I had lunch this weekend at Real Food Daily, the meal was fine and I had great company. The service was great and the environment was lovely all of which highlighted an interesting question. Why don’t I eat there more?

The fact that this place is vegan is not really the issue, it’s pricey to be sure, but that wouldn’t stop me, after all it’s not a $100 per person type place. So what stops me from dining there? Two things, the first is that there is almost always a line. So this is my living embodiment of the Yogism that “No one goes there anymore, it’s too crowded.” The second reason why I am hesitant to go there is the lack of parking.

RFD is located on Santa Monica Blvd just across from and west of the Santa Monica Public Library. That stretch of the street has little easy public parking, sure there are some metered spots and if you’re there at the right time you can use the Library’s parking for a fee, but in general there is a deficit in the parking.

As we become a more dense city we have to deal with this issue and the answer of Hulu green bikes, and buses are not going to be the main solutions. They may offset some of the traffic and for those who are using these alternative means of transport the city may be more fluid – but for those people who use their cars we need to have a more comprehensive plan and solution.

I park downtown often, maybe two times a day, sometimes four. I pay for the parking at the city lots when I go over the first 90 minutes that is free. Each month I contribute on average probably an additional 25 dollars in parking fees when I add in the 50 cents here for a meter and $4.50 there for a late night dinner with friends. That’s not an insubstantial sum when you consider that I also pay the random parking ticket or two each year that I collect.

So probably on average I’m adding $500 a year to the infrastructure for parking alone. Estimating the residents of Santa Monica to be around 100,000 that’s $50,000,000 a year in revenue. Of course some people don’t the $500 each year, but then again some people get more tickets or pay a monthly fee to park in a structure. In any case, it’s a lot of money.

With all that money, I want to know why we don’t have more parking lots and parking structures. It seems to me that one of the purposes of having government is to provide public assets like roads and sewers, and that parking for the cars that drive on the roads would be a logical extension.

The city spent millions on Tongva park, that’s a lot of revenues for a lovely public asset, but honestly fewer people use it than would be using an additional parking structure downtown.

I’m not arguing against the parks, because I love the parks and want more of them, but I’d also like more of the parking that we need. Maybe with the Expo opening in May we’ll have a drop off in the need for parking, but I’m not counting on it. I anticipate that if anything, people will take the Expo once, fall in love with the city, and then decide to drive in with their families rather than take the Expo.

Time will tell if I’m right or wrong, but in the interim, it sure would be nice if we could find some solutions. Perhaps that will be next week’s column…

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