The Santa Monica City Council has unanimously approved an amendment that allows to implement various parking related programs in lieu of a subterranean parking garage that was part of the original April 1998 agreement.
This comes after the council had previously approved an amendment to a , also concerning parking, and the city’s shift towards shared parking through the Land Use and Circulation Element, or LUCE plan.
Close to 40 members of the audience spoke during the packed public hearing with a majority of speakers in favor of the amendment, but a significant portion of the audience were against the measure. A group of 14 Santa Monica residents and nurses voiced their dissent over the amendments citing pollution, congestion, general inconvenience and what some residents feel was a break of promises.
Much of the public comments centered on valet parking and its current inaccessibility to patients, visitors and employees of the hospital. Some residents claimed the valet service caused an excess of traffic in the surrounding neighborhood and one nurse against the ordinance expressed how she would pay $13 dollars when on call and was unable to find parking, on top of a monthly parking fee she already pays.
The counter argument was that the proposed amendments would require a reduced valet parking rate of 90 minutes and valet would also be instructed not to park at city meters and public streets.
Additionally, St. John’s will be required to provide transit and parking for workers called back into work after a shift. Also, in light of the forthcoming Memorial Park Expo Station, employee shuttles will be required for an initial period of 15 months.
The amendment also requires St. John’s to implement a number of neighborhood protection measures, such as a lighted crosswalk at Arizona and 21st Street, security escorts for employees walking to their cars from off-site lots and an ombudsperson who will receive questions and complaints from the community about operational matters, including parking.
A number of council members expressed that going through with an underground parking structure would not necessarily appease the various complaints brought up by certain audience members.
Furthermore, a parking demand study included in the city’s staff report indicated that current parking provided by St. John’s allowed for a surplus of 250 available spaces which exceeds parking demand on various on- and off-site structures even through peak hours.
The Parking Management Plan will also allow the city greater review authority through periodic monitoring and assessment.
“The evidence before us shows that St. John’s has sufficient parking without building the structure,” said Mayor Pro Tem Gleam Davis. “For me the question is, if we force them to build a parking structure, would that reduce that burden on the neighborhood? And as I thought about it, I think the answer is no.”
Supporters of the ordinance, almost all of which were employees of the health center, felt the money for the proposed parking structure could go to better use.
Phillip Harrigan, a supporter of St. John’s, felt the unanimous vote by the council was a telling sign.
“No agreement on an issue as complex as this is going to please everybody—that’s the nature of democracy,” he said.
Councilmember’s Kevin McKeown and Bobby Shriver were absent from Tuesday night’s meeting.