Having heard Jeffrey Tumlin, City Hall’s outside consultant, explain to the Planning Commission that the most effective way to get cars off the road was to provide heavy disincentives for using or owning automobiles by making parking so expensive that no one could reasonably afford it and to reduce parking requirements for developers to restrict available parking for those who might otherwise come to this city by car, I find it ironic that he would accuse residents of Santa Monica as NIMBYs. Though he proclaims the lofty goal of improving the air quality of Santa Monica and, thus, enhancing everyone’s quality of life, his plan would do neither. Instead, reducing parking requirements increases developer’s profits, thus encouraging more development, which results in more traffic. And, increasing the price of parking, leaves residents driving hopelessly around the city, muttering, “Parking, parking everywhere, but not a spot that’s free.”
If our goal is to reduce traffic, a transitional approach, rather than a draconian approach, would get us there a lot faster and with less fuss. Here is what it might look like: We would build underground parking structures to receive cars directly from the freeway, via existing exits at Centinela and Cloverfield. Money from parking could fund more public transportation, so that those paying for parking could use their receipts to ride around our city for free. That would encourage commerce and support lower prices for public transportation for residents. This would also encourage those with multiple cars, living closer to San Vicente Boulevard, to drive to the Expo Line rather than drive all the way to work. Once they are habituated to using the light rail, they might be more inclined to try busing it to the station.
Beyond that, we would come up with a Parking Action Plan for the city. The model for this can be found in The Well-being Project, City Hall’s proposal for The Mayors Challenge, which has the active support of Mayor Pam O’Connor and City Manager Rod Gould. This project, with a stated goal of improving the relationship between residents and City Hall, puts gathering data as the first step toward making decisions that would affect the well-being of our residents. It is my understanding that City Hall has yet to gather data to assess how much parking is available to residents. Mayor O’Connor says collecting data related to assessing residents’ well-being will drive decision-making and will leave “people empowered to solve their own problems.” Since residents are the best sources to access for this data, I suggest that City Hall work with neighborhood associations to hold meetings block by block to assess the true nature of our parking situation. Rather than have people complain about how parking is in their neighborhoods, city officials would use them to explain about how parking is in their neighborhoods. It is a shift in thinking that is consistent with the well-being approach City Hall is prepared to embrace. Perhaps city officials would reward residents for participating in this information gathering by funding of block parties over the summer to thank them and encourage them to join with merchants, workers, and city staff to bring this information together to analyze their findings and consider what approaches to take that would serve everyone’s well-being.
The money saved on hiring consultants to solve our problems would be better spent on a well-being approach that Mayor O’Connor says would “fundamentally change the relationship between citizen and government.”