Higher parking rates are in effect for Downtown parking structures and the Civic Center. The Santa Monica City Council approved the increases as part of an initial phase of parking rate hikes to increase revenue in the city.
The maximum daily rate for the Downtown structures one through nine increased from $7 to $9 a day, with the Civic Center maximum rising from $8 to $9 a day. Evening flat rates for Downtown structures increased from $3 to $5, allowing for a lower $3 rate for the Main Library and Civic Center lots. Monthly rates increased to $121, a $38.50 jump.
The rate increase will generate $2.1 million in general fund revenues, with $55,000 net increase in support for the Civic Center parking structure, according to the report City staff prepared for council. Lot six will receive $600,000 annually to finance major renovations. The remaining money will fund other “study recommendations” for the city’s structures.
The Council debated reducing the coveted two hours free-parking in city structures at its May 11 meeting , but the idea brought public dissaproval. Councilman Bobby Shriver raised concern that employees will continue to hog parking for customers with the “two-hour shuffle,” continuously moving to a new spot to stay within the free parking time limit. Shriver said a reduced one-hour limit for free parking would push employees to buy monthly parking.
The Bayside City Corporation, the city entity that manages the Third Street Promenade, did not feel the current study provided enough proof on employee parking and recommended the council wait to see how the first phase of hikes “affect behavior.” The group wants to stay competitive with other shopping areas in the city that offer the same free parking. This is the first of many parking adjustments over the “next year or two” designed to open parking congestion and increase revenue for lot maintenance, according to the staff report.
Councilmember Richard Bloom reiterated concerns that such decreases in free parking would be “counterproductive” for businesses in the area that has already been hit by the depressed economy.
“We all hate to pay to park, there is no question about that, we are drawn to free parking or cheap parking,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown. “We’ve already had the policy discussion on this and we’ve acknowledged there is no such thing as free parking.”
The Council endorsed the Walker Parking Study in September of 2009 to evaluate parking operations in Downtown Santa Monica. The study analyzed revenue opportunities from rate hikes, property assessments and other sources to fun improvements for the structures. The study concluded that increased rates would open availability to visitors and encourage use of structures that are not being utilized during off-peak hours.
The Bayside District Corporation advocates employee parking at off-peak lots by maintaining the existing parking rates at the Main Library Structure, Civic Center Parking Structure, and Civic Auditorium lot.
Mirror Staff Reporterkatherine@smmirror.com