Construction crews work on the Santa Monica Place on Wednesday afternoon. Some have complained about the workers parking thier trucks in city-owned lots, taking away spots from shoppers. (photo by Brandon Wise)

DOWNTOWN — In recent months, employees, shoppers and tourists have had more than just each other to contend with as they duel it out for parking spaces in Downtown Santa Monica structures.

With Santa Monica Place, the renovated mall at Broadway and Third Street, set to open Aug. 6, construction crews have been hustling to finish on schedule. They’re also making already scarce parking spaces near the Third Street Promenade even harder to come by.

Responding to complaints about the jam-packed lots, City Hall and Macerich Co., which owns the mall, say they’re trying to encourage the workers to park further away from the Downtown core.

Their efforts have not been a smashing success.

Construction workers, like other humans, prefer parking close to where they work and see no reason why they shouldn’t.

“We have rights just like anyone else. Why shouldn’t we park here? We have to pay to park and pay to work,” said Ronald Everett, one of the workers laboring on the mall.

Don Patterson, City Hall’s parking guru, said Everett has a point.

“We can’t not allow them to park in the structures,” he said.

With no stick to wield and no plan to offer the workers cheaper parking somewhere else, City Hall and Macerich are not in a position of strength.

“They’re legally parking in a public parking lot. So it’s really a matter of encouraging them to park elsewhere,” Patterson said.

The latest idea is to goad the workers into using the gravel patch across from City Hall called the North Civic Center parking lot. It’s a only a couple of blocks further from Santa Monica Place than structures on Colorado Avenue and on Fourth Street, Patterson said, and costs the same.

So far, the idea is not catching on.

“As of 7 a.m. this morning, there was one car in there,” Patterson noted on Tuesday.

Some construction workers don’t see what the fuss is about. You can’t, after all, re-build a mall without construction workers.

“We have to park close. We need to be able to get our tools and make deliveries, so we can’t really park farther away,” construction worker Daniel Garcia said this week.

A colleague, Tyrone Webb, added: “It’s only like this because one structure is down and another is under construction, so it’s short-lived.”

Parking Structure No. 7, at Broadway and Fourth Street, is closed for renovation and slated to re-open along with the mall.

Macerich, for its part, claims to be working on the issue and hopes to “have this situation resolved soon.”

“We are well aware of this issue and we are working hard on it right now. We are working with the city to find nearby off-site parking areas for construction workers as another option for them,” said Doug Roscoe, property manager at Santa Monica Place.

For businesses that rely on City Hall-subsidized parking structures, meanwhile, the end of construction can’t come soon enough.

“It’s usually hard to find parking, but the construction is making everyone go nuts,” said Rey Azima, of Santa Monica Hair Salon, located across the street from Santa Monica Place. “All our clients are complaining because they can’t find parking anywhere.”

Taylor D’Andrea contributed to this story.

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