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City Expects Big Jump in Parking Permits

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

July 8 -- Careful where you park. Over the next two years, Santa Monicans will see a noticeable increase in the number of residential parking permits issued by the City, transportation officials said.

The number of permits that restrict parking on Santa Monica's residential streets is expected to leap from the 32,000 during the current fiscal year to nearly 40,000 two years from now, according to transportation officials.

That's nearly half as many permits as there are residents in the 8.3-square-mile city of some 84,000 people, or nearly one permit for each of the 40,000 households in the city.

If projections from the freshly inked City budget hold true, 4,000 more permits will be issued during the fiscal year that began July 1 than during the previous year -- the highest increase in nearly four years, planning officials said.

"There continues to be an increase in preferential parking throughout the City, at the request of residents," said Beth Rolandson, a senior transportation planner with the City, who noted that City officials can't determine how many permits are for visitors. "An increase like this, though, is not unprecedented."

Still, during the past year, the council has agreed to rope off scores of city blocks where residents gathered the signatures necessary to apply for preferential parking, sometimes at the expense of hundreds of employees, customers and businesses adjacent to new parking zones. (see related story)

The trend worries Santa Monica business leaders, who are closely watching how the council continues to handle parking policy in a city increasingly packed with people.

"Preferential parking in Santa Monica has always been a concern to us," said Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Kathryn Dodson. "Its a huge problem for employees and those who are visiting those businesses.

"Parking is always in the top three issues when we've surveyed businesses," Dodson said. "Obviously for people who work and play here in Santa Monica, there does need to be available space."

Chamber members, said Dodson, hope that a new ordinance will give employees access to some preferential parking and could signal a more business-friendly parking policy. (see related story)

"Santa Monica is obviously getting denser (and) we're open to different solutions to the problem," said Dodson, "though the only formal thing that we've backed is extending permit parking to employees when there are available spaces as a potential solution."

Other solutions Dodson said the chamber could possibly back include new parking structures and more public transportation, especially the extension of a light rail line into Santa Monica. (see related story) The chamber also could back a continued emphasis on parking as several mixed-use developments move forward.

Other business leaders hope the employee permit parking ordinance being drafted is a step in the right direction, but they are concerned the new law may not go far enough.

"The council is pointed in the right direction," said Jane Walker, president of the Montana Avenue Merchants Association. "We're waiting with bated breath to see what they do."

Walker believes staff may return with a proposal that falls far short of the number of employee preferential parking spaces originally proposed by businesses.

"It seems like it will more likely be far fewer than originally discussed, around four to six spaces per block," Walker said.

The exact number per block, said transportation officials, is still under review.

"The number hasn't been landed on," said Rolandson. "We’re still drafting the policy."

For Walker, a business owner on Montana Street, the increase in residential permits is reason for concern, but she feels the council could be turning a corner on the issue.

"Of coarse I'm always concerned, but I feel the City Council is finally doing something about parking for employees,” Walker said. “We've been working on this for five years now.

"If City council was looking at only residential parking, it would alarm me,” she said. “Now, though, they seem to be taking care of employee parking as well."

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