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Change in New Santa Monica Zoning Law Decreases Parking, Community Groups Contend

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 Niki Cervantes
Staff Reporter

May 20, 2015 -- A provision in Santa Monica’s new zoning law would allow developers to offer less parking than was once required, igniting the ire of community and slow-growth groups who say the last thing the car-clogged city needs is less parking.

“In a lot of the old apartment buildings in particular, there’s already not enough parking space,” said Zina Josephs, a representative of Friends of Sunset Park, one of the biggest and oldest neighborhood associations.

Nearly all of the city’s neighborhood groups were unhappy with the provision, which allows developers to build some commercial projects with “unbundled” parking, or parking that falls short of normal requirements.

The parking provision would include new construction within a half mile of areas near the Expo Light Rail line, which is expected to connect Santa Monica to Downtown LA later this year, and high service transit stations.

Parcels in the Memorial Park Neighborhood Plan, which covers the area around Colorado Avenue and 14th Street also are included.

“These properties are well-served by transit,” the staff report noted.

The commercial developments also will “serve the surrounding residential areas, which are relatively isolated from access to goods and services, and services students from Santa Monica High School and the many Santa Monica College students that transfer between buses,” staff wrote.

Unbundled parking is “one of multiple factors that would reduce vehicle ownership and peak hour vehicle trips,” the report said.

But critics dismissed the rationale for the provision, which would also save developers money, they said.

“Unbundled parking is a gift to developers in the guise of innovation; if people don’t have parking, supposedly they won’t drive cars,” complained a representative of the Santa Monica Coalition for a Livable City (SMCLC) a decade-old slow-group group.

“We believe this ‘magical thinking’ will only exacerbate our city’s current traffic and parking problems.”

A newsletter to the organization’s members said the leadership will bring the issue up again when the City Council considers a parking study.

Josephs said the rationale made little sense for many people. “I’m not going to schlep groceries on a bus or a bike. A family with kids isn’t going to do that.  We think people are going to want to drive cars.”

The provision would lead to less parking and cause spillover into adjacent neighborhoods where parking is already scare, said Armen Melkonians, founder of Residocracy, the city’s newer slow-growth group.

“It will impact the streets around” those areas where developers are not required to build as much parking, Melkonians said.


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