CITY HALL — Many residents want better enforcement of permit parking and a simpler petitioning process for neighbors interested in adding permit parking to their blocks.
City Council weighed in on the current state of permit parking on Tuesday after hearing a presentation from city officials and testimony from residents and Santa Monica workers.
Permits allows residents to park on the streets near their homes without facing restrictions put in place for nonresidents.
Several neighbors bemoaned the process required to get permit parking enacted on their block. They are required, at the very least, to collect signatures from two-thirds of the residents on their block.
Crystal Sershen’s block has been pre-approved for permit parking; she needs only the signatures. Nearby streets have permit parking but, because her block does not, Sershen can’t use those spaces. Residents have coined these “orphan blocks.”
“We are one of two buildings on the entire block that is not a large apartment complex that has landlord-provided parking,” she said.
For this reason, she has twice tried and twice failed to get her neighbors to “give a hoot” and sign her permit-parking petition.
Sershen, and others in similar situations, asked that preferential parking be considered a right rather than a privilege.
Others, like Wilmont neighbor Taffy Patton, called enforcement “erratic at best.”
Two-hour time limits can be hard to enforce, city officials acknowledged, because the primary resource for determining how long a car has been parked is an easily-erasable chalk mark. Drivers can move a couple feet forward on the block or they can rub off the chalk mark.
Additionally, city officials acknowledged that fraudulent use of hang-tag permits is occurring, primarily around the hospitals and Santa Monica College.
“Officers actually have to observe the person misusing the permit,” one city official said of enforcement requirements.
Councilmember Ted Winterer suggested that City Hall switch to a bumper sticker-only system instead of allowing the option of hang-tags, which can be easily transferred to unpermitted cars.
He also questioned the need for residents to give City Hall 24 hour advanced notice to use guest parking.
This is because the guest permits need to be uploaded to City Hall’s database for next-day enforcement, said Sam Morrissey, City Hall’s lead traffic engineer.
“We could explore some more real-time capabilities,” he said. “There’s better communication capabilities out there today but there would be a couple issues with network security and communication security that we’d have to iron out before we bought into that.”
The average permit-holding household has 2.4 cars registered for parking with City Hall but some have nine or more, city officials said. Winterer asked about creating a cap. City officials said it would be possible.
While most of the speakers were residents, at least one person who works in Santa Monica showed up for the meeting. Near her office, which does not have parking for all employees, street parking is restricted for nonresidents and yet the spaces are often unused.
Councilmember Bob Holbrook and Mayor Pam O’Connor, in particular, expressed empathy for these businesses, stating that the parking is a public resource that must be shared.
O’Connor said she would love to completely rid the city of preferential parking but acknowledged that the rest of council is unlikely to head in that direction.
Winterer and Councilmember Kevin McKeown asked city officials to improve enforcement.
Councilmember Gleam Davis noted that, among other things, its important to encourage residents — who are using their garages for fitness, storage, and the like — to “use their off-street parking for parking.”