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Supporters Mount Latest Push to Save Downtown Parking Structure

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By Jorge Casuso

October 21, 2021 -- Supporters of saving a Downtown parking structure slated to be torn down and replaced with affordable housing submitted a petition to top City officials Friday they said has garnered 5,000 signatures.

Of the total signatures supporting Parking Structure 3 -- on 4th Street between Santa Monica Boulevard and Arizona Avenue -- 4,315 were gathered over the past four months on, according to the website.

Organizers of the petition drive led by Downtown property owner John Alle said they hope to now focus on Santa Monica residents, "most of whom have expressed frustration with the City Council, and are against demolishing Parking Garage 3."

"An additional 5,000 more signatures are expected by the end of December," organizers wrote in a press release Friday. "That total number would equate to 13 percent of Santa Monica's registered voters."

Mayor Sue Himmelrich, who received one of the packages containing the petition sent to the Councilmembers and City Manager, said she wasn't impressed with the results of the petition drive.

"When we have a really good issue like the water rate hike (in 2015), we got about 4,600 letters from people who live in Santa Monica," Himmelrich said.

By comparison, she said, the petition reflects "5,000 random signatures."

Himmelrich noted that the petition posted on to remove former Police Chief Cynthia Renaud in the wake of the May 31, 2020 riots got more than 65,000 signatures.

At the heart of the petition drive, the mayor contends, is not the loss of the 337 parking spaces in Structure 3, which were replaced when Parking Structure 6 was rebuilt, but the proposal to build affordable housing on the site.

"The demolition of the garage has been planned since 2009," Himmelrich said. "It's ironic that this was not an issue when movie theaters were planned and passed in 2015.

"Yet some folks who complain about the unhoused want to block a project that will permanently house them plus provide housing for dozens of working families to help them remain housed."

In the petition, Alle wrote, "We support mixed use housing for low income and homeless, but not by removing much needed parking."

The fate of parking Structure 3 -- which sits at the center of Downtown a half block from the Expo light rail station -- has been debated over the past two decades.

In 2009, the City decided to tear down the structure -- which was built in 1966 and needs extensive retrofitting -- and replace it with a commercial use, starting negotiations with two cinema operators that would last until 2015.

Two years later, the City approved the Downtown Community Plan (DCP), which allows approximately 120,000 square feet of affordable housing and approves the reduction of 600 public parking spaces on 2nd and 4th streets by 2027.

The City got the go-ahead to tear down the structure this May, when the California Coastal Commission approved a demolition permit. Two months later the Council awarded a $2.5 million demolition contract to AMPCO Contracting, Inc.

In the Housing Element Update approved by the City Council this month, the site was earmarked as one of the potential City-owned properties needed to build the 6,168 affordable units mandated by the State ("Council Cautiously Approves Housing Plan," October 13, 2021).

Editor's note: This article was updated at 11 a.m. Saturday to reflect that 4,600 -- not 6,000 -- property owners wrote letters protesting a proposed water rate hike in 2015.

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