The Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved a one-year pilot parking program at its meeting last Tuesday that permits people who work at businesses in the vicinity of 10th Street and Pico Boulevard to park in the nearby neighborhood preferential parking zone.For the pilot program, the City would issue 20 parking permits to Pico businesses with a dearth of on-site parking that could only be used by the designated employee during the day on a certain street. In addition, this “narrow pilot program” would limit the number of permits per business to five, at $120 per permit. Council member Richard Bloom expressed the Council’s approval of this “small scale program” when he stated, “This continues to be one of the most intractable problems we have in Santa Monica. The need for parking resources far outstrips our ability to provide it. For my part preferential parking … is an important thing that we do for the residents but I never ever believed or maintained that we reserve residential parking other than out of necessity for the benefits of residents. I don’t believe it exclusively belongs to residents, if we have the ability in a meaningful way, in a workable way to accommodate additional parking for the business community.”Echoing Bloom was Council member Herb Katz, who pointed out that it “has been demonstrated [by a City study that] there are a lot of empty spaces during the day … all the time. And I live in the middle of a lot of this. I see it. There’s no reason we can’t start sharing with the employees so they do have a place to park. I think this is a good start.”Council member Kevin McKeown said, “I feel our first responsibility is always to protect our residents and protect our residential neighborhoods. At the same time, to continue to have as many empty spaces as we do on residential streets that just remain unused is to ignore available parking. The greatest thing we’re going to gain here is some real experience in trying to do this. We as a Council have to balance two things here. On the one hand, I really feel we must forward an intelligent plan to provide parking to the employees of our valued businesses especially in our neighborhood business districts. On the other hand we have really be careful not to threaten our neighborhoods.”In contrast, most of the residents who spoke about the program were opposed to it, while members of the business community supported the plan. The President of the Friends of Sunset Park, Zina Josephs, told the Council, “As you can see there’s a strong feeling [against the plan] because some of our residents spent many years trying to get preferential parking to protect themselves from the college and they thought they succeeded in that and now they feel they are being encroached upon again.” She suggested that the City “should look at better utilization of existing parking behind businesses before encroaching on the residential streets.” Thomas Elias suggested employing other means, such as using “parking spaces at Virginia Park and using the parking spaces behind the 16th hundred block of Ocean Park Boulevard to solve this problem.”Sunset Park resident Charles Donaldson had a different view. He emphasized to the Council that, “if we don’t help the Pico merchants, we’re going to be in trouble. I don’t want to live next to a chain of thrift shops, massage parlors and empty storefronts. That area of Pico contains small businesses for the most part trying to serve the general area and they can’t make a go of it. We don’t want to drive these people away from our community.”Attorney Tom Larmore, who spoke on behalf of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, told the Council that the Chamber supported the plan, but suggested that it should be “tried on a broader basis.”Business owner Lee Fox said, “People who live in Santa Monica want to work close to where they live. If we can’t provide them with parking, we have to go somewhere else. We have 12 spots behind a 10,000 square foot building. We don’t have anywhere else for them to park despite begging other places to let our employees park there.”The Council then voted 4 to 1 to against permitting a preferential parking zone on the blocks north of Alta between Lincoln and 17th Street. Members directed staff to meet with the residents on Alta to allow two preferential parking slots in front of houses whose primary entrance is on Alta. In other business, the Council approved a refined schematic design and operating parameters for 415 Pacific Coast Highway, the former Marion Davies estate, though several beach house owners again expressed varying degrees of dissatisfaction with both the design and operating plans, and two speakers suggested that the site should be used exclusively as a swim center.In the course of the discussion, City staff reported that the project costs had exceeded the $21 million grant from the Annenberg Foundation. The Council also approved a resolution in support of Assembly Bill 359 that would establish a pilot dog beach program at Dockweiler State Beach and asked that such legislation be expanded to include Santa Monica Beach.In addition, the Council also directed the City Attorney to appeal the court decision that rejected the lawsuit filed by the City of Santa Monica and others against the City of Los Angeles (Playa Capital Company, Real Party Interest) regarding the development of Playa Vista Phase II. The lawsuit claimed the project’s Environmental Impact (EIR) did not properly address the traffic impacts the project would cause.Finally, the Council reappointed Nancy Greenstein to the Los Angeles County West Vector Control District.Council members Pam O’Connor and Ken Genser were absent. Genser recently had a kidney transplant and is recovering.
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