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City Should Submit Santa Monica Civic Center Field to Coastal Commission Now

By Nikki Kolhoff and Ann Thanawalla

April 2, 2018 -- Field supporters have continued to demand the City submit the Civic Center Sports Field to Coastal Commission for approval (Santa Monica City Officials Promise Civic Center Sports Field Will Be Built," February 14, 2018).

The Coastal Commission told us in February that the City’s expensive and expansive parking study is NOT required.

Now new data staff presented to City Council in early March reveals the City not only has the data to submit to the Coastal Commission, but also shows us there’s presently enough parking available in the Civic Center for the Sports Field.

How long will this new data that favors the Sports Field remain relevant?

Newly Discovered Parking Data is Sufficient to Submit

While the City Manager was refusing to submit the Sports Field and claiming to need “more current and comprehensive data” we discovered Staff had already presented comprehensive parking data to City Council on March 6, 2018 to support their proposed Dynamic Parking System that would increase parking rates at the more crowded downtown lots with an expressed goal of driving parking to the downtown periphery, specifically to the Civic Center Parking Structure and Surface Lot.

This was supposed to be approved by City Council on March 27th and go into effect on April 1st of this year, but will now be heard by the Planning Commission on April 4th.

This data reveals that parking utilization has decreased in the Civic Center since the City submitted the CSB and SMC Lab School data. Weekday utilization has decreased from 75% to 60% in the Civic Center Structure and from 60% to 50% in the Civic Center Surface Lot, resulting in an increase of available spaces for the Sports Field from 217 to 437.

Based on Coastal Commission calculations for the SMC Lab School, even the largest CIF field with a large buffer wouldn’t take up more than 400 spaces.

Furthermore, since the Sports Field would be used by the adjacent high school students during the peak weekday utilization period, there should be no additional parking demand at this time. This decrease in utilization is critical because, while it appeared there was not sufficient space in the Civic Center for the Sports Field based on data submitted by the City to the Coastal Commission for the CSB and SMC Lab School, there is sufficient space for the Sports Field now.

So we must question why the City refuses to act now and submit the Sports Field application to the Coastal Commission with this data that is advantageous to the Sports Field.

It’s clear to us that delaying submission for “results” from the new parking study will skew this favorable data with City-orchestrated maneuvers that severely reduce Civic Center parking availability for the Sports Field.

City Is Insisting on Unnecessary Parking Study of Downtown

Since last summer, the City has claimed that the Coastal Commission requires a broad study of the entire Downtown Santa Monica prior to submission of the Sports Field. We’ve challenged this all along and Coastal Commission’s confirmation validated our contention.

We believe there is sufficient parking for the field so long as the City doesn’t continue with its plans to fill up the Civic Center lots and then “study” how little space is left after skewing the parking data. The city is doing this by manipulating pricing and signage to drive cars to the Civic Center, allowing other uses to park in the Civic Center that were never intended to park there, and closing portions of downtown parking structures for repairs and renovations to also drive traffic to our Civic Center.

The Field Design is Ready for Submission

We’ve seen the most recent field design and know it is sufficiently complete for purposes of submitting it to the Coastal Commission for a permit to build. City Hall initially took the position that our Architectural Review Board (ARB) must approve the bathroom roof before submitting the Sports Field application to the Coastal Commission but has since conceded that the City may submit the plans in their current state.

So, now that we have good comprehensive parking data and an acceptable field design, why is the city stalling? Why does the City continue to stick to an unnecessarily elongated timeline while telling the community what a great job they’ve done shortening it?

We oppose the nine-month-long, $137,000 Walker Parking Study for all Downtown Santa Monica that was approved by City Council and draws against the Sports Field budget but continues even after the Coastal Commission has told us it’s not required.

We question the attention paid by our elected City Council Members, all of whom voted for the Walker Parking Study without ever asking if the city already possessed or had access to parking data that could stand up to Coastal Commission review.

Submit the Field Now

It’s time field advocates demand that our City submit an application for the Sports Field NOW with the current field design, current parking data and copies of the public/private parking partnerships the city has with hotels, etc. within the Civic Center Area.

In 30 days we will hear from the Coastal Commission what else they need, if anything, to complete the application. Stalling any longer is completely unnecessary when the City has everything required by the Coastal Commission to demonstrate the Sports Field is adequately parked and does not impact coastal access. Submit the application NOW.

If our elected City Council representatives refuse to take immediate action requiring city staff submit the application now, please vote them out of office.

Nikki Kolhoff and Ann Thanawalla are members of the Santa Monica Parks & Recreation Task Force, a group of current and past public school parents that is not affilated with the City.

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