By Jason Islas
September 4, 2012 -- The Santa Monica Planning Commission gave a warm reception Wednesday to a proposed update to a 1986 parking ordinance that could double the revenue it generates for the City.
The plan, which the City Council is scheduled to hear on September 11, would increase the fee developers building in Downtown pay to $20,000 for each parking space not built, resulting in an estimated $1,152,000 annual income that the City can use to build parking in the area.
The current fee, set in 1986, is $1.50 per square foot of parking and brings in approximately $600,000 a year.
“We all favored it,” said Planning Commissioner Ted Winterer. “It makes a lot of sense to promote the park-once strategy.”
“It would generate funds that the city could utilize to... build new public parking structures,” he said.
Visitors using those public parking structures would likely not move their vehicles while visiting the surrounding area, Winterer said.
“You don't need every building to have parking Downtown,” he said.
Park-once “makes economic sense because while a visitor is walking from Sixth Street to the Promenade, that person might pass a restaurant or a store they hadn't planned on stopping in.”
The park-once strategy also reduces car trips, he said.
The City would also use the money to buy back parking spaces leased by private businesses.
In 1968 and 1979, the City agreed to lease 150 and 204 parking spaces in Parking Structures 2 and 4, respectively, to private businesses for employee parking, according to City officials.
But a recent study showed that many of those spaces aren't used.
There are currently as many as two full floors of empty parking spaces in the two structures that are off limits to visitors, Santa Monica's Assistant Director of Finance, Don Patterson told The Lookout in May.
The money generated by the increased fees could also be used for other traffic mitigation measures, such as real-time signage that lets motorists know if and where spaces are available.
But developers would still be required to build some parking on site, unless they are in the original assessment district from 2nd Court to 4th Court between Wilshire Boulevard and Colorado Avenue.
In the expanded parking assessment district -- which encompasses the rest of Downtown, the Commission recommended allowing developers to use the in-lieu fee for only 40 percent of their obligation.
Winterer also suggested that the in-lieu fee could be used to help preserve historic buildilngs.
If the use of a historic building changes requiring additional parking, Winterer believes the new owner should be able to pay the in-lieu fee rather than alter the building.
But is $20,000 per parking space enough?
“I think it could potentially go a little higher,” said Commissioner Jim Ries.
Downtown stakeholders were willing to accept an in lieu fee ranging from $20,000 to $30,000 per parking space, according to the consultant's report.
If that's the case, Ries said, why not shoot for something between those two amounts?
Winterer agreed, adding, “We don't want to leave any money that may be available,” he said. “We don't want to lose out on potential revenue.”