Santa Monica Lookout
|Downtown Santa Monica Visitors Grapple with Parking Woes, Survey Finds||
By Niki Cervantes
November 28, 2016 -- Santa Monica offers more than 10,000 parking spaces downtown, but drivers still say they can’t find anywhere to park.
That was one of most prominent frustrations expressed by residents and others during an eight-month public outreach campaign by the City to assess reaction to the draft Downtown Community Plan (DCP), City planners found.
Despite “dedicated infrastructure (such as over 10,000 publicly accessible parking spaces), many people still express frustration about getting to, and moving around Downtown,” the report said.
Aside from downtown's estimated 4,500 residents, some seven million visitors flock to the area each year, with the Third Street Promenade alone recording 17 million “footfalls” a year, officials said.
The report, which is part of the newest iteration of the controversial Downtown Plan, does not discuss increasing the amount of parking. Instead, it says frustrations over parking stem from the failure to use alternatives to the car -- the key to Santa Monica’s hopes of allowing more building downtown without increasing traffic.
“People need help to understand how to use mobility options,” the report said.
About a quarter of those in downtown arrive by car, although 70 percent get around by walking once they’ve arrived, City planners said.
Officials are hoping to transform downtown into a model of "multimodality," leaving behind the car-centric -- and polluting -- ways of both the past and present. It is among the City's biggest goals.
The report noted improvements in the last five years should make eschewing cars more enticing ("Santa Monica Launches Car Free Friday Initiative," October 7, 2016).
Included is the May debut of the Expo Light Rail Line, an overhauled bus system, green-painted bike lines, the City’s Breeze bike-share program and the conversion of 11 intersections into all-way pedestrian scrambles, including two “creative crosswalks.”
The City also is urging the use of alternatives, including car sharing and new-generation taxi services such as Uber and Lyft.
Meanwhile, the number of people who walk to get around downtown is also rising, the City's report found. The report offers no specific data, but says “in many spots there are more people on foot in Downtown’s public right of way than there are people in vehicles.”
The newest version of the DCP was unveiled before the City’s Planning Commission on November 16. Nearly seven years in the making, the plan details where and how development can potentially occur downtown ("Vote on Santa Monica Downtown Plan Delayed Yet Again," March 31, 2016).
Although most of the debate has centered on three large and especially tall developments, critics are also skeptical that the plan’s 3.22 million square feet in potential net new development through 2030 won’t increase congestion, as City planners propose.
They also say all the traffic and a parking shortage is keeping Santa Monica's own residents from venturing downtown, although the report found many local residents say they go there.
During the outreach process, City planners said they also discovered that 65 percent of local greenhouse gas emissions originate from transportation, up from the 40 percent previously thought.
The draft is due back to the Planning Commission on December 6. A vote by the City Council is anticipated in the spring.
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