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Interim Parking Program Rolls Forward  

By Gene Williams
Lookout Staff

August 26, 2011 – With City Parking Structure 6 on Second Street slated for demolition and rebuilding early next year, the City of Santa Monica wants to move as many of Downtown’s monthly parking pass holders as possible to the Civic Center.

Monthly pass holders in Downtown’s public parking structures who voluntarily relocate now will cut their parking costs by 50 percent and receive free unlimited use of the Big Blue Bus. But those who wait may lose out.

Pass holders in Structure 6 do not have an option of transferring their passes to another Downtown structure. Their best alternative is to take advantage of the incentives to relocate to the Civic Center at a reduced rate while they can, Downtown officials said.

“We want the businesses to know that we’re trying to make this transition as beneficial and seamless for them and their staff as possible,” said Debbie Lee, director of marketing and communications for Downtown Santa Monica, Inc. (DTSM).

The incentives are part of a multi-year plan developed by the City and DTSM to update downtown’s overall parking program. The first goal is to free up as many spaces as possible to ensure adequate parking for business customers when the 342 spaces in Structure 6 are taken offline in April 2012.

“We hope to have about 200 people moved by the end of August,” Lee said. “Of course, our primary objective is to look at Parking Structure 6 first.”

The first 200 monthly pass holders who voluntarily move to the Civic Center will pay only $60 per month – down from $121 they presently pay to park Downtown.

The price reduction – which is offered only to current monthly pass holders in Downtown’s public parking structures — will save monthly parkers $732 per space per year. The price is locked in through 2014.

In addition, those who relocate now also receive free unlimited use of the Big Blue Bus – a bonus worth almost $1,000 per year. The same key card they will use to park at the Civic Center also works as a bus pass.

The parking passes are good for both the Civic Center structure and surface lot, located only a short walk from Downtown, two blocks south of Colorado Avenue at Fourth Street and Civic Center Drive.

In addition, a shuttle between Downtown and the Civic Center is set to begin by August 29, 2011.

“We really encourage people to take advantage of the incentives and relocate now,” said Frank Ching, parking coordinator for the City. “When we get to the last stage, there may be fewer options available to parkers, particularly in structure 6, which is what we are striving to avoid.”

Once construction is scheduled to begin, pass holders in Structure 6 who have not relocated will have their passes canceled. The City might decide to cancel passes in Structure 5 as well.

When that happens, cancelled pass holders may be offered alternative parking at the Civic Center — if space is still available and at a higher rate. At that time, the monthly cost will start out at the regular Civic parking rate of $82.50 per month and will be subject to any future price increases. City and Downtown officials urge pass holders to act sooner and lock in a better deal.

The parking relocation program rolled out in June. In the first few weeks, about 50 monthly pass holders signed up for the incentives. With continued outreach, City and Downtown officials hope to move 400 to 500 monthly pass holders to the Civic Center before the end of the year.

“We need the spaces in Downtown to maintain the parking inventory while the structure is being rebuilt,” Ching said.

But the Civic Center lot is not the only place to find alternative parking. Downtown’s interim and long term parking plans also include partnerships with private parking facilities that have extra space. This especially benefits people who primarily park in Downtown on nights and weekends.

Seven business and office buildings Downtown are offering monthly passes at deeply discounted rates for parking during their off-peak hours. Monthly parking at these facilities is only $30 a month plus tax. The passes are good on weekdays after 5 p.m. and anytime on Saturdays and Sundays.

For a list of businesses offering parking passes during off-peak hours, go to www.thirdstreetpromenade.com/about and click “Alternate Downtown Parking” in the upper left hand box of the webpage.

In addition, the City plans to take advantage of a number of other parking resources that are going largely unused.

In March, City Council voted to buy back 75 to 100 spaces it leases to the Douglas Emmett Company. Under a long-term lease that originated in 1968, the real estate company had been leasing 155 spaces in Structure 2 but was only using about one-third of them.

The City says it will recoup the cost of the buy-back with a profit by charging the going rate for short-term parking in those spaces. City officials are presently working on a similar deal with Equity Office Properties to regain dozens more City-owned parking spaces.

In June, the City created 100 new spaces when it opened its property on 5th Street and Arizona Avenue as a temporary parking site. Parking officials say the temporary lot served more than 1,000 cars on its first weekend of operation. With valet service coming soon, the lot will be even more efficient.

Eventually, the site will be expanded by 67,500 square feet when a number of City-owned buildings – including those presently occupied by Carlson’s Appliances, Angelo’s Pawn Shop and Ezai Flowers – are taken down to make way for redevelopment. Demolition will begin after the tenants’ leases run out in January 2013.

When the site is redeveloped, it will probably include substantial subterranean parking, but that could easily be four or five years away. In the meantime, the nearby parking structure at the Main Library regularly has between 200 to 300 empty spaces available.

But making parking available is not enough if people can’t find it or are stuck in traffic. The City is turning to technology to help balance the parking/circulation equation.

All of Downtown’s parking structures are now automated, which speeds up the time it takes to get in and out by helping drivers find available spaces and by collecting their parking fees before they get into their cars to exit.

Smart phone applications are also available to let drivers know where to park and how to avoid delays. To get real-time parking information, go to smgov.net/parking or download the SAMO Park app onto your phone, iPad or iPod Touch. More apps should become available in the future.

In addition, the City has installed parking meters that accept credit cards on Arizona Avenue between Third and Fourth streets, and on Ocean Avenue between Arizona and Colorado avenues. All old-style meters will be phased out citywide during the next few years.

Freeing up parking and circulation Downtown is critical as the City prepares for a host of major development and infrastructure projects in the next few years.

Demolition and rebuilding of Structure 6 will take 342 spaces offline until mid-2013. When a new Structure 6 is completed, it will have more than twice as much parking – enough for 748 cars, 90 bikes and 13 motorcycles on 11 parking levels.

But before the dust settles, Downtown will lose another 339 spaces as early as April 2013, when Structure 3 on 4th Street goes down to make way for a new AMC movie theater.

City and Downtown officials say there will be enough parking resources to carry the load until 2014, but the situation will have to be managed well to make sure all the pieces of the interim plan work together until then.

 


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