It is no secret that parking in Santa Monica can be a pain, whether it be along busy boulevards, in neighborhoods with permit parking or in crowded Downtown structures. Population and the region’s dependence on automobiles are to blame, as are some policies adopted by City Hall over the years, such as granting variances with the belief that people will eventually throw their car keys down and pick up their walking shoes, or eliminating parking spaces as part of “street calming” measures.

But City Hall is making moves to provide relief, building a new Civic Center parking garage and buying up chunks of Downtown real estate in case more parking is needed. Bike-friendly policies and enhanced public transit with the Mini-Blue service are also helping people get out of their cars, freeing up spaces for other visitors.

City Hall needs to continue these efforts with the addition of a parking czar to manage circulation not only in Downtown, but throughout the city.

The position should be temporary, in place long enough to oversee the completion of the Downtown parking program and renovation of three existing structures. The czar could also create a program in which local businesses, schools and churches could collaborate by sharing spaces, something which residents in the Wilmont Neighborhood are working on. It will take someone with strong leadership and planning experience to create such a program, but it has the strong possibility of becoming successful and stress relieving for residents. City Hall hired a homeless czar and last time we checked, parking was listed right alongside homelessness as a major concern.

As far as raising the fees for parking, the Daily Press agrees the monthly rate should be increased, but not to the level suggested by the Bayside District Corp. Give employers a break during this economic downturn and keep the fees somewhat reasonable, say $100 a month, not $121. As for the daily rate being set at $9, that’s a bad move, especially when we are having to compete with flashier, cleaner entertainment centers with state-of-the-art theaters such as The Grove and The Bridge. When Downtown alleys don’t smell like urine or garbage, then let’s talk about raising fees.

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