CITY HALL— Neighborhood electric vehicles (NEVs) with state-issued decals will once again be allowed to park for free at city meters, according to an ordinance passed by City Council on Tuesday.

The NEV decals and the original yellow clean air vehicle decals, which were placed on early energy efficient cars, were discontinued by the state in July of 2011 and City Hall started requiring owners to pay for metered parking. The Tuesday ordinance upheld the status quo for the original yellow decals.

Neighborhood electric vehicles are prohibited on freeways and often look like high-end golf carts. NEVs purchased after the July 2011 expiration did not receive decals from the state and therefore cannot park for free in Santa Monica.

“Staff does not have the capacity to manage our own decal program,” Don Patterson, assistant director of finance, told council at the meeting.

Councilman Kevin McKeown, who cast the lone dissenting vote, was visibly frustrated when he learned that NEVs purchased recently or in the future would not be eligible for parking incentives.

“We’re leaving no incentive for people to buy what is probably the most wonderful vehicle in terms of air quality, which is this very small, plug-in, no gas at all, local vehicle,” he said.

City Hall still provides free metered parking incentives for drivers with the two most recent state-issued clean air vehicle decals, which are white and green respectively. They expire in 2019.

McKeown was also the only council member to support allowing drivers with the original yellow decals to receive the parking incentive. He agreed with the original staff proposal, which would have allowed drivers with expired state decals to utilize parking incentives in Santa Monica.

McKeown said that council had previously unknowingly voted to allow the yellow decals to expire.

“At the time, we didn’t know the state was going to discontinue the stickers,” he said. “That was something we had no way of knowing. What happened was, a couple years ago … we passed an ordinance that changed all kinds of parking regulations. Without any discussion, staff had inserted this language about ‘current and valid’ for the stickers. None of us on the council who voted for that knew what kind of change that would make.”

Mayor Pro Tem Terry O’Day said that regardless of councils’ original intent, the expiration dates are good for progress.

“One of the main factors of the state issuing these decals and having expiration dates is the evolution of vehicle technology and always kind of pushing to the next edge of clean air vehicles,” he said. “I think aligning our policies with what the state is doing is a good idea.”

McKeown said that council was breaking a promise made to early adopters who should be rewarded.

Councilwoman Gleam Davis also supported allowing the expiration.

“I find it hard to believe that we promised free parking in perpetuity,” she said.

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