, ideas, processes, and/or technology to help Santa Monica improve our sense of Community, Mobility, and Civic Engagement,” according to the Hack the Beach website.

“Prizes will be awarded for the best ideas, including bringing you and your entire team out on stage at the 2016 Twilight Concert Series, loads of PR, mentorship and coaching from local accelerators, and more,” the website states. “Go behind the scenes with the experts at City Hall and collaborate with some of the best and brightest technology companies in town to usher in the next generation of local government.”

The contest kicks off on October 6 from 6 to 8 p.m. at General Assembly (1520 2nd Street) and runs through January. The contest is accepting “quick application” submissions now through October 9. Then, from October 9 through November 3, participants can submit “detailed applications” before beginning the build phase, which will run through early 2016.

What should contestants expect to be working on? What do “civic engagement,” “community,” and “mobility” mean in this context?

Rethinking and broadening ways citizens interact with their local officials is key to a modern model of civic engagement.

“The defining characteristic of Government 2.0 has to be interaction. The government of the future must embrace technology as a means of connecting with, and understanding the needs of, its people. Santa Monica has an exuberant resident community and firm grounding in civic engagement. Now it’s time to take that to the next level,” the website reads.

What are they looking for?

  • Create an interactive City Council Agenda that incites community participation, and allows the public to comment on agenda items by video, share those videos with their neighbors, and upvote videos they like
  • Build tools that make it easier for Santa Monicans to connect with each other and their government
  • Present an exciting new way to engage our citizens in the public process

The future of mobility is about rethinking a car-only paradigm of transportation and integrating our growing multi-modal grid into how we get around on a daily basis.

“With the incoming Expo Line and expansion of Big Blue Bus service, Santa Monica is poised to transform the car-centric culture that has gridlocked our region for decades. How can we integrate multi-modal transportation, both here and across Los Angeles, with the people, to establish a new model of mobility for the future?” the site reads.

The Chamber, the city, and Big Blue Bus held a civic hacking event in June at which Big Blue Bus opened its real-time data information to app developers. As a result, the municipal bus service’s real-time arrival information is available on a variety of platforms now, including NextBus, Google Maps, and the Transit app.

According to the website, here is what they are looking for around “mobility.”

  • Build a technology that allows local workers to connect and carpool with other workers who live near them
  • Develop a tool to alert Santa Monicans when peak-hour traffic along their commute route reaches a level they prefer
  • Present an exciting new strategy that makes it easier for residents and visitors to get out of their cars and use bikes, buses, or their feet
  • Develop an outreach tool to get residents, commuters, and visitors informed and excited about the Expo Light Rail

And, under the headline “Community,” here’s what the website says: “Santa Monica is a diverse landscape of over 90,000 residents and hundreds of thousands more who come here for business and pleasure. Maintaining an inclusive and diverse community means increasing housing affordability, addressing homelessness, and supporting Santa Monica as a learning community.”

Here’s what they want to see for innovation around “community”:

  • Create a search platform for subsidized housing in our region
  • Connect Santa Monicans to services available in their neighborhoods, like job training, homeless services, senior services, day care, local schools, etc.
  • Present an exciting new way for Santa Monicans to access housing or social services

For more information about the contest, how to apply, and various related events, visit

Jason Islas
Jason Islas
Jason Islas is the editor of Santa Monica Next and the director of the Vote Local Campaign. Before joining Next in May 2014, Jason had covered land use, transit, politics and breaking news for The Lookout, the city’s oldest news website, since February 2011.


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