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Parking for employees is at the root of the Downtown Parking Plan

Your recent editorial of March 10 about the Downtown Parking Plan blasted
Kevin McKeown for favoring the environmentally superior Alternative 3B
which proposes 712 new parking spaces instead of 1,712.

I am very happy he had the courage to stand up and say “no” to a plan which
greases the road for more cars in the downtown and more commercial
development.Photo caption: 

Scooters and bicycles in Florence, 
Italy in a section of the city now 
closed to cars.

One of Santa Monica’s biggest environmental and quality-of-life problems is the many employees who drive into the city every day to access the 75,000
jobs in Santa Monica. We are all familiar with the congested freeway and
streets and noise and pollution of cars zipping through our neighborhood
streets at rush hours, making them unappealing for walking, biking and

Downtown Bayside District employees using heavily discounted monthly
permits occupy approximately 50 percent (about 1700) of parking spaces in

the Downtown parking structures. By building 1000 parking spaces in two
tall new structures for these employee parkers in another district, the
Downtown Parking Plan aims at creating more parking for customers.

Shoppers should have first priority when it comes to downtown parking, so
that the merchants can do well, which benefits us all. Santa Monica
residents, when they drive to the Third Street Promenade, often complain
about the inconvenience of trying to find available parking. This is not
because of a lack of parking but because it’s badly managed and you can’t
easily tell where it is. There's no coordinated system keeping careful
track of and clearly communicating the vacancies, as they have at the
Grove. Only on Saturday evenings is there a real parking crunch.

I choose not to participate in the congestion and search for a parking
place when I go to the Promenade for a movie or to dine and shop. My friend
and I opt to get some exercise and ride our bikes and park them in the only
secure parking place for bikes downtown: inside the parking structure on
the corner of Fourth and Broadway, at the racks right across from the
parking attendants. It’s our secret spot. All the structures should have
such good bike parking where you can safely leave a bike for hours.

Increasing the supply of parking is not the only solution to a perceived
lack of parking. Better management of what we have and reducing the numbers
of employees who drive in would solve numerous problems: create more
walkable neighborhoods, reduce noise and pollution, unclog traffic and
leave more space for us human beings to enjoy nature and one another.

Reducing demand is also more cost-effective than increasing supply.
Projected construction costs are already out of date. At prevailing costs,
the city needs to budget at least $45,000 for each new parking space, or
$45,000,000 for 1000 new spaces. Projected numbers only budget $22,000 -
$25,000 per space which ignores the skyrocketing cost of land downtown and
increased cost of construction materials. The city may be able to purchase
the land but not have enough money to build the parking. This could result
in precious downtown land lying fallow for years as surface parking lots.

Redevelopment funds are a valuable resource for our community. They should
not be used in the Downtown to acquire property, possibly through eminent
domain. These parking structures would be plunked down a few blocks from
the Promenade to facilitate future commercial development which may never
materialize or be acceptable to the greater Santa Monica community.

$45,000,000 is a lot of public money for housing cars. The best use of that
money and scarce land downtown may be for workforce housing, which could
provide more built-in customers for downtown businesses and the future
Exposition Light Rail line station at Fourth and Colorado. Residents could
walk to access the business district and not require parking facilities.

Downtown merchants should live within their boundaries and means and
carefully budget their available parking between customers and employees.
Alternative 3B would add 712 new parking spaces. That should suffice until
we get our own light rail on the old Exposition Corridor. Should merchants
need more parking for customers, they can give employees more incentives to
commute by other means.

Subsidized parking for employees is not appropriate in an urban area such
as our Downtown with excellent transit service.

These measures can be integrated into a parking plan to reduce employee
demand for parking:

1. On Saturday evenings, do not allow discounts for employees since
parking is constrained, except for employees who are handicapped or in
registered car pools. Market rates for parking must be used to make solo
driving less attractive.

2. Adopt an "Eco Pass" free-to-the-user transit pass program for
Downtown employees, similar to UCLA’s BruinGo program, instead of offering
subsidized monthly parking permits, except for registered car-pools and
handicapped persons. These unlimited-access transit passes have
demonstrated they can increase transit use, reduce vehicle travel, reduce
parking demand, and increase transit riders’ incomes. A popular employee
benefit when coupled with a guaranteed ride home program.

3. Encourage commuting by bicycle by building a network of bike lanes in
the Downtown such as those on Main Street and Montana Avenue. An expanded bicycle network will also be attractive to tourists, residents and

4. Provide secure parking for human-scaled vehicles such as bikes and
scooters in each parking structure, within view of parking attendants, or
in a fenced area, with shower facilities and lockers for commuter
bicyclists. Provide charging facilities for electric bikes and scooters.

5. Educate customers and residents also with a “transit and bicycle
first” policy to further lower demand for new parking. We must maximize the
benefits of the Transit Mall investments we have already made. Give
customers and residents free bus tokens as a promotion. Offer free home
delivery of purchases.

6. Track and communicate existing parking supply downtown to drivers by
computer, signage and radio broadcasts to manage it more effectively.

7. The Bayside District could help build work-force housing downtown.
This will provide built-in customers and employees for businesses and the
future light rail line.

8. Implement a program to help employers hire locally, such as exists in
West Hollywood, so that employees are more likely to live in the area
served by local transit or within bicycling distance.

9. Offer a counseling program to advise those employees who want to
switch over to sustainable travel modes.

Do we care more about our kids or our cars?

If we give in to the insatiable demand for car parking and invite ever more
autos into our Downtown, we will continue to poison the air and water and
congest the freeways, neighborhood streets and Downtown. And we will
become obese in the process. Even President Bush is now calling on us to
curb our oil addiction. What kind of planet will we leave our children? Do
we want to spend limited resources to house our cars or our kids?

For Earthday, celebrated on the Third Street Promenade on Saturday, April
15, The Westside Greens, the Sustainable Transport Club, the Green Depot
and the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition will have a booth with various
greener vehicles. Come see what the future looks like.

Barbara Filet
(310) 396-8950-home
(323) 964-8791-work

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You may want to learn what else you can do and how the community based organizing works. One of the people involved in this effort helped to start the farmers' markets in California including one of the first twenty Farmers' markets in the state. The History of the Farmers' Market Movement in California is a book that will show you how community based organizing can help change our way of life.   Click here to find to find out more.

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