SMO — The City Council will consider investing roughly half a million dollars to create a paved parking lot for autodealer storage at Santa Monica Airport, a resource in high demand in the parking-poor city, officials say.

If approved, officials estimate that the lot will bring in roughly $100,000 in revenues per year. That number is based on rents paid on a one-acre lot rented by an Acura dealership, said Martin Pastucha, director of Public Works.

The car lot is not expected to be a permanent development, but rather a temporary revenue-generating measure that would fill a gap in available parking for the dealerships that line Santa Monica Boulevard.

“It’s an opportunity to deal with the development issues that exist in town,” Pastucha said at an Airport Commission meeting in October, when the matter was first broached. “The parking they’re using is going away. It’s a tool for dealerships to keep inventory close in town.”

It would also be a boon to the airport, which is supposed to support itself but has run a chronic deficit for at least the past six years.

The area being considered is a 1.7-acre plot of aviation land behind two gates where Centinela Avenue dead ends into the airport campus.

In October, Airport Manager Bob Trimborn told commissioners that the lot wouldn’t be visible from any of the homes near the airport.

“It’s literally behind a row of trees. There’s an 8-foot block wall between the homes and this parking lot,” Trimborn said. “You would literally have to stand on the wall to see it.”

Cars would be expected to come into the lot from a gate at Centinela Avenue, a “pretty popular access point,” which is already active between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., according to Trimborn.

“We don’t anticipate a lot of excess traffic from this,” he said.

Although the cars would not be able to move during the evening hours, if at any point the traffic or noise became a problem, airport officials would have the ability to put limits on access to the gate to address the needs of the community, Pastucha said.

When the item came up last year, the estimate for the work came in at $350,000. It went up considerably after the original engineering estimate was reviewed and found to have excluded a storm water infiltration system, pollution plans and disposal fees for mulch on the site that must be thrown away.

“They spread out mulch from trees,” Pastucha said. “We have to haul that stuff out, because it’s not structural soil. It’s spongy, there’s no stability.”

Car dealers have already expressed interest in the site, which is one of the few places available to put excess inventory.

Auto dealerships have used creative ways to achieve parking in the past, including renting out spaces at the former Yahoo! Center, which turned out to be illegal.

The City Council voted to allow that practice to continue.

City Hall is in the process of reviewing the zoning ordinance, which proposes to transform auto dealers into “urban form” that puts car showrooms into buildings that face sidewalks and are more street-friendly.

What will happen in the lot in the future is as much up for question as the fate of the airport itself.

City Hall believes it will take greater control over SMO in 2015 when agreements with the Federal Aviation Administration expire.

What it can do with the aviation land at that point is unknown, and the community is involved in a visioning process to determine what residents what to happen with the property.

That process has not won much love from residents who feel it is biased toward maintaining the status quo at SMO. Those residents dislike the airport, saying it is the cause of toxic pollution and noise that disrupts the lives of Santa Monica residents as well as people who live in the surrounding West Los Angeles communities.

 

ashley@smdp.com