CITY HALL —  City officials have begun circulating an update to a 26-year-old program that they expect will nearly quadruple the amount of money raised from developers to expand the Downtown parking supply and reduce vehicle trips.

According to a draft report by consultant Nelson/Nygaard, the proposed parking in-lieu fee would cost developers a one-time charge of $20,000 for each code-required parking space that they choose not to build on-site.

The fee would apply to a change of use as well, like when a parcel changes from a retail store, which requires less parking by code, to a restaurant, which needs more.

It would also expand the boundaries in which the fee is assessed from the 1986 Bayside Mall Assessment District — which falls between Fourth Street to the east, Wilshire Boulevard to the north, Second Street to the west and Broadway to the south — to the much-larger Downtown district defined by the 2010 Land Use and Circulation Element, or LUCE, which sets guidelines for development in the city.

That district runs from Lincoln Boulevard to the east, Wilshire Boulevard to the north, Palisades Beach Road to the west and along the Santa Monica Freeway to the south.

The current program, set to expire in 2016, charges $1.50 annually for each square foot of new building space added in the district after 1986 for which parking isn’t provided. Residential development was charged half that.

That fee gathered roughly $7 million over the last 25 years, wrote Erika Cavicante, senior development analyst with the Housing and Economic Development Department, in an e-mail.

The proposed fee would be expected to accumulate $30 million over a 30-year period in the expanded area.

The $20,000 may seem daunting, but it’s actually less than a developer would pay for a single space.

Parking spaces can range in cost from $21,000 per space for automated parking to $53,000 per space for public parking with amenities, Cavicante wrote.

The program would be voluntary, with developers paying in if they either didn’t want to provide the parking or couldn’t do it on-site because of space constraints.

The money gives City Hall more flexibility to deal with parking and traffic issues in the Downtown, rather than relying on developers to find ways to squeeze in parking, wrote Juan Matute, of the UCLA Institute of Transportation Studies, in an e-mail.

City Hall can purchase or lease parking from private property owners who aren’t using all of their available parking, as well as provide funding for programs and infrastructure that reduces parking demand, Matute wrote.

“The proposed program will lead to more effective utilization of existing parking, biking, walking and transit resources,” he wrote. “It will enable continued growth in Downtown Santa Monica while making real steps toward the LUCE’s goal of no new net trips.”

City Hall can’t just use the estimated $30 million for anything under the sun.

There has to be a reasonable relationship between the fee and what it’s used for, Cavicante wrote. Proposed uses include expanding the parking supply in the area, creating greater access and managing the parking demand efficiently.

Kathleen Rawson, CEO of Downtown Santa Monica Inc., hopes there will be some attention to growing the number of the available amount of centralized parking spots Downtown.

City officials presented the draft report to Rawson and the Downtown Santa Monica Inc. District issues committee Tuesday morning.

“The key to the success of the in-lieu fee is how the money is spent,” Rawson said. “If the money can be spent on brick-and-mortar parking spaces, and there’s a plan to have those parking spaces built — city-approved, not just an idea of where they go and how it’s funded — then people are likely to buy into it.”

If, on the other hand, that money is used mainly to create policies and infrastructure that encourage people to get out of their cars, that appears too much like the Transportation Impact Fee, another cost on development meant to support transportation infrastructure, Rawson said.

“We think we’re some time away from people being out of their cars entirely here, and people’s nod to the environment is getting a Prius rather than abandoning their car altogether. Those Priuses need parking spaces,” Rawson said.

The draft plan is in its initial stages. It will still go before several other stake holders before city officials present it to the Planning Commission later this summer and the City Council in early fall.

 

ashley@smdp.com

 

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