Mirror Staff Writer
After hearing from Santa Monica College (SMC) President Dr. Chui L. Tsang and members of the community, Santa Monica’s City Council unanimously approved extending the use of Beach Lot 5 for shuttle parking until the College finds another location.
Shuttle parking at the beach began the end of August last year. Shuttle parking had been at the Santa Monica Airport since the 1994 Northridge Earthquake but those spaces became unavailable when construction of the Airport Park began.
Tsang stressed to the Council that if parking at the beach could not be extended, the “loss of the 400 spaces would wreak havoc on our enrollment and will create a lot of problems for us structurally.” He acknowledged the shuttle program was affecting some of the City’s neighborhoods by stating, SMC “want[s] to work with the neighbors to deal with their concerns.” He admitted that though the College asked for the extension through December 19, that date was not absolute. He concluded his remarks by promising to report to the Council on the progress the College was making on securing a new site and “how they were addressing the neighbors’ concerns.”
City Manager P. Lamont Ewell expressed his support for the College’s request as long as they complied with the conditions he suggested. The conditions were the college, through the City, is to apply for a Coastal Commission permit for using the lot; the President should attend neighborhood meetings along with Ewell to help develop strategies to eliminate negative neighborhood impacts; the College should lease environmentally friendly shuttles; and the College should provide the reports the President offered to make.
The Council approved the City Manager’s conditions and added the condition suggested by Council member Kevin McKeown that the College should concentrate on reducing automobile traffic, noting, “Frankly, it’s environmentally insane having students drive the length of the City and then driving them back” to the College by shuttle.
Community members who spoke were divided on the issue. Ocean Park resident Peter Gellerman emphasized that routing buses in a residential neighborhood was “causing the blocking of traffic” and a lot of noise.
Randy Pollack, who is both a resident and a realtor, pointed out the shuttle program is causing “property values to drop.”
Education activist Gleam Davis noted Santa Monica is a Lifelong Learning Community and therefore should “give the College time to come up with a solution to the parking problem.”
Pico neighborhood resident Linda Sullivan felt use of the beach lot by the College was appropriate because the lot is “underutilized.”
The Council will review the final agreement with the College on August 8.
In other news, Council members also extended an interim ordinance that allows sidewalk cafes of up to 200 feet an ancillary use to businesses in all commercial districts except the Special Office District. Parking requirements for these cafes will now be waived and an administrative process to evaluate applications will be approved.