The Planning Department‚Äôs solution to traffic congestion and parking shortage is to reduce traffic lanes and developer parking requirements, forcing residents to walk or bike¬† (“Imagine Santa Monica with even less parking,” Feb. 1). This is money in the bank for developers, as it drastically reduces their expensive parking spaces in commercial and residential projects. In exchange we get more congestion, pollution, high-rises, fewer affordable housing units (trailer park), and loss of business and tax revenue as consumers go elsewhere. Is this what the Chamber of Commerce members want?
Congestion is a combination of pedestrians, bikes, resident autos, autos of visitors and employees to and from Downtown, and public transit. Angelenos have been dependent on cars for years. A paradigm shift may occur in 20 or 30 years, if developers want to wait, but reducing parking requirements is not a useful solution at this time.
People have cars for many reasons, whether in daily use or not, so parking spaces are needed. This includes the physically challenged who still drive; travel/commute outside of convenient transit corridors; transport heavy, bulky, or numerous items; vacations; dinner and theatre after dark; or visit friends. Nearby street parking must be available to those who need it. (Does the Americans with Disabilities Act apply?) Guest parking is needed as nearby parking on many streets is difficult to find. Will the developer provide spaces to keep all employee cars off the street? The concept of “in lieu” parking fees is ridiculous; developers pay a fraction of the cost, but it may be months or years before/if the city provides some of these spaces. The Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) requires 15 percent excess parking at all times in residential and public commercial areas. And why offer developers incentives near congested freeways when the city derives no benefit?
What makes Santa Monica a desirable city, and why draw visitors and residents into the congested Downtown? The answer impacts traffic and parking. New mixed-use development agreements and hotel applications for Downtown add people who must commute to work if they‚Äôre not self employed, retired, tourists, or working Downtown. And hotel check-in hours coincide with peak evening traffic, adding to congestion, as will the additional people.
Exceptional city planning could greatly reduce congestion. One solution is to move new residential units outside the congested Downtown, but near transit corridors. Providing commuter and visitor parking outside the congested areas, and even east of the 405, but close to transit corridors, is another. A third alternative includes circulating buses: San Francisco allows two hours riding for one fare, including return; Seattle has free buses; Stanford has clockwise and counterclockwise buses. A fourth option is to have nearby retail shops for each neighborhood that supply everyday needs. This encourages walking and biking while reducing gas consumption and congestion.
Businesses cannot afford to lose income due to inadequate nearby parking. I don‚Äôt see Montana as a traffic corridor; it primarily serves residents and retail shops. Wilshire, Santa Monica, Olympic, Pico and Ocean Park boulevards are traffic corridors. Inadequate parking on these streets will economically impact merchants.
Encouraging bicycles is a great idea. But bike riding should not be encouraged on transit corridors; fewer driver distractions increases safety for all. For me, safe bike lanes are separated by a barrier, not just painted stripes. Walking is encouraged by providing patrolled, well-lit streets and intersections, safe from bikes and vehicles, with useful nearby destinations. Pedestrian scrambles combined with left and right turn lanes help traffic mobility and increase safety by reducing driver distractions.