On Thursday, Coastal Commission approved the demolition of Parking Structure 3, allowing the City to advance its efforts to build an affordable housing development on the lot.
The decision, which was met with opposition from some community members and Downtown business owners, grants the City permission to demolish the structure, repave the land and install a fence around the property.
The structure is located at 4th St and Arizona Ave, in close proximity to the Promenade, and contains 337 spaces.
Commission staff primarily based their recommendation on a study by Walker Consultants, which concluded that the loss of PS3’s spaces would not adversely impact parking availability and coastal access in the surrounding area.
The study determined that the redistributed parking demand could be accommodated within the existing capacities of nearby Parking Structures 1, 2 and 4.
Mayor Sue Himmelrich said the City had already built spaces to account for the demolition of PS3 when it rebuilt PS6 with an additional 400 spaces in 2013.
Curtis Castle, a Civil Engineer who presented on behalf of the City, said that the plans for the demolition of PS3 stretch back to the early 2000s. The site was initially earmarked for a retail and cinema development, but this plan failed to materialize and in 2018 Housing Commission prioritized PS3 for a future affordable housing site.
Interim City Manager Lane Dilg said that the parking structure is aging and would require a $4.4 million investment to extend its usable life.
Several residents remained unconvinced by the City’s logic and believe PS3 is an important parking resource that should be preserved. A petition to save the lot was started by local resident and landlord John Alle and has gained over 1,800 signatures.
“There is a need for further notification and discussion among all of us that are affected,” said Alle, who owns several retail properties on the Promenade. “Many of our merchants and the farmers at our farmers market, and visitors, moms, dads and kids will stay away if garage three is taken away — they’ll suffer.”
Multiple business owners said that they should have been consulted in deciding the fate of PS3 as its construction was funded by Downtown businesses.
“Adequate downtown parking is the lifeblood of the district and a demolition of Parking Structure 3 is too important of a decision not to involve the business community that contributed to the success of Downtown from the beginning,” said resident and property owner David Khedr.
The General Manager of Westside Comedy theatre voiced concerns about how the demolition would affect his business, which is located next to the lot and has been shut down for 15 months due to health officer orders.
“I haven’t been talked to by the City, I haven’t been notified by anybody,” said Chris Ward. “The idea of six to eight months of this project is very scary to me because as a small business owner in a very expensive place like Santa Monica, I’ve taken out loans and we filed for grants and we renewed our lease.”
Affordable housing advocates strongly support the project and believe it would provide urgently needed housing in an expensive area.
“If the demolition of PS3 is permitted the future project would bring activating street retail where there is currently a large parking vacancy and 150 units of affordable housing, 50 of which would be supportive housing for formerly homeless individuals and families that are currently living on the streets of Santa Monica,” said Steve Spielberg, who works for EH Housing, one of the companies submitting proposals to redevelop the site.
Ultimately the Coastal Commission agreed with the City’s conclusion that the demolition would not adversely impact the community and felt like there had been proper notice given about the plan. The vote passed unanimously and the demolition is currently slated to begin in 2022.
The City will need to pick a developer and undergo the lengthy approval process before proceeding to build any affordable housing project on the site.