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Bayside Officials Back Parking Rate Hikes, with Conditions

By Jorge Casuso

July 27, 2009 – Bayside District officials last week backed a City plan to free up public parking spaces Downtown by boosting rates and better managing the available spaces, but warned that little would improve unless Santa Monica hires a full-time “parking czar” and upgrades the parking technology.

Under the Bayside Board's recommendations to the City Council approved Thursday, parking would remain free for the first two hours, and the daily maximum rates would increase from $7 to $9. Evening maximum rates would also go up -- from $3 to $5. Monthly passes would fetch $121, including tax, up from $82.50.

While the recommendations are in line with the rates proposed by a City consultant, Bayside officials included a provision in their motion that called for hiring a parking czar who would review, study and plan parking and access Downtown.

Several members noted that even simple ideas – such as signage approved a year ago letting motorists know spaces were available at private structures after hours – had not been implemented.

“We have been trying for a year to get signs put outside private parking that’s available. A year. That’s crazy,” said Kathleen Rawson, the Bayside District Corporation’s executive director.

“I think adopting recommendations without a person implementing them doesn’t make sense,” Rawson said.

“We’ve sort of been here before more than once, and we haven’t been able to get a sign up,” said Board Vice Chair John Warfel. “If we were confident it could happen quickly, you wouldn’t be hearing such angst.

Parking, Warfel said, “is a big issue. The City has to commit to the parking czar.”

The board also included a provision calling on the City to upgrade the technology inside the parking structures, which they said is woefully out of date.

“We’re not using technology to completely utilize the parking in Downtown Santa Monica,” said Board member Randy Brant, a vice president of Macerich, which owns Santa Monica Place, the indoor mall currently undergoing a major remodel.

Bayside and City officials hope that raising parking rates – which are far below market – and better managing the spaces available will avert the need to build costly, new parking structures.

“The parking here is undervalued,” said Richard Raskin, a parking consultant for Walker Parking. “The rates need to be brought up.

“We don’t believe that you have to build more parking at this juncture,” Raskin said. “Keep what you have, but manage it far better than you have.”

The consultant’s proposal includes partnering with the private sector to share underutilized spaces, instituting a Downtown valet parking program and using a pricing carrot-and-stick approach to move long-term parking users to structures further away from the Third Street Promenade.

It also calls for reducing free parking in the structures from two hours to one in an effort to force out low-income employees who move their cars in and out of the structures behind the Promenade every two hours to avoid paying a fee.

Bayside officials did not back the proposal, saying they were worried that there was no strategy in place to accommodate the employees’ vehicles or encourage alternate forms of transit.

“It makes sense to do the cheapest, easiest things first,” said Robert York, a consultant to the Bayside. “But we need to have an employee parking strategy.”

Bayside officials were also skeptical that a public-private partnership would open up hundreds of new parking spaces.

Although raising rates is a first step and would pay for the parking czar’s salary, there is much to be done, officials said.

“Raising the rates is pretty easy,” Warfel said, “but of we don’t have a true operational plan, raising the rates is not going to do much.”


“We have been trying for a year to get signs put outside private parking that’s available. A year. That’s crazy.” Kathleen Rawson


“Keep what you have, but manage it far better than you have.” Richard Raskin

“Raising the rates is pretty easy, but of we don’t have a true operational plan, raising the rates is not going to do much.” John Warfel

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