Pico Group Seeks to Block Parking Structure, Charges Discrimination
By Teresa Rochester
Seeking to temporarily block the construction of a five-level parking structure on Santa Monica College's main campus, the Pico Neighborhood Association has filed a suit against the City, alleging that the project would constitute discrimination and lead to a loss of civil rights.
The suit -- filed against the City, City Council, Planning Commission and College last month -- alleges that the agencies violated both state and federal environmental laws protecting residents against the impacts of projects.
At the heart of the lawsuit is 17th Street, which runs through the Pico neighborhood and directly to the entrance of the proposed 486-space, student-only, parking structure that will be built on Pico Boulevard. The council approved the project -- which will replace a smaller structure damaged in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake -- in a 5 to 2 vote in October.
Potential traffic impacts to the street were not studied as part of the 131,600-square-foot project's Environmental Impact Report. Pico residents fear that the street will become the main route, as well as the shortcut, to the parking garage, jamming up traffic and impacting the environment.
"It's a head scratcher," said Don Gray, who sits on PNA's Board
of Directors and waged an unsuccessful bid for the City Council last month.
"It's already clear there's been an increase in traffic in the area
from the college
If you go down 17th Street to Pico, it's not unusual
to have to wait for more than one light
. I don't think they adequately
Under CEQA an agency must recirculate an EIR when "significant new information is added to the EIR after public notice is given."
The PNA lawsuit claims that the Planning Commission, City Council, College and City ignored and misrepresented the concerns of the Pico neighborhood but addressed the traffic impacts the project would have on other streets. By doing so the agencies "are biased and prejudiced against the minority population comprising the Pico Neighborhood region," according to the suit.
The parking structure will be financed in part with federal dollars. The suit alleges that the agencies not only violated environmental laws, but also federal laws that set standards for projects in low-income and minority communities.
The parking structure is slated to go up on Pico Boulevard and 17th Street, between the Technology and Physical Education buildings, which is the current site of the City's municipal swimming pool.
The current structure, which has 374 parking spaces, will be torn down to make way for a new pool. The structure has been closed since the 1994 earthquake, forcing the College to offer shuttle services, satellite campuses and distance learning opportunities to alleviate the parking crunch.
Copyright 1999-2008 surfsantamonica.com. All Rights Reserved.