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Santa Monica Planning Commission to Weigh in on Hiking Parking Rates Downtown


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By Niki Cervantes
Staff Writer

March 29, 2018 -- An already divisive proposal to increase hourly rates at Downtown parking structures and jack up prices by 71 percent for motorists who park for the day goes the City’s Planning Commission next Wednesday.

At the behest of the City Council, the commissioners will weigh in on a plan that remolds parking at downtown and peripheral structures by adjusting rates ("Santa Monica Officials Explore Ways to Get People Downtown Without Cars," March 15, 2018).

The ultimate goal is to convince motorists to instead use alternative transportation, a growing category that includes everything from buses and bikes to e-scooters and walking.

Residents and business owners pushed back when the council discussed the proposal earlier this month, saying parking is already too hard to find, and too expensive.

The commission’s April 4 work session on the proposal is at 7 p.m. in City Hall Council Chambers, at 1685 Main Street in the Civic Center.

Officials say “employing a demand-responsive parking pricing strategy” in the area helps “to proactively manage the various weekday and weekend demands, including traffic, congestion and circulation challenges."

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Although the council has walked back its support of eliminating the first 90 minutes of free parking in the nine structures in the Downtown core and the Ken Edwards Center, other rates would increase.

Key features of the proposal include:

* Extending the pilot Downtown employee discount validation parking program for one additional year, through June 30, 2019.

* Setting parking rates for the Structures 1 and 3 flanking the Promenade slightly higher than the remaining Downtown parking facilities to respond to the “excessively high weekday and weekend demand in these two facilities.”

* Using shorter pricing periods -- ensuring minimal impact on short-term parking sessions -- but progressively increasing the incremental parking rates for successive periods.

“This is designed to facilitate availability, encourage long-term parking sessions in the less expensive parking facilities outside of the Downtown core, and/or encourage consideration of travel mode shift,” a report to the commission said.

Meanwhile, using the parking structures for several hours could reach $30 on weekends.

If approved, it would mark the second time in two years the City jacks up parking rates in the downtown ("New Santa Monica Parking Rates to Take Effect Tuesday," July 1, 2016).

The report analyzes ways of ensuring parking for workers (the City is a particularly large employer in the downtown area) and others by keeping 15 percent of all spots available at all times.

The City owns and/or operates 43 parking facilities which provide about 14,000 public parking spaces.

Among the most heavily used are Parking Structures 1 and 3, which are both on 4th Street between Wilshire and Santa Monica boulevards in the City’s core.

Together, the two structures have 674 parking spaces and historically have been almost full on weekdays and weekend alike.

The popularity of both structures has been edging down -- along with their contribution to City coffers -- as the popularity of the Expo Downtown station, with six minutes between rides, has risen, the report said.

Expo Light Rail ridership realized a significant increase when it began six-minute headway service in March 2017 ("Expo Line to Santa Monica Hits Target Ridership 13 Years Ahead of Schedule," July 12, 2017).


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