Santa Monica proposes to raise downtown parking rates, and it’s all over the news in the Southland – nationally, in fact, when one looks at the Web and the blogs. If, as writer Ron Koslow said, real estate was to the 70s what marijuana was to the 60s, then it seems to what be parking and traffic is to the 00s.
The proposed increases in charges for parking downtown were presented to a gathering of about 40 Santa Monicans at an October 15 meeting sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce’s Land Use Committee. The assembled group, which had been moved from the Chamber’s offices to RAND Corporation to accommodate the turnout, responded to City officials and the City’s parking consultant with multiple questions and comments.
The key elements of the proposed hikes are: maximum daily fees to go from $7 to $9, the first increase since 1997; monthly rates to go from $75 to $110, the first increase since 1998; evening flat fees to go from $3 to $5, the two-hour; free period during the day to be cut to one hour, with a $1 charge for the second hour street meters to go from $1 to $1.50.
Turoff, the project manager for Walker Parking Consultants retained by the City, explained that the current parking rates were not being used to manage downtown parking, and that it was both cheaper and “greener” to price parking in a management strategy than to build more parking spaces. He also compared Santa Monica’s mostly lower rates with Beverly Hills, the Grove, and other locations.
Turoff reported that Parking Structures 1 through 6 and 9 represent 30 percent of the spaces downtown but handle 70 percent of the cars parked in that area. (Structures 1 through 6 are the ones behind the Promenade on 2nd and 4th Streets between Wilshire Boulevard and Broadway; Structure 9 is the one on 4th Street just north of Wilshire.)
Those structures not only handle the bulk of downtown’s business patrons, but also a large number of employees who do “the two-hour shuffle,” said Turoff, moving their cars at intervals in order to park free all day – a practice that not only interferes with employee productivity, but also impacts parking availability and prevents the distribution of parking resources by means of price management.
City Director of Housing and Economic Development Andy Agle opened the meeting by explaining that a City task force to develop a parking strategy for downtown had concluded some years ago that 1,700 new parking spaces were needed, and the task force recommended rebuilding two of the smaller existing structures (Nos. 1 and 6) and building a new structure on 5th Street to provide those spaces. Because those findings may have become outdated, the City recently engaged the Walker firm to determine how much parking was really needed and to identify revenue sources for the undertaking.