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Parking Troubles Patrons at New Santa Monica Post Office

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By Jason Islas
Staff Writer

December 4, 2013 -- Five months after the US Postal Service shuttered Downtown Santa Monica’s 75-year-old post office, patrons are still adjusting.

For many, that means doing their postal-related business at the new location, which the USPS opened on July 1, at Seventh Street and Olympic Boulevard.

At the end of June, the USPS closed up the Fifth Street location and put it on the market as part of a nationwide strategy to help stem a hemorrhaging budget. (“Historic Santa Monica Post Office Closes Next Week,” June 21)

While the reviews of the new location -- a former sorting station converted into a full-service post office -- are mixed, most seem to agree that the biggest problem about the new site is the parking.

“It sucks,” said a Santa Monica resident who identified herself as Maggie. “It’s dangerous.”

The new facility actually has about 40 on-street metered parking spaces. Though that is more than the old location at Fifth Street and Arizona Avenue had, many patrons rushing in and out of the building Tuesday afternoon thought the parking configuration could cause accidents.

The parking spaces are perpendicular to the sidewalk and a bike lane prevents drivers from pulling all the way up to the curb. The orientation of the spaces also requires drivers to pull out across a double yellow line into northbound traffic.

Maggie said that she has almost gotten into several accidents at the location.

James, who had been going to the old post office since 2000, agreed.

“I’ve seen a lot of close calls,” said James, who declined to give his real name. He was referring to instances where cars turning right onto Seventh Street from Olympic nearly collided with cars pulling out of parking spaces in front of the post office.

“I parked all the way down there on purpose,” he said, gesturing toward Colorado Avenue.

The construction for the coming Expo Light Rail along Colorado Avenue at Seventh Street is another factor limiting access to the new post office, patrons said.

But, according to City Hall, the City-owned street parking -- which replaces spaces permanently removed from Colorado Avenue to make way for Expo -- was not designed to accommodate the number of people who patronize a fully-functioning post office.

“When the perpendicular parking was installed, the Seventh Street Post Office was not the primary location serving Downtown, and parking activity on Seventh Street was less active than it is today,” said City Traffic Engineer Sam Morrissey.

“Had City staff known last summer that all Downtown Post Office activities would be consolidated to the Seventh Street location, it would have changed our recommendations regarding perpendicular parking,” he said.

Morrissey said that this year, there have been no accidents that staff is aware of but that City Hall is looking at ways address patrons’ concerns.

“We are considering changes to the bike lane configuration, changing the configuration of the on-street parking, and/or creating additional perpendicular parking on other nearby streets,” he said. “We’re still evaluating the different options and hope to have a few solutions for consideration by the end of the year.”

Parking isn’t the only concern. Yuri, a 22-year resident of Santa Monica from Russia, said, “for most people it is inconvenient.”

He said that while the old building was centrally located, the new location is on the periphery and many who used to walk will likely have to drive to the post office now.

Still, not everyone is upset. Erin Neff, a 28-year-old lifelong Santa Monica resident, walked to the post office from her office on Second Street during her lunch break Tuesday.

She had originally walked to the old location because she didn’t know it was closed.

“This is a good location for a post office,” she said, pointing out that it is right by the I-10 freeway. “What else are you going to put here?”

A young couple who had just dropped off some packages agreed.

Regardless of the range of opinions, one thing is true, Yuri said. “It’s impossible to move back,” he said.

Since the property is owned and operated by the USPS, City Hall was powerless to prevent the closure of the Fifth Street property, which City officials hope to turn into a local landmark. (“Santa Monica's New Deal Era Post Office Building on the Road to Preservation,” August 2)

The City did work closely with the USPS to make sure that any future owner of the old building would be required to maintain much of its historical features.

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