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City Considers Big Rate Hikes for Downtown Santa Monica Parking Structures

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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 6, 2018 -- Parking in City-operated parking structures for popular downtown Santa Monica could rocket by up to 71 percent to reach $30 on weekends for motorists who stay around for the day, according to a new report.

The $30-a-day option goes to the City Council for consideration today as a piece of a larger mission for the City that entails convincing solo drivers to turn to alternative transportation, especially in Santa Monica's car-congested downtown.

The proposed changes also eliminate the 90 minutes of free parking in Downtown structures.

If approved, it would mark the second time in two years the City jacks up parking rates in the downtown ("New Santa Monica Parking Rates to Take Effect Tuesday," July 1, 2016).

The report analyzes ways of ensuring parking for workers (the City is a particularly large employer in the downtown area) and others by keeping 15 percent of all spots available at all times.

The public portion of the council’s meeting tonight starts at 5:30 p.m. in the Council Chambers of City Hall, at 1685 Main Street.

“Setting sensible parking pricing is one of the most effective strategies to manage demand, ensure parking availability at all times, maximize the use of underutilized facilities, reduce traffic congestion, and encourage the use of more sustainable modes of transportation,” the report by Planning Director David Martin, who also is in charge of parking operations.

A major goal -- which has been in place for a decade -- is to shift parking at the downtown structures out to the periphery, where demand is less.

The report also suggests cutting the cost of some parking at outlying structures as an inducement for motorists, which has also been tried in the past.

Downtown officials are urging downtown businesses to "voice your support for retaining free parking, which is a benefit to residents and others who use downtown regularly to run errands, hit the gym or shop and dine at our many fabulous businesses," according to an email sent Monday.

The City owns and/or operates 43 parking facilities which provide about 14,000 public parking spaces.

Among the most heavily used are Parking Structure 1 and Parking Structure 3, which are both on 4th Street between Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in the City’s core.

Together, the two structures have 674 parking spaces and historically have been almost full on weekdays and weekend alike.

The popularity of both structures has been edging down -- along with their contribution to City coffers -- as the popularity of the Expo downtown station, with six minutes between rides, has risen, the report said.

Expo Light Rail ridership realized a significant increase when it began six-minute headway service in March 2017, and the trains were given “the green light” over surrounding traffic.

The Santa Monic Police Department also worked out “geo-fenced” customer pick up with Lyft and with Uber, giving riders greater access to downtown and Main Street, Martin said.

“This provides a competitive time and money advantage over the pricing and location of our parking structures and lots,” he said.

A second option before the council for Parking Structures One and Three raises the maximum on weekdays to $20 from the current $17.50 and to $25 on weekends.

The City’s other parking facilities maintained their existing peak in use or experienced higher use because of their proximity to downtown.

Rates at structures 2 and 4 through 8) would drop from $17.50 for long-term maximum daily parking to $17 on weekdays and rise to $20 weekdays and $25 on weekends in Option A, or drop to $17 on weekdays and rise to $20 on weekends in Option B.

At Structures 9 and 10, the increase tops out at $17 on weekdays and $20 on weekends.

The Civic Center parking lot and structure (heavily used by local government employees) remains unchanged in both options at a maximum of $14 on week days and $5 on weekends.

Rates at the Main Library’s parking structure go from the current $10 for long-term parking to $14 on weekdays but stays at $5 on weekends in the first option; in the second, those rates rise to $12 on weekdays and stay at $5 on weekends.

Martin said “policy and the market” for parking are changing now.

“There is increasing recognition of the high economic and environmental cost of subsidized parking, and growing recognition that in a region where there are seven parking spaces for every car that greater attention must be paid to the efficient utilization of parking,” he said.

The council has already adopted policies in its extension land-use plan (the Land Use and Circulation Element) and its blueprint for development in downtown which suggest “parking pricing is one of the most effective strategies" to meet the city's goals.


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