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Walker Parking Study Prompts Lengthy Discussion by City Council:

The Santa Monica City Council talked for approximately two hours about a potential update to the downtown parking program as outlined in the Walker Parking Study, a document that Councilmember Kevin McKeown called “revolutionary.” The Council ultimately voted 6 to 1 to authorize staff to return to Council with actions necessary to implement the recommendations of the study, with Councilmember Robert Holbrook being the dissenting voice.

The Walker Study is a follow-up to the Downtown Parking Program, a ten-year strategic plan that calls for the reconstruction of parking structure numbers 1, 3 and 6 and the construction of additional parking on Fifth Street. On December 4, 2007, the City Council authorized a contract with Walker Parking Consultants to analyze City parking operations and to provide an update to the Downtown Parking Program financing plan. Walker Parking Consultants found that other than the additional 576 parking spaces planned in the reconstruction of parking structures 1 and 6, Downtown Santa Monica does not need additional public parking at this time, but that a hike to on-street and off-street public parking rates downtown needs to happen in order to increase availability of parking for visitors to downtown.

Walker’s overall recommendation to the city is that although some public structures experience unacceptably high levels of occupancies, a large number of parking spaces sit vacant even on the busiest days, including private parking spaces. Walker concluded that rate hikes will maximize the turnover of on-street parking spaces, bring Santa Monica parking rates in line with those of greater Los Angeles, and raise revenue for additional parking improvements. If implemented, the hourly rate for on-street parking would go from $1.00 per hour to $1.50 per hour, and the hours of operation would be expanded from 6:00 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. Parking meters would be replaced with meters that accept credit cards, and then rates would be raised to $2 or more per hour. The two-hour free rule in downtown structures would change to one hour free, with a charge of $1 beginning the second hour of parking. The daily maximum rate in the city’s parking structures would be raised to $9 from $7, and the evening flat rate would be raised from $3 to $5. The monthly parking rate would be raised from $82.50 to $121 per month in the core parking structures. Walker projects that the additional gross revenue gained from the increased parking rates would be roughly $2,620,000 in 2011.

Holbrook opposed the plan mainly because of the elimination of the two-hours-free concept and because of the $5 evening flat fee. Some other councilmembers had mixed feelings about the elimination of the two-hours-free concept, but saw the merits of using the new one- hour-free policy to discourage local employees from moving their cars every two hours throughout the day, thus clogging the lots and parking for free.

Other Council action at the meeting included a 5-2 vote in favor of upholding an appeal of the Landmarks Commission’s designation of the commercial building located at 3030-3060 Nebraska Avenue as a city landmark. The original designation was based on the structure’s association with Ray Kappe, and the building’s architectural merit. The property was the initial home of SCI-Arc upon the school’s founding in 1972 through 1992, but the Council decided it did not sufficiently represent the school. Councilmembers McKeown and Shriver dissented, with McKeown stating twice that the property meets at least two of the criteria for landmarking, and only needs to meet one criterion to get landmark status.

A recommendation to authorize the City Manager to enter into exclusive negotiations with Metropolitan Pacific Capital Inc. in partnership with AMC Entertainment Inc. to develop and operate a multiplex cinema o at 1320 Fourth Street passed 4-3. The council affirmed its support for the Ahwahnee Principles for Resource-Efficient Communities, and agreed that staff should review the City’s parks and recreation facilities fees, which have not been adjusted in more than 35 years.

The next City Council meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 22 at 5:45 p.m.

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