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Santa Monica Considering Charging to Charge E-Vehicles

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

By Hector Gonzalez
Staff Writer

May 18, 2015 -- As electric vehicles continue making gains in the new car market more drivers are lining up at Santa Monica’s public charging stations for a free charge. But that could change, said City officials.

Officials now are looking at ways to recover the City’s electricity costs, including charging EV motorists a user fee at public EV stations, officials said.

“Council has already weighed in on this and has asked staff to look into a number of issues, including cost recovery,” said Dean Kubani, head of the City’s Office of Sustainability. 

Any future EV charging fee, however, would first have to be authorized by the City Council, Kubani said. Council members are expected to take up the issue later this year, he added.

As it stands now, no one know how much in electricity bills the City pays out annually to subsidize its public EV charging stations, said Kubani.

That’s mainly because several of the free charging stations are in public parks, where electricity bills also include the cost of operating security lighting and for lighting buildings like community centers, he said.

“We don’t have all the data on that now. That’s something we’re working on tracking down,” said Kubani. “The difficulty is that the charging stations don’t have individual meters.”

In addition, staff is recommending the Council approve the installation of more charging stations. And officials also want the City to streamline its permit process for residential charging stations, said Kubani.

Santa Monica has 80 public and private EV charging stations, but only those at public facilities like Virginia Park and City parking lots provide free charges for EV owners.

Purchases of new electric hybrid cars has skyrocketed in recent years and now accounts for nearly 10 percent all new cars bought in the state, according to electric-vehiclenews.com.

Increasing demand is another reason why officials are looking at revamping local ordinances pertaining to public EV charging stations, said Kubani.

“Anecdotally, we’ve heard from staff that there has been an increase in use at these charging stations,” said Kubani.

EV owners have begun regularly lining up at public charging station, sometimes waiting four hours to charge their cars.

That issue surfaced recently when a 36-year-old African American man claimed he was roughed up by Santa Monica police while waiting to charge up his e-vehicle at Virginia Park last month.

Justin Palmer arrived at the park at around 9:30 p.m. and waited a few hours for his turn at the charger. By then, it was near the park’s closing time, according to Justin Sanders, Palmer’s attorney.

Palmer claims two police officers told him the park was closed, ordered him to leave, then handcuffed him and tripped him to the ground when he did not immediately produce identification.

Palmer, through is attorney, filed an excessive force claim against Santa Monica on May 8, a required first step before a lawsuit, Sanders said.

Although Palmer was arrested and issued a citation for violating the City’s park closure ordinance and delaying and obstructing officers in the performance of their duties, the Santa Monica City Attorney’s Office decline to pursue the case in court.

One reason for not filing criminal charges was that signs at the entrance to Virginia Park’s parking lot “did not clearly indicate that the parking lot is included in the park closure ordinance,” Deputy City Attorney Terry L. White said earlier this month.

Kubani said officials will recommend to the Council that the City install signs at all public charging stations stipulating hours of operation

“We’re recommending new signage for charging stations that’s consistent in times for use at the various locations, so we don’t have people leaving their cars parked for hours while they wait for their turn,” said Kubani.

“There are a lot of different recommendations that we will be bringing soon to the Council for their consideration.” , Kubani said.


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