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The Planning Commission will hold a study session at their April 6 meeting to debate the future of parking prices in the Downtown area.

According to the staff report, City Hall is anticipating a change in parking demands based on the opening of Expo on May 20. In addition to Expo’s opening recent changes to zoning documents, such as the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE) and the proposed Downtown Community Plan have altered expectations. The LUCE specifically calls for policies that create a 15 percent vacancy range at all times.

To account for the change in need, staff has proposed “increasing the price of Downtown transient (daily) and monthly rates, aligning Civic Center rates with current Downtown rates to address high weekday occupancies, and changes to monthly keycards.”

Parking rates were last modified in 2012 based on a parking study. At that time rates were decreased for the Civic Center Lot and Main Library, evening flat rates were eliminated from Downtown, meter rates were increased and the free period Downtown was decreased from two hours to 90 minutes.

The proposal to be discussed April 6 includes changes throughout the Downtown area. At structures 1 through 9 and the Ken Edwards Center, the free time would remain 90 minutes. The next hour would increase by 25 cents to $1.25, each additional 30 minutes would increase from $1.50 to $1.88 and the daily maximum would increase to $17.50.

All access monthly rates would increase by $16 to $176, weekday only rates would increase by $12 to $132 and weekend/weeknights would increase by $7.50 to $82.50

In Parking Structure 10 and Downtown Lots 27-30 each 30 minutes will increase by 25 cents to $1.25 and the daily maximum will increase to $17.50. The monthly weekday rate will increase by $12 to $132 with weeknight/weekend rates increasing by $7.50 to $82.50.

Parking rates at the Main Library would not change.

“Parking rates at the Main Library parking structure and lot are not proposed to be changed at this time as occupancies at this facility are lower than the rest of the Downtown structures and lots. Further, as this facility is located on the eastern edge of downtown, the Draft Downtown Community Plan suggests that rates should be lower in comparison to incentivize patrons to park on the edge of the Downtown neighborhood and walk to their destination,” said the report. “The proposed rate changes might result in increased occupancies at the Library, so staff will monitor the situation closely and make adjustments as conditions require.”

More substantive changes are proposed for the Civic Center Lot. These changes are to account for the lots increasing popularity and to protect it from park and ride activity that could lock up spaces for 10 hours at a time without any benefit to Downtown.

The free period at the Civic would increase from 30 to 90 minutes. Additional time would increase from $1 an hour to $1 for the first hour and $1.50 for every additional 30 minutes. The daily maximum would increase from $5 to $14.

The Civic lot is underutilized on the weekends and evenings.

“To further the peripheral parking strategy outlined in the Draft Downtown Community Plan, staff is considering a $3 evening flat rate (from 5:30 p.m. to 3 a.m.) and maintaining the $5 daily maximum on weekends,” said the report.

Monthly passes would increase from $65 to $160 and weeknight/weekends would increase from $50 to $75.

Staff wants to revise downtown keycard use to better reflect the city’s priorities. City Hall wants passes to equate to a minimum of 20 times the daily rate. Current prices, $160, are about 11.5 times the daily rate. Staff wants to raise the rate to eliminate the incentive for keycard holders to use the passes on evening and weekends for recreation purposes. According to the staff report other transportation options, such as bus passes and Breeze Bike Share, are priced more competitively and could motivate some individuals to give up driving.

To combat downtown workers utilizing Santa Monica parking and taking Expo downtown every day, sales of keycards would be limited to Downtown Santa Monica employers, employees and residents of Downtown buildings without on-site parking. Existing keycard holders would be provided with a grace period to submit the required proof of employment or residency before their account would be suspended, such as three months. Keycards could also be limited to specific structures.

The Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Board of Directors has been consulted on the proposal.

“The Board stressed that they want to maintain the 90 minute free period, agreed with discouraging park and ride activity by limiting monthly parking sales to those living and working Downtown, and expressed that they would like to see additional dynamic wayfinding signage to direct drivers to available spaces,” said the report. “Additionally, staff participated in a discussion with the Parking, Access and Circulation Committee of the Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. Board on February 23, 2016. At this meeting, there was a general consensus to increase the daily maximum rate, slightly increase the price of monthlies, and to explore keeping the Main Library parking structure open later, as it currently closes at 11 p.m.”

Matthew Hall

Matthew Hall has a Masters Degree in International Journalism from City University in London and has been Editor-in-Chief of SMDP since 2014. Prior to working at SMDP he managed a chain of weekly papers...