It was during what seemed an endless hearing on preferential parking zones at last Tuesday’s City Council meeting that we had an epiphany: City Hall has taken this great old beach town too far down the rabbit hole, and if we do not back out now, we will be beyond help. The subject of the hearing was, in the less than mellifluous words of the staff report, “The Creation of a Limited and Targeted On-Street Permit Parking Program for Employees of Businesses Adjacent to Certain Preferential Parking Zones along the Pico Boulevard and Ocean Park Boulevard Commercial Corridors, and the 200 Foot Expansion of Preferential Parking Zones, including G, K, O, DD, TT, YY and ZZ.”To put it another way, and City Hall always puts it at least one other way, “This report proposes that the City Council create a pilot for a limited and targeted on-street permit parking program in the 10th Street and Pico Boulevard area for employees on certain blocks in the City where parking is available after preferential parking regulations have been implemented. It also gives the Council several other alternatives regarding this program. This report also proposes a broad policy commitment to leave most of Alta Avenue and the blocks north of Alta unregulated in order to maintain the current, relatively balanced parking occupancies on the residential blocks north of the Montana Avenue business corridor. This report also proposes other changes to the permit parking program that would address concerns of some residents living in close proximity to existing zones.“This proposal represents one element of the City’s response to community concerns about parking conditions in commercial areas and adjacent neighborhoods. It resulted from a Council / Planning Commission task force review of parking problems and potential solutions along east-west commercial corridors in the City. The task force considered a variety of options, such as changing development standards to make it easier to build new parking facilities, reviewing curb marking practices, and reconfiguring spaces along commercial streets to allow for more on-street parking where possible, as well as the proposed program. In addition to considering policies that allow enhanced access to on-street parking, the City also actively encourages employees and employers to help employees get to work without cars, both through its transportation management program and by providing an award-winning transit service…“In the December 21st Information Item, staff identified specific blocks which could accommodate a total of 156 block-specific daytime permits…” The nearly interminable report goes on and on, but you get the idea. Since last June, City staff has spent an extraordinary amount of its time and our money developing a pilot parking program that, in its complexity, rivals the Time Warner AOL merger papers, and, not incidentally, is opposed by most of the residents who live on the affected streets. Clearly, when City staff goes to these demented lengths – parsing streets, treating side yards differently than front yards, and so on – to squeeze out a few more parking spaces for employees, and the City Council accepts the dementia and discusses it as if it were sensible and reasonable, City Hall has crossed the line into some netherland in which down is up, and fro is to, and nonsense is sense. In fact, the program is further and compelling proof that Santa Monica has outgrown itself, and must begin subtracting, not adding. Still, the City planners and consultants who are working on the revision of the land use and circulation elements of the General Plan, aka “Shape the Future 2025,” continue to propose more…of virtually everything – except open space, of course. The planners have recently begun to pair the outsized surge in development with a parallel surge in regulations, perhaps under the misapprehension that heavily regulated overdevelopment is okay. It isn’t. In virtually every instance, the excessive regulations are as onerous as excessive development. Apparently, the planners and so-called policy makers have spent so many years in the manic growth mode that they literally can’t imagine another way, though growth on the scale they envision is simply not possible, much less desirable or workable. Here and now, the only way forward is back.
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