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Santa Monica Considers Charging City Employees for Parking to Help Meet Anti-Congestion Goals

Santa Monica Real Estate Company, Roque and Mark

Pacific Park, Santa Monica Pier

Harding Larmore Kutcher & Kozal, LLP  law firm
Harding, Larmore
Kutcher & Kozal, LLP

Convention and Visitors Bureau Santa Monica

By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

February 10, 2016 -- The City is considering imposing a parking fee on those who work for Santa Monica’s largest employer – the City itself.

Concerned it could fail the ambitious anti-congestion standards it holds for other Santa Monica motorists, the City is also looking at ways to stop its 2,200 employees from driving solo to and from work and use alternatives instead, such as carpooling or buses.

Both changes are suggested in an internal memo written last June by Jacquilyne Brooks de Camarillo, the City’s Transportation Management Coordinator. It was obtained via a Public Records Request by the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City, a local activist group.

“It turns out that all employees who work for the City government are given free parking in Santa Monica and the majority drive to and park in the downtown area,” a representative of the coalition said.

“This is at the very time that City Hall is waging a campaign to limit driving and parking for residents everywhere in the City, especially downtown.”

On January 26, the coalition released internal documents that showed the City had been abusing its own campaign to severely limit driving and parking downtown. It said that since 2008, the number of City employees using alternative transportation to and from work had slipped by 22 percent.

Many City jobs, including those at City Hall and the Public Safety building, are located in the Civic Center just south of downtown. The area's population has mushroomed with more than 200 residential units built in the past two years, a row of luxury hotels and a booming business sector.

The City has tried a variety of ways to decrease congestion around the Downtown, including steep increases in street parking and in the public parking structures flanking the popular Third Street Promenade.

But the problem persists, making the driving habits of the City’s own workforce a sore point – especially given Santa Monica’s reputation as a progressive, environmentally friendly city.

The June 2015 memo by Brooks de Camarillo found the City is handling its employee congestion problems, but only marginally. Written to newly-hired City Manager Rick Cole, the memo points to a survey that month of all city employees that found the City had just managed to meet its target of 1.5 persons per vehicle commuting to City work sites.

But it also said the City’s numbers had been slipping over the last eight years, from 1.93 people per vehicle to the current 1.50 average.

As it now stands, the City’s average vehicle ridership (AVR) “will fall below 1.50 next year and require enhanced program components,” the memo said.

The target set as of January 1 of this year is 2.2 AVR, Brooks de Camarillo said.

In her memo, she cites the need for new ways to meet the 2016 target, including “coordinated marketing, incentives and disincentives.”

The City has taken steps, she said, to change the employee ride share program to include a fee for parking or driving alone to work.

The City also could re-staff a dedicated Employee Transportation Coordinator position, charge City employees for parking, negotiate a free transit pass program for City employees and expand telecommuting and compressed work weeks to “capture more commute trips, ” Brooks de Camarillo wrote.

How much it will cost to provide anti-congestion incentives is not detailed; the memo says only that such a move would have “budget impacts.” The memo notes that charging City employees to park can be addressed during labor negotiations.

Under rules by the South Coast Air Quality Management District, employers with more than 250 workers must submit an Employee Trip Reduction Plan each year, no later than August 11, which the City did, the memo said.

Its own new Zoning Ordinance update and related rules set an “ambitious but attainable AVR of 2.2 for the City and others employers in the Downtown areas where transportation options are most diverse and concentrated,” the memo added.

The annual plan for the City is in two parts. The first, marketing, includes staff attendances at a marketing seminar, a ride share bulletin board, two employee ride share events and discussion of ride sharing at orientations for new hires.

The second part covers incentives, which include a guaranteed ride home for rides hare participants in case of an emergency, rides hare matching, a Ride share Rewards Program for direct financial incentives, a transit subsidy and a van pool subsidy, according to the memo.

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