CITY HALL — Parking in Santa Monica will get a facelift between now and 2014 with several major structures going off-line, the creation of temporary parking facilities throughout town and a slew of incentives to encourage locals to park further from Downtown.
The City Council approved measures that allow staff to study and adapt to parking needs, including the freedom to change the cost of parking and studying the impacts of putting subterranean parking under the Civic Center.
Staff presented two parking-related studies, one analyzing how much parking will need to be built in Downtown and the second examining what temporary opportunities exist for parking between now and 2014, given the temporary loss of 680 spaces from publicly-owned structures 3 and 6.
That year represents the confluence of several events, including the completion of the Village residential project, Palisades Garden Walk and reopening of the Civic Auditorium after seismic retrofitting work is completed.
A year later, the Expo Light Rail Line should reach Santa Monica.
“We can make do until 2014, but then the story starts to change,” said Jeff Tumlin, planner with the Nelson-Nygaard consulting firm, which completed the future parking study.
In the meantime, parking could get dicey for those that live, work or play in Santa Monica.
Should projects continue as planned, Parking Structure 3 will be demolished to make way for an AMC movie theater, and Parking Structure 6 will get a makeover that will double the number of spaces to approximately 750.
Although city planners hope those two events will not overlap completely, the Planning Commission denied a permit for the revamp of PS 6, which will further delay the process.
That decision has already been appealed to the City Council.
Tumlin also told council members that although his firm calculated that the city would need at least 540 additional parking spaces to accommodate growth, it did not support building the proposed underground Civic Center parking lot until after the refurbished structures Downtown had come back online.
Temporary parking in the above-ground Civic Center lot will still be necessary while Structure 6 is out of commission and replacement parking for Structure 3 is still under construction, potentially through summer 2014.
“The renovated and re-programmed Civic Auditorium will still be starting operations at that time, and will be the major contributing factor in identifying both the ultimate demand and optimal timing for the construction of new spaces,” staff wrote in a report to council.
City Hall should continue collecting data throughout that time to see whether or not the multi-million dollar structure was really necessary, he said.
Staff identified several ways to increase the number of available parking spaces in Downtown in a second study, said Don Patterson, of the Department of Finance.
City Hall will provide two months free parking and $68.75-per-month parking after that to the 400 to 500 monthly pass holders that agree to park in the above-ground Civic Center lot.
Those people will also get a free Big Blue Bus pass, attached to their parking pass, to encourage them to use public transportation rather than drive.
The move would free up approximately 340 spaces, assuming that not all workers go to their offices at the same time.
The council also voted to delegate pricing powers to City Manager Rod Gould to allow him to either raise the cost of parking in the Downtown or lower the cost in the Civic Center lot to encourage people to park further away.
Neither the construction of a subterranean lot at the Civic Center nor the proposal to move monthly parking got much traction with the business community.
Several business owners from the Santa Monica Pier spoke against the subterranean lot, saying that it put parking too far away from the landmark.
Instead, they supported putting parking under the Pacific Palisades Garden Walk, which is located closer to the pier.
The reason, said Jeff Klocke, director of marketing for Pacific Park, is that going to the pier is a spur-of-the-moment decision for most patrons, and if they cannot park easily, they will not come.
“I spend 60 percent of my time fighting for parking, and 40 percent on marketing,” Klocke said.
The cost of changing the design, the delay in construction and the additional costs of construction put that goal far out of reach, staff reported.
Building a parking structure under Pacific Palisades Garden Walk would result in only 400 spaces rather than the needed 540, and would cost $38 million more than the $25 million put aside for the underground Civic Center lot.
“I’m looking at the costs, and I just don’t see how we could do that,” said Council member Kevin McKeown.
Moving monthly parking to the current Civic Center lot roused the ire of Downtown business owners.
“One-hundred percent of the Structure 3 parking should be replaced prior to demolition,” argued optometrist Mark Weintraub.
Weintraub said that he pays for monthly parking for his employees and it would be “like a demotion” to force them to move to the Civic Center lot.