Council Tweaks Plan to Share Preferential Parking
By Menaka Fernando
June 16 -- The City Council Tuesday night tapped the brakes on a plan that would would have reserved 10 percent of preferential parking spaces for businesses along three of the city’s commercial strips.
Instead, the council voted unanimously to direct staff to develop a one-year pilot program that would allow workers to park on more or less vacant blocks between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. Monday through Friday.
The spaces would be made available on and near parts of Pico Boulevard, Ocean Park Boulevard in Sunset Park and Montana Avenue in the Northern part of the city.
The plan -- seemingly embraced by both merchants and residents -- also would track permits to prevent abuse, allows extensive public noticing and considers an additional annual parking fee to be paid by employers.
Council member Kevin McKeown, who made the motion, said he believed the primary claim to parking spaces should go to residents who live on the streets. He recalled that decades ago residents could park immediately in front of their white picket fences.
“Even with preferential parking, we can no longer deliver that to people,” McKeown said.
But Mayor Pam O’ Connor worried that preferential parking in general is “privatizing public streets.” Still, she acknowledged the need for “managing scarce resources,” such as parking.
The decision came after more than an hour of heated testimony from merchants and residents on opposite sides of the preferential parking issue who packed the council chambers. They ranged from business owners sporting suits and ties to the self-described environmentalist wearing a “Recall Arnold” T-shirt and shorts.
Some proponents of reserving preferential parking for residents wore “save preferential parking” stickers and trickled downstairs to solicit signatures for signs they later held up at the meeting.
Dr. Michael Gruning, owner of Gruning Eyecare on Montana Avenue, called for a symbiotic relationship between the city’s merchants and residents. But the former Chamber of Commerce chair added that “for us as merchants to survive, we need parking.”
Laurie Schneider, both a business owner in the city and a resident of 10th Street, said the situation would improve if the current preferential parking laws were enforced.
But, resident Christian Boice countered that the city’s employees should be encouraged to use transportation alternatives, such as the Big Blue Bus, to get to work.
If Santa Monica is to remain a “sustainable” city, Boice said, the City should discourage pollution from employees driving to work.
Council member Bobby Shriver -- facetiously expressing fears that his coffee may be poisoned the next morning -- said he had reservations about approving the staff’s recommendation to allow employees to use some residential parking spots.
“I express my terror at seeing people here I see everyday expecting me to give them a parking spot,” Shriver said, triggering a roar of laughter from the crowd.
But Shriver added that there would be no mechanism in place to measure the success of the 10-percent plant had the council approved the staff’s recommendation.
While both the council and community members see preferential parking as “a necessary evil” in a congested city, an easy solution seems unlikely.
“The whole (parking) system stinks,” Boice said.
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