By Jim Gerstley
Planning Commission meeting, Wednesday, January 30, 7 PM,
6-A Zoning Ordinance Update
This ordinance is attempting to address downtown parking. Downtown is already congested, as are the I-10 and I-405 freeways. Building more multiple use developments downtown will add more people and more congestion. Congestion is a combination of cars, transit, bikes and pedestrians. Congestion impacts safety and air pollution. Unsynchronized signals alone have decreased my gas mileage 30-50%, with increased pollution. Congestion [slower speeds] will impact air quality even more. I don’t feel the suggested solutions are necessarily the best ways to solve the problem at this point in time. They need to be slowly introduced to see how they work. This means stretching development over a sufficient span to adjust the concepts. Stretching development over a longer time also means you’ll have newer buildings [such as hotel rooms] when you need them. The solution requires global thinking. Other ideas are suggested below.
Four questions: 1] Who are we trying to bring into the already congested downtown area, and why? The answer will have a major impact on traffic and parking. The “who” can be broken down into: out-of-town visitors; LA County visitors; & Santa Monica residents. Each will utilize different routes and transport modes. With residents, the distance they need to go, convenience of public transport, physical ability, and time of day will also factor in. Taxis and visitors with their own vehicles coming to downtown hotels will add to peak evening hours—suspect most arrive between 3-6PM.
2] What characteristics of Santa Monica make it a popular destination?
This will help answer the question: what is special that will draw people downtown? It will also help answer the question: what type of developments fit in and enhance the downtown experience? And what mix of traffic will this draw and what parking will be required?
3] What are the negative consequences of insufficient parking? While some will use alternative transportation [walk, bike, or transit], some will go elsewhere to spend money, which will represent an economic loss to downtown merchants. How do you make the trade-off?
4] Why drive? I live near public transportation and walk a lot. But will drive if have to travel more than 4-5 blocks that are not on a conveniently scheduled/located transit route. Drive to theatre at night. Drive to hike in the mountains. Drive to Trader Joe’s on Pico as we get too much to carry on public transit. Drive to friends’ homes not in the immediate area. Picking up/delivering heavy items [furniture, computers etc]. Drive at night to Music Center as buses don’t run late enough in the evening to return.
A] The most desirable real estate is close to the Palisades & ocean views; this should be planned for market rate housing. This maximizes income to the city in the form of real estate taxes. Affordable housing should be located outside this zone.
B]: Mini-main streets in each neighborhood would provide the basic necessities: drug stores, markets, medical, postal, restaurants/cafes. This increases walking and bike use while reducing traffic and, more importantly, traffic congestion.
C] If the I-10 and I-405 freeways are already congested, then there should be no benefits given developers for building near those corridors as it will not help traffic.
D] Establishments with high parking requirements [nightclubs] will be frequented after dark so more will drive unless they are located within walking distance of patrons’ homes. This might also result in fewer drunk driving accidents.
E] If moving parked cars around is an issue, then there is a problem with the parking plan. This may be the wrong fee schedule, or inadequate parking provided by developments.
F] Parking “in lieu of” benefits makes no sense: it provides too little parking too late. Parking is needed when a development is completed.
G] Renting apartments with/without parking [with appropriate rate adjustment] is a possibility. Should experiment with a market rate and an affordable rate rental building to see how many opt for which, before committing the concept to a bunch of developments. Believe all owned units should have parking included.
H] Have the feeling the concept of reduced parking has been introduced by developers who don’t want to pay for providing parking and don’t care, once they sell to an operator, that they have made street parking even more unavailable.
I. One of the keys to encouraging walking and bicycling is safety. Special provisions [such as parking strip barriers to separate bike lanes from traffic] should be made on minor streets such as 6th or 7th St, Arizona. How about bike lanes in Palisades Park and 3rd St? Bikes should not be encouraged to use major car arteries. Too many distractions lead to accidents.
J. Stanford University utilizes free buses running clockwise and counterclockwise around campus. The same could be employed in our downtown district, connecting major destinations with parking structures that could be located outside the immediate downtown area. Yosemite Valley also utilizes parking outside the entrance, with free buses taking people to their destinations within the valley. Seattle also offers free bus rides within a specified downtown area, with specified fares when leaving that district.
K] How are parking fees going to be collected from private spaces? Who will receive the fees? Will the owners get a guaranteed minimum to compensate for offering them to the city? How will people know some apartment building has available spaces? What is the cost to the city to manage this? Who is liable if something happens to a car or driver?
L] Santa Monica is not an island but attached to a huge sprawling metropolis. It is very challenging for public transportation to be convenient to all parts of it. San Francisco, by comparison, is pretty compact with a huge public transportation system. In San Francisco, bus tickets are good for two hours in any/all directions, including return trip. This concept might encourage more bus riders, especially those that require transfers to their destination.
M] The LUCE requires 15% excess residential and public parking at all times.
N] The I-405 is not only congested, but it greatly constricts the number of through east-west lanes under it. As a result it severely backs up traffic on every major east-west street between Wilshire & Pico. One way to ease this is to build parking structures EAST of the I-405 to handle potential traffic coming in via the I-405 & I-10, and servicing those lots with frequent low cost buses. This would also ease traffic into downtown Santa Monica & related parking
O] I don’t agree with free employee bus passes. I assume the city is paying for it? Public transit should be worthwhile if 1] it is convenient [location, time of travel, transit time] and if it costs less than a personal auto or ride share. Ride-share monthly raffles can be held for a gas coupon book to encourage car pooling, for example. Can have drawings for a monthly public transportation pass too. Employers should help to underwrite this.
P] I think I read that over 500 bikes were stolen in Santa Monica last year. What can be done about this?