Last week’s Fourth of July parade on Main Street was very cool. My hat’s off to the Ocean Park Association (OPA). This is now one of Santa Monica’s great community events. Except for one problem.

City Hall is raining on OPA’s parade when it charges $3 to park in the Civic Auditorium surface lot and Civic Center structure. Not counting visitors, thousands of residents donate their time and effort to pull off a wholesome, fun event. Unfortunately, City Hall’s money-grabbing finance department leaves no good deed unpunished.

And, being that it was a holiday, you’d think there would be a human attendant at the Civic Center parking structure? Forgeddaboutit. Don’t expect city bureaucrats to do something for us for a change.

When ready to exit city parking garages, customers pay for parking at what looks like a vending machine usually located in an underlit area well away from the vehicle exit.

After the parade, I finally located the ticket machine in a dark and gloomy corner of the Civic structure. I looked for instructions on how to pay — a process made doubly difficult because I didn’t have reading glasses with me. 

I may have put my credit card in the cash slot. I’m not to sure because it was all guess work. Nothing happened. I pushed “cancel.” Parking ticket and credit card popped out. I repeated the process. Nothing. I pushed “cancel” and the ticket spit out, but no credit card. I reinserted the ticket. Again, nothing. Nada.

Another customer approaches. I said, “I think it ate my credit card.” He asked if I pushed “cancel.” I said, “Yes.” He suggested pushing “cancel” again. I did and out popped the card. 

I stepped aside and watched as he “cashed out” without any problem. Now, at least I knew what slots to use. I reinserted my parking ticket. It was rejected as “unreadable.” Meanwhile, a previous customer pulled up in his car. “Still having problems,” he asked?

“It can’t read my ticket,” I replied. He suggested taking it to the lone attendant at the Civic Auditorium lot. I left the structure, walked across the surface lot and I told the gentleman my tale of woe. “Pay $3,” he says. “I’ll give you a receipt. When you exit the structure, push the intercom button and tell the person answering that you have a receipt …”

I returned to my car, drove to the exit booth and followed his instructions. The gate lifted and I drove into freedom, at last. 

It would have been a great morning without the parking hassles. Comedian Larry David had a similar experience in a city-owned Downtown garage a couple months ago. It made national news and Santa Monica’s garages cemented their reputation for being unwieldy and unfriendly. Apparently, nothing’s changed.

L.A. Live’s parking garages in downtown Los Angeles have the same machines only with lights mounted over them and small signs with half-inch high printed instructions on them that say, “Insert ticket and credit card here” and “Insert cash here,” etc. No reading glasses necessary. Plus, they also have garage attendants if you have a problem. Now, that’s the way it should be.

Even worse was Santa Monica College charging persons attending Woodlawn Cemetery’s recent Memorial Day Service $5 to park on a holiday when campus parking is usually free. Unbelievable.

Had enough? City Council will probably dramatically increase much of the city’s parking costs tomorrow night including Santa Monica Pier and street meter parking rates. Two hours of free Downtown parking may vanish, too.

What about “community service?” A myth like the unicorns.

Less is not more

 

Letter writer Jeffrey Calman, (“Faster than you think” July 4, Pg 4) took issue with my column the previous week about a proposed apartment project with no on-site parking. Big mistake, I explained because, “personal vehicles are overwhelmingly preferred for shopping and getting to and from work or school by 98 percent of the people in Santa Monica.”

Calman wrote that the target market for the apartments planned for 401 Broadway is the new generation of young people called “millennials,” who are using personal vehicles to a lesser degree than other age groups. He cited a Reuters news article that claimed annual vehicle miles traveled by young people ages 16 -34, “dropped 23 percent from 2001 to 2009.” The implication was that “millennial” or “Gen Y” renters don’t need parking as much. OK.

I’d still bet that 401 Broadway’s leasing agents will target any demographic group willing to live in small, cramped, Downtown apartments without on-site parking. Calman’s “millenials” are and will be a fraction of 401’s potential tenant universe.

Governing.com published a 2010 US Census Bureau, American Community Survey study — “Means of transportation to work in more than 400 U.S. cities and towns,” (16-year-old and older, 2000 to 2009).

Santa Monica, it reports, has 42,522 workers. 76.1 percent commute to work by car, truck or van, 2.5 percent by public transportation, 8.3 percent walk, 2.3 percent bicycle, one percent use taxi or motorcycle and 9.9 percent work at home. By comparison, Los Angeles has 1,706,116 workers, 77.1 percent commute by car, truck or van, 11.2 percent use public transportation, 3.6 percent walk to work, 0.9 percent bicycle, etc. 

Apartment buildings without parking can’t compete with buildings with parking especially when their rents are equal. It’s why 401 Broadway is even less desirable and why “no parking” means competitive disadvantage (or lower rents) and therefore, no construction financing.

 

 

 

Bill can be reached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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