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Santa Monica to Update Preferential Parking Program

Phil Brock For Council 2014

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Michael Feinstein for Santa Monica City Council 2014Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Santa Monica Convention and Visitors BureauWhen one lives in a city as breathtakingly beautiful and unique as Santa Monica, inevitably that city will be shared with visitors.

By Daniel Larios
Staff Writer

August 29, 2014 – After a lengthy discussion Tuesday night, the City Council will update Santa Monica’s preferential parking policy to make it easier to understand and enforce.

More than 18 residents and business employees testified during the public hearing, urging the council to protect their preferential parking, with one resident saying it should be viewed as a “right.”

“Between the throngs of other residents and their guests, shoppers, park and beach goers, hotel workers and various others vying for our limited non-permit parking spaces, it is nearly impossible for us as tax paying residents to park in our own neighborhoods,” said CrystalSershen, a resident of the Wilmot Neighborhood. 

“In light of the overwhelming and ever-increasing commercial and residential population growth, preferential parking now needs to be viewed as a residential right,” Sershen said.

Started in 1980, more then 19,000 of Santa Monica’s 50,000 households participate in the program, with an average of 2.4 permits per household, according to a study presented by City staff.

During the hearing several seniors and disabled residents complained that their caregivers were often ticketed while retrieving their parking passes.

“We’re being penalized because we don’t have time to go down four stories, put the placard up and go back up,” said Zed Lasalle, a wheelchair-bound resident who lives in a four-story HUD housing building that caters to seniors and the disabled. “No one is at fault here, it’s a terrible Catch-22.

“At present the system is broken,” he added.  “The seniors and handicapped, we’re trying to do our best. We pay for the placard, but our friends, caregivers, and doctors are all being ticketed.  We just need some help.”

Residents who want preferential parking on their block complained that the process to obtain the designation is cumbersome and lengthy.

According to City staff, in order to establish or modify a preferential parking zone, there must be a petition representing two-thirds of the households per block, a parking occupancy study, a community meeting and approval from council.  The total time for completion for each zone is two years.

“Preferential parking is not a perfect solution, but it is the best one we’ve come up with so far,” said Councilmember Kevin McKeown.

“It redistributes the parking, where really what we need to think about is
either reducing the demand for parking or increasing the supply of
parking."

A number of Santa Monica business employees spoke about the need to include employee parking into the mix, saying they have to look for spaces miles away from their work places while empty residential spaces sit unused.

“The one thing we have to do something about is sharing the parking,” said Councilmember Bob Holbrook. “It’s a shame that we have blocks and blocks of empty parking spaces that no body seems to be able to use.

“People are worried. They’re scared that if you allow anyone to use it, that they’ll take it away from us forever.”

Additional issues brought up during the meeting include confusing regulatory signs that can change from block to block, lack of parking around schools, nursing homes and places of worship and guests permits that require a 24-hour notice.

Councilmember Gleam Davis urged residents to use off-street parking, saying that a number of households use their garages for uses other than parking their cars.

“As we think about this program, we do need to start thinking about incentivizing people to continue using their off street parking for just parking,” she said.

Councilmember Ted Winterer suggested putting limits on the number of permits each household can get.

“I think the idea that someone has nine or more permits per household… if that was on my block, I’d be picketing outside their house,” he said.  “I think we should establish a system that is more fraud-proof than the one we have now.”

The Council directed staff to return later this year with proposed solutions based on the discussion.

“We’re talking about sharing and public resources,” said Mayor Pam O’Connor
“All these parking spaces, they’re in public streets. Tthey’re public parking spaces.  They’re nobody’s personal space, so it’s about how we manage that public resource.”

“I would love to be able to get rid of the preferential parking totally,” she added.  “But it looks like we’re not going there.”

Update: A misquote attributed to Councilmember Kevin McKeown has been corrected.


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