DOWNTOWN — Nineteen on-site parking spaces are coming to Santa Monica’s newest post office after much grumbling from residents and a congressman, United States Postal Service officials said.
Last year, when the postal service announced plans to shutter the historic Fifth Street building and reopen on Seventh Street, several residents and city officials appealed the decision citing, among other things, that parking would be an issue at the new location.
The appeal was denied but a letter from postal service officials to appellants promised that the Seventh Street location, which opened in July, would include on-site and off-site parking, said Richard Maher, a spokesperson for the Postal Service.
Forty-four off-site spaces already exist but residents have complained that the area, located next to Interstate 10, is dangerous for those walking up to the post office. Further, they say, without on-site parking the post office is not accessible to people with disabilities.
Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Santa Monica, who supported the initial appeal, wrote a letter this week to postal service officials claiming that they weren’t holding up their end of the deal.
“I am hearing from residents that the available street parking is not only insufficient, but potentially dangerous,” he said in his letter to Postmaster General Patrick R. Donahoe. “Many feel they are risking an accident every time they back out of the available parking spots into oncoming traffic.”
The off-site parking spots are perpendicular to the sidewalk and force drivers to back out into two lanes of traffic, often with their views blocked by other parked cars.
The 44 spaces were created to replace parking along Colorado Avenue removed to make way for the Expo Light Rail line scheduled to open in early 2016.
Postal service officials initially responded to Waxman by saying that eight to 10 spaces would be placed at the north end of the lot, but their engineer determined that the customer lot could be reconfigured to build 19 spaces, Maher said.
“All 19 will be in the customer parking lot … at the north end of the property and the work should be completed within a month,” he wrote in an e-mail. “There will be over 60 customer parking spaces at the Santa Monica Post Office, on-site and street combined, when this lot opens.”
Handicapped parking will remain on the street, as the street parking spaces are all closer to the entrance than this new parking lot, Maher said.
This could leave residents something more to be concerned about.
Resident Lorraine Zecca described seeing an elderly woman struggling to make it into the post office in a recent letter to City Hall. The off-site handicap parking is located near a secluded corner, far from the entrance, she said.
“First, who can walk that far,” Zecca wrote in the letter. “Second, who even knows the spot is there. Third, there would be no way to determine if the spot is empty even if you desired to park there.”