DOWNTOWN — As the holiday season rolls around, finding parking in Downtown can get a little dicey.

To ease anxieties, Santa Monica resident Mark Miller has created SAMO Park, a free iPhone app that helps visitors locate available parking spaces.

“Over the years, I’ve noticed it’s becoming more and more tricky and cumbersome to find parking,” said Miller, who owns an iPhone app developing company and spent two months of his free time developing the app. “[I thought] ‘there’s gotta be a better way to do this… to make it easier for people to get the information where they need it, when they need it.’”

Currently, City Hall offers an online real-time parking space availability map, as well as a guide to public parking. But Miller calls the system “clunky” and not user-friendly.

SAMO Park, which is compatible with iPhones and iPads, takes the data from City Hall’s website and converts it into a color-coded map, labeling all the parking garages with red, purple or green dots.

Red dots mean the parking structure has less than 10 percent of its spaces available. Purple dots have between 10 and 20 percent availability, and green dots — the easiest place to find a spot — have 30 percent or more spaces available.

The app also includes other details, such as fees and hours of operation.

“It’s great to see our creative residents once again helping to provide a better experience for fellow residents and visitors,” said Kim Baker, director of marketing for the Santa Monica Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Our research shows that only 7 percent of our overnight visitors drive once they are in Santa Monica, so this app will be more helpful for residents and L.A. regional day visitors.”

In hopes of charging for the app in the future, Miller plans on adding other features, such as keeping track of where a driver parks and mapping the best route to a parking garage.

SAMO Park was released Dec. 3. The app already has more than 300 downloads.

news@www.smdp.com

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