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Santa Monica Planning Commission Takes on Parking, New Bike Route

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark


Rusty's Surf

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

August 28, 2013 -- In recent years, Santa Monica has aimed to reduce traffic in the popular beachside town by encouraging people to drive less and ride bikes.

The Planning Commission hopes to do exactly that Wednesday when it gets its first look at a plan to convert three miles of neighborhood streets between the beach and Bergamot Station into a state-of-the-art bike and pedestrian route called the Michigan Avenue Greenway.

The Commission will also get its final say on controversial proposed changes to the City's Zoning Ordinance that would lower the number of parking spaces developers are required to build along with their developments in certain areas.

The Michigan Avenue project has been called “the backbone” of Santa Monica's recently-adopted Bicycle Action plan because it would create a “safe and comfortable place to walk, bike, and interact with neighbors,” according to staff.

That “safe and comfortable” route would also connect Santa Monica High School and the beach to the coming light rail stop at Bergamot Station and run directly through the heart of the Pico Neighborhood, one of the bayside city's poorest.

“This is going to be a huge benefit for not only the people who live there but the community as a whole,” said Cynthia Rose, director of the Santa Monica chapter of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition.

While some residents worry that the project is a sign of gentrification in the historically working-class neighborhood and others have insisted that the final project must be designed and approved by the neighborhood, there has been little vocal opposition.

Despite not yet having gone before the Planning Commission, the project has garnered support on the dais, especially from bicycle advocate Commissioner Richard McKinnon.

But it is still early in the process and Wednesday night's meeting will kick off a lengthy public process, during which residents will weigh in on how exactly they want the Greenway to look and what features -- like roundabouts, widened sidewalks and green bike lanes -- it will include. (“Community Festival to Give Santa Monicans Glimpse into Michigan Avenue's Future,” August 22)

The other issue facing the Commission Wednesday night is just how many parking spaces should developers be required to build when they develop in the Santa Monica.

The idea of reducing parking requirements for developers, when it was first presented to the Planning Commission in February, did not sit well with some residents who saw the move as a financial break to developers, since building a new parking space can cost $20,000 or more.

Other residents fretted that the number of parking spaces -- which they claimed were already in short supply -- would dwindle in the near future if the City didn't require developers to build more parking. ("Santa Monica Officials to Curb Traffic with Less Parking," February 4)

As a result, the revised recommendations the Planning Commission will look at Wednesday include “more modest” adjustments to the parking requirements.

“To address concerns about household parking need, a base requirement of one space per unit is proposed even for studio units,” staff said.

In transit and mixed use areas, staff recommends a minimum of 1.5 parking spaces for every unti with two bedrooms or more.

Restaurants, depending on their size, would have to provide one parking space for every 125 to 500 square feet of development.

The numbers are higher for retail, which would require one parking space for every 300 to 500 square feet of development, a figure comparable to the recommendation for mid to large-sized markets.

Small markets -- less than 2,500 square feet -- would only need to provide two to three parking spaces.

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