The city’s electrical vehicle community supports expanding charging stations citywide but at the July 25 Council meeting, drivers rallied in opposition to the proposed construction of several charging stations in the city’s beach adjacent lots.
At issue last week was a proposal pilot program with Southern California Edison to install chargers in the Civic Center parking lot and in the beach lots.
Local drivers praised the City’s ongoing efforts to support electric vehicles but as a group, said the City hasn’t done enough to provide public chargers for residents and that resources should be focused on facilitating charging for residents of multifamily housing.
City Manager Rick Cole acknowledged the city doesn’t have adequate charging facilities in the community and he said the city is working on expanding locations citywide. He said the beach proposal was a result of requirements imposed by the agreement with Edison.
Under the terms of the pilot program, the utility company pays for infrastructure improvements necessary to install electrical vehicle chargers. However, the rules of the program require a minimum of 10 spaces and prohibit those ten from removing more than 4 percent from the total lot.
In Santa Monica, that limited the options to the Civic Center, Beach lots and the city’s downtown garages. The Downtown lots can’t accommodate other requirements of the program such as construction of new disabled charging stations and the city was left with the Civic Center and the Beach.
“This means Edison will only extend this to very, very large lots. So, it’s great for Dodger stadium, it’s great for the beach, it’s great for a college or a high school,” he said. “It’s not particular good for the kind of thing we want to do which is get chargers out into our neighborhoods and or into our local parks,” he said.
However, given the community opposition to the plan, Cole said staff would drop plans to install chargers at the beach lot and instead ask Edison to revise the program.
“It would be our recommendation, a revised recommendation to you tonight, to proceed forward to applying to Edison for the grant for the civic center parking structure, to give us authority to apply for additional chargers if Edison is willing to flex, which we don’t think they will, but if they were willing to flex to achieve chargers that would more directly benefit residents throughout our community,” he said. “That would be our revised recommendation to drop the beach lot based on the fact that it’s a fairly expensive for relatively small returns at this stage to our community.”
New EV driver Paul Rosenstein said he had to adapt when he purchased an electric car.
“I suddenly have to learn all about the charging issue which is no insignificant issue when you have an electric vehicle,” he said.
He said the beach lot is fraught with problems for locals including a fee to enter the lot, a lack of overnight access and distance from homes.
Resident William Claiborn said it was great that the city was working on EV chargers but said given the majority of residents live in multi-unit housing, the city should find a way to faciliatate charging for those residents.
“The placement of these things is best in places where people who are residents can get to them and parking lots, paid parking lots, are not really those places, they are basically tourist places,” he said.
City Hall is also working on an Electric Vehicle Action Plan.
The document will provide a review of existing policies, plans and programs to support charging infrastructure on a state and regional level. Discuss recommended policy priorities to address current problems with EV Charging and EV utilization. Provide an implementation plan for all policy priorities that will require collaboration between various City departments and divisions, Southern California Edison, the City’s selected EVSE service provider, and community stakeholders and include appendices with resources including maps on current and proposed EV charging infrastructure and detailed material on multi-family unit dwelling (MUD) installation case studies and best practices.
Planning Commission saw a first draft of the plan in July and the document will make the rounds at various boards and commissions with the goal of a final draft appearing before the council in October.