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Parking Relief for Residents Could Hurt Businesses in Industrial Zone

By Olin Ericksen
Staff Writer

May 20 -- While relieving parking woes for residents near Santa Monica's only remaining industrial zone, the City Council's decision Tuesday to rope off six square blocks in the eastern edge of the city has area businesses crying foul.

The latest preferential parking zone -- roughly bounded by Colorado and Nebraska avenues and Centinela Avenue and Berkeley Street -- will limit parking to those with residential permits in an area where street space is akin to prime real estate.

But while the daily dueling between residents and workers may soon come to an end, employers worry that the council's decision could have a devastating impact on the eclectic mix of businesses in the city's only area zoned for light manufacturing and studios.

Officials at Pioneer Magetics -- which manufactures equipment for electronics and employs nearly 260 workers -- worry that the dearth of parking could force the business from a city it has called home for nearly 30 of its 50 years.

"The consequences of this could be disastrous for us," said Dr. Allen Rosenstein, the company’s CEO. "If there' no place to park, we can't keep a staff.

"If there is no solution, we could end up losing a good percentage of our working force," Rosenstein said. "The worst case scenario is that we would lose enough employees over time and have to move the business."

Randall Reel, senior vice president of Pacific Properties, which owns Santa Monica Studios, said the new parking zone could hurt, if not shut down, some of the businesses in the area.

"This is going to kill many of the businesses around here," Reel said. "The City says they don't want to drive out these types of businesses, yet they pass these types of laws without thinking through the consequences.

"They should have had some type of solution in place, like building a parking structure around here, rather than just passing these types of laws," said Reel, adding that Pacific Properties won't be affected because it rents parking spaces for its tenants.

David Urrutia, who works at Claude's Panino, a sandwich and catering service, said he already sometimes cruises the streets for 15 to 20 minutes before finding a space.

"Parking in the neighborhood as it is right now is a hassle," Urrutia said. "Sometimes I've got to call my boss and tell him I'm late cause I'm circling looking for a spot.

"I'm not rich, so parking in the neighborhood saves me a lot of money," Urrutia said.

The parking crunch in the light manufacturing and studio district -- which is also home to Adelphia Communications, Sempra Energy Corporation and Rainbo Records and Cassettes -- is so severe some businesses already have taken measures.

Pioneer Magnetics has a ride share program and encourages employees to take public transportation, Rosenstein said. In fact, some workers already begin their shifts at 6:30 a.m. and clock out at 3:30 p.m. to avoid conflict with residents.

"Many of our employees come in early... before most residents wake, and leave (early), so when residents return from work there are parking spaces available," Rosenstein said. "Basically we do whatever we can do to accommodate our neighbors.

"The City has a nasty problem and they just can't wave their hands and make it go away," Rosenstain said. "They also just can't wave their hands for the residents, and leave the businesses around here suffering."

City officials are exploring the possibility of issuing parking permits for businesses near residential areas when "there are demonstrable spaces available,” said Council member Ken Genser, but he cautioned that "it's not going to solve the whole problem."

"I don't know what the answer is," Genser said, adding that taking public transit needs to be encouraged. "The evidence (in the light manufacturing district) was that the spillover parking was having an impact on the residents' quality of life.

"If I'm going to choose between the two," Genser said, "I'm going to strike a balance on the part of the residents."

The new parking zone bans street parking between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, except by permit on the following streets:

  • Franklin Street between Colorado and Nebraska Avenues
  • Pennsylvania Avenue between Stanford Court and Centinela Avenue
  • Berkeley Street between Colorado and Pennsylvania Avenues
  • The north side of Nebraska Avenue between Berkeley Court and Centinela

The new zone also includes some frontage on the north side of Nebraska Avenue adjacent to residential properties, according to the staff report. About half of the Nebraska has metered parking, both short and long term.

Regulations would be implemented immediately on five blocks where residents have submitted qualifying petitions, the staff report said.

“Santa Monica cannot create preferential parking on Centinela Avenue proper because this street belongs to the City of Los Angeles,” according to the staff report.

The latest permit parking zone pushes the number of residential parking zones in the highly developed 8.3-square-mile city to nearly 50.

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