Last week’s Fourthof July parade onMain Streetwas very cool. My hat’s offto theOceanParkAssociation (OPA). This is now one ofSanta Monica’s great community events. Except for one problem.

City Hall is raining on OPA’s parade when it charges $3 to park in the Civic Auditorium surface lot andCivicCenterstructure. Not countingvisitors, thousands ofresidents donate their time and effort to pull off a wholesome, fun event. Unfortunately, City Hall’s money-grabbing finance departmentleaves no good deed unpunished.

And, being that it was a holiday, you’d think there would be a human attendant at the Civic Center parking structure? Forgeddaboutit. Don’t expect city bureaucrats to do something for us for a change.

When ready to exit city parking garages, customers pay for parking at what looks like a vending machine usually located in an underlit area wellaway from thevehicle exit.

After the parade, I finally located theticket machine in adark and gloomycorner of the Civic structure. I looked forinstructions on how to pay — a processmade doubly difficult because I didn’t havereading glasses with me.

I may have put my credit card in the cash slot. I’m not to sure because it was all guess work. Nothing happened.I pushed “cancel.” Parkingticket and credit card popped out. I repeated the process. Nothing. I pushed “cancel” and the ticket spit out, but no credit card. I reinserted the ticket. Again, nothing. Nada.

Another customer approaches. I said, “I think it ate my credit card.” He asked if I pushed “cancel.” I said, “Yes.” He suggested pushing “cancel” again. I did and out popped the card.

I stepped asideand watchedas he ¬ìcashed out¬î without any problem. Now, at least I knew what slots to use. I reinserted my parking ticket. It was rejected as ¬ìunreadable.”Meanwhile, a previous customer pulled up in his car. ¬ìStill having problems,¬î he asked?

¬ìIt can¬ít read my ticket,¬î I replied. He suggested taking it to the lone attendant at the Civic Auditorium lot. I left thestructure, walked across the surface lot and I told the gentleman my tale of woe. ¬ìPay $3,¬î he says. ¬ìI¬íll give you a receipt. When you exit the structure, push the intercom button and tell the person answering that you have a receipt …¬î

I returned to my car, drove to the exit booth and followed his instructions. The gate lifted andI drove into freedom, at last.

It would have been a great morningwithout the parking hassles. ComedianLarry David had a similar experience in a city-owned Downtown garage a couplemonths ago. It made national news andSanta Monica’sgarages cemented their reputation for being unwieldy andunfriendly. Apparently, nothing’s changed.

L.A. Live’s parking garagesin downtownLos Angeleshave the same machines only with lights mounted over them and small signs with half-inch high printed instructions on them that say, “Insert ticket andcredit card here” and “Insert cash here,” etc.No reading glasses necessary. Plus, they also have garage attendants if you have a problem. Now, that’s the way it should be.

Even worse wasSanta MonicaCollegecharging persons attending WoodlawnCemetery’s recent Memorial DayService$5 to park on a holiday when campus parkingis usually free. Unbelievable.

Had enough? City Council will probably dramatically increasemuch of the city’s parkingcosts tomorrow night including Santa Monica Pier and street meter parking rates. Two hours of free Downtown parking may vanish, too.

What about“community service?” A myth like the unicorns.

Less is not more

Letter writer Jeffrey Calman, (“Faster than you think” July 4, Pg 4)took issue with my columnthe previous weekabout aproposed apartment project with no on-site parking. Big mistake, I explained because, “personal vehicles are overwhelmingly preferredfor shopping and getting to and from work or school by 98 percent of the people inSanta Monica.”

Calman wrote thatthe target market for the apartments planned for 401 Broadway is the new generation of young people called ¬ìmillennials,”who are using personal vehicles to a lesser degree than other age groups. He cited a Reuters news article that claimed annual vehicle miles traveled by young people ages 16 -34, ¬ìdropped 23 percent from 2001 to 2009.¬î The implication was that ¬ìmillennial¬î or ¬ìGen Y¬î renters don¬ítneed parking as much. OK.

I’d still bet that 401 Broadway’s leasing agentswilltargetany demographic group willing to live in small, cramped, Downtown apartments withouton-site parking.Calman’s “millenials” are and will be a fraction of 401’s potential tenant universe.

Governing.compublished a 2010 US Census Bureau, American Community Survey study —“Means of transportation to work inmore than 400U.S.cities and towns,” (16-year-old and older,2000 to 2009).

Santa Monica, it reports,has 42,522 workers.76.1 percent commute to work by car, truck or van, 2.5 percent by public transportation, 8.3 percent walk, 2.3 percent bicycle, one percent use taxi or motorcycle and 9.9 percent work at home. By comparison,Los Angeleshas 1,706,116 workers, 77.1 percent commute by car, truck or van, 11.2 percent use public transportation, 3.6 percent walk to work, 0.9 percent bicycle, etc.

Apartment buildings without parking can’t compete withbuildings withparking especially when theirrents areequal. It’s why 401 Broadway is even less desirable and why “no parking” meanscompetitive disadvantage (or lower rents) and therefore, no construction financing.

Bill can bereached at mr.bilbau@gmail.com.

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