Santa Monica Lookout
Santa Monica Officials Prepare to Move on from Interim Parking Plan
By Jason Islas
January 31, 2013 -- With the success of Santa Monica's Interim Parking Plan, City officials are preparing to draft a long-range plan to deal with increased demand for parking and the impact of the coming Expo Light Rail.
With some 854 drivers -- mostly part-time employees working in Downtown Santa Monica -- now parking in the Civic Center lot, new parking meters citywide and the design phase of a new wayfinding system complete, officials are calling the Interim Parking Plan a success.
“We've reduced the average occupancy Downtown by 10 percent,” said Don Patterson, assistant director of Finance, referring to the drivers who hold all-day parking passes for the Civic Center parking lot.
After the City restructured its pricing system for parking, workers in the Downtown area started buying $3-a-day passes to park at the Civic Center, freeing up spaces for shoppers, movie-goers and restaurant patrons, Patterson said.
In addition, Parking Structure 6 is scheduled to reopen, roughly doubling the previous number of spaces to more than 700 spaces, he said.
But with the plan only addressing parking issues through 2014, “we need to focus on more long-term options,” Patterson said.
In 2016, the Expo Light Rail is expected to arrive in Santa Monica, which “will change some demand of parking,” he said.
Since Expo will only be an alternative to driving for those coming from the east, “for the foreseeable future, we'll have to address people coming here from north and south,” Patterson added.
Kathleen Rawson, president and CEO of Downtown Santa Monica Inc., believes that a major focus of any long-term parking plan should be on circulation.
“One of the challenges of having a successful downtown is congestion and really effectively communicating to people who are in their cars where there are spaces,” Rawson said.
“Part of the challenge now is people troll for parking,” she said.
According to staff, the Beach Parking Wayfinding System is scheduled to be installed this year, providing motorists with real-time information about parking at the beach.
However, a $760,000 project that would have brought “changeable message and parking availability signage at all downtown structures” lost its funding when the City reprioritized its Capital Improvement Project budget.
A 2006 study called for at least two new parking structures Downtown with a total of some 1,000 new parking spaces.
Patterson said that the new plan will look at those numbers and help decide whether they meet Santa Monica needs downtown, since the 2006 study was conducted before the Expo Line became a reality.
Rawson believes more parking will be needed Downtown, even with the Expo Line. As a result, she said she would like to see a plan that would offer developers incentives to support construction of public parking.
She also would like to see Downtown's “park once” strategy -- where visitors park their cars in one location and visit several destinations – expand outside the area's immediate borders.
Whatever plan the City comes up with, it will take some time before it's drafted, Patterson said.
“To put together a plan, with public input, you need at least a year,” he said.
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