Council has adjusted the rules for some transportation options due to budget cuts. File photo.

In response to recent budget cuts and the Covid-19 pandemic, Santa Monica City Council approved changes to the municipal code that relate to a number of transportation services in the city.

The changes, which were approved unanimously last Tuesday, are necessary because of a citywide restructuring that occurred in May as a result of the economic fallout occurring throughout the Westside during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to city staff.

“The restructuring process resulted in the loss of 16 positions and necessitated the elimination or suspension of some services in order to effectively deliver others,” Chief Mobility Officer Francie Stefan said Tuesday, when she discussed potentially adapting municipal code in the areas of Employer Trip Reduction, Preferential Parking, Pedicabs and Bikeshare programs.

“In the first two cases of the Employer Trip Reduction and preferential parking, the proposal is to suspend code sections for a period of four years, or until restoration and accompanying council actions. In the case of Pedicabs and Bikeshare, the changes are proposed to be permanent but are lesser in scope,” Stefan said as she delved into the specifics.

Transportation Demand Management

“So for TDM, the employer trip reduction program, the request is to suspend the requirements for businesses that have 30 to 50 people,” which means businesses of this size will no longer have to submit Emissions Reduction and Worksite Transportation plans, Stefan said. Additionally, the city’s rideshare program has been suspended and Transportation Management Organization services have been reduced.

“To be clear,” the changes do not affect any businesses of 50 employees or more, and they do not change development requirements for TDM, Stefan added before stating city staff and the GoSaMo Transportation Management Organization have refocused their efforts so they can better support large and small employers that still have employees who need to commute to the worksite, “and need commuting assistance, especially in this new time.”

Preferential Parking

The approved changes to municipal code Tuesday also suspend the designation of new or amended preferential parking zones until September 2024, according to Stefan.

“Currently, the majority of the city is blanketed in either existing implemented pref parking or pre-approved preferential parking regulations. So with this change, residents on pre-approved blocks would still be able to get their preferential parking implemented, and residents on existing implemented blocks would continue to be able to purchase and renew permits. So I want to be clear — if you’re on an existing block now that has residential parking, you would still be able to have that; you’d be able to renew your permit,” Stefan said. “The fundamental change is that we wouldn’t process new or modified regulations, such as change of hours or days of the week,” since this requires staff time to process the applications, complete parking studies, hold community meetings and then bring items to the council.

“We would also pull back some on the assistance to residents in the neighborhood who need to get signatures, so it really would be up to the applicant to obtain all qualified signatures if they needed to implement a pre-approved zone,” Stefan said, adding that encapsulates the changes to preferential parking.

Pedicabs

“In the case of pedicabs, these (code changes) are proposed to be permanent but they are actually aligning better with the state,” Stefan said. “The city, as it often is, was ahead of the game on Pedicabs. We established regulations in 2013 that required permits for the operator, the driver and each vehicle. Since then, the state has stepped in and actually mirrored many of our local regulations, so we now can lean on the state vehicle code.”

The most significant change in the language is the city would no longer require an operator and each driver to get a permit, Stefan said. “We would just manually inspect each vehicle each year as required by the state.”

Bikeshares

“Last on the list of code changes are Bikeshares,” Stefan said. “This one’s very minor It is really to remove the restriction on what type of entity can operate a public Bikeshare in Santa Monica. So it would enable an entity other than the city designated operator, in this case, CycleHop, to run a public Bikeshare system…. It’s not anticipated to have a material change in this time, it just enables the city to have a full range of options.”

brennon@smdp.com