A lone “no” vote torpedoed an effort to expand a preferential parking zone near Santa Monica’s border with Venice that divided opinion among residents.
Two-thirds of residents in the proposed zone petitioned the council last week to restrict parking on Ashland and Pier avenues adjacent to Lincoln Boulevard to two hours during the day for non-residents. Many of them wrote to the council that it is exceedingly difficult for them to park in their neighborhood.
“(It’s) becoming almost impossible for residents to park on the street in which they reside which is not only an inconvenience but dangerous for families with young children who have to park blocks away and cross multiple streets to reach their home,” wrote Jason Roberts.
But other residents wrote that they felt that preferential parking would hurt nearby businesses and discourage visitors. They said they do not have any trouble finding parking spaces near their homes.
“These restrictions will also cause serious headaches for all residents when we have visitors … stay for a visit longer than two hours,” wrote David Cano. “It is a very unwelcoming approach and … just not necessary.”
The optimal street parking usage rate is 85%, the city of Santa Monica’s planners said. The majority of blocks in the proposed zone exceed 85% occupancy for at least two hours each day, but few surpassed that rate for the entire day.
Only four out of seven councilmembers voted on the zone and it did not gain the number of votes required to go forward.
Kevin McKeown was absent, Ted Winterer recused himself because he lives in the proposed zone and Mayor Gleam Davis recused herself because she may buy a home there. Sue Himmelrich, Greg Morena and Ana Maria Jara supported the district, but Terry O’Day voted against it.
O’Day said he votes against preferential parking zones on principle, and Himmelrich said she hated them.
“I think that generally these parking permit districts are a privatization of public space that benefits homeowners over everybody else in the community,” O’Day said.
Preferential parking zones cover 40% of city blocks and the council has approved an additional 12% of blocks for preferential parking if residents petition for it, said city spokesperson Constance Farrell. Three out of 52 zones have been approved in the last two years, bringing the total number of blocks subject to regulations from 622 to 665.
“(Preferential parking is) intended to regulate and manage traffic and parking circulation by limiting on-street parking availability on residential streets in a manner that facilitates the ability of residents … to find on-street parking for their vehicles,” Farrell said.
Some residents wrote to the council that they believe new preferential parking zones simply shift parking demand to nearby streets without regulations, spurring residents on those streets to petition for their own preferential parking.
“It just moves all the parking over to the next street, and that becomes crowded, and then that street has to ask for a preferential zone,” wrote Abby Arnold, a homeowner in the new zone. “To the extent there is a problem, it just concentrates it and moves it around.”
Others said a 47-unit apartment building with ground-floor businesses planned for 2903 Lincoln Blvd. would generate more parking demand. The building will contain 151 parking spaces for cars and 98 for bicycles.
“The (development) … is going to add dozens of new residents with vehicles and insufficient designated parking for them,” wrote Daniel Shear. “The construction phase alone will create parking chaos for years as all the construction workers arrive before 7 a.m. and scatter park in our already overburdened neighborhood.”
Donald Shoup, a professor of urban planning at UCLA and a widely cited parking expert, said he thinks the growth of preferential parking in Santa Monica is in part a reaction to development. But if implemented thoughtfully, he said, preferential parking can address the traffic concerns associated with new housing.
He said some preferential parking programs allow non-residents to purchase permits at a higher price, which nearby businesses typically use for their employees. Casual visitors can pay for more than two hours of parking through their phones. The revenue funds streetscape improvements in the zone, Shoup said.
“I think these improved permit districts … would enable development to take place in a way that pleases residents who are now fighting them because their neighborhoods will be overwhelmed with cars,” he said.