After a lengthy public hearing last Tuesday, Santa Monica’s City Council voted unanimously to direct City staff to develop a one-year pilot program that would permit business employees to park in residential preferential parking areas that are vacant weekdays between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. and adjacent to key commercial areas.
The preferential parking areas that would be included in the program are located near Montana Avenue, Pico Boulevard and Ocean Park Boulevard. A decision on whether to issue the permits to the employer to “provide flexibility without the potential for abuse” or directly to employees will be made by the Council following a survey of businesses by City staff.
Before the vote, the Council heard from both residents and business owners. Most business owners supported the progran proposed by City staff, in which a set percentage of spaces in preferential zones near commercial areas would be designated for use by businesses’ employees. Former Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce President Michael Gruning of Gruning Eye Care on Montana Avenue said, “For us merchants to survive, there must be adequate parking for our employees. For the proposed parking [areas] most residents are out at work when our employees most need parking.”
Trader Joe’s representative Jim Stebinger who also is a member of the Pico Improvement Organization told the Council that adding employee parking to preferential parking zones is not “a threat to preferential parking areas because it’s an addition to the preferential parking ordinance. It’s a partial solution to a vexing problem.”
Montana jewelry store owner Joan Druxman Jones said that she owes her employees “ a high quality of working conditions and I can’t do that because I can’t provide the parking. They are running out all day to plug the meters or move their cars from the two-hour zone for the street cleaning and at 4 p.m. in the afternoon in the fall they are off and running to move their car from six blocks away because they’re afraid to walk in the dark by themselves.”
Many of the residents who spoke were opposed. Sunset Park resident Emily Hodgen stressed, “I’m against losing any part of the residential preferential parking. I have not forgotten how hard we had to fight to get it.” She then pointed out that it benefits the disabled and residents who are “carrying packages or are encumbered by children. This is musical cars and it’s not a game and it’s not fun for anyone.”
Christian Boyce opposed the plan on the grounds that it conflicts with the idea of City “sustainability,” for which the City just received an award. He urged employees to use the Big Blue Bus in line with sustainability principles or “the City should give back the award.” He also called the plan unfair. “Why does it cost me $15 for a residential parking permit, but it will cost a business $120? There’s no extra enforcement needed. Why aren’t students permitted to get into this? There are plenty of students who’d like to park around the high school and Santa Monica College.”
Resident Susan Hartley echoed Boyce noting “it seems to me this measure is not well thought out. What about providing employee parking at City lots, the Civic Center and the lots downtown and providing employees bus passes to their various places of employment?”
Council member Kevin McKeown, who crafted the approved motion that modified the City staff proposal, lamented, as did many residents, that In Santa Monica we no longer have what he called “Doris Day” parking” where you could always pull up in front of your house and there would always be a parking space waiting for the 50s sedan. Even with preferential parking we can no longer deliver that, as some streets are over burdened and others under parked during the day.”
Council member Ken Genser supported McKeown’s motion allowing business employees to park on streets “that are vacant regularly as it wouldn’t “burden the residents.”
Mayor Pam O’Connor concluded that the proposed program was a means of “managing a scarce resource.”
Council member Richard Bloom stated that the City has to be cautious “in the way we craft this program. If we don’t do it right, we’re really creating a situation that is going to be disastrous for the City’s businesses and residents.”
In other business, in spite of safety concerns expressed by many neighbors, the Council approved City staff’s concept design for Euclid Park and rejected residents’ requests for a fence. The park is located between Broadway and Colorado on the 1500 block of Euclid Street.
The Council also approved one-time temporary pedestrian access for students attending summer session at the Santa Monica College’s new Bundy Campus.Finally, it appointed Brenda Katz to the Pier Restoration Corporation’s Board of Directors.