The Bergamot Transit Center Village wasn't the only topic that at the meeting on Tuesday night: The city's plans to create a shared parking agreement with the Yahoo Center also courted controversy before the council eventually approved an amendment to the deal.
The Yahoo Center’s application to add an amendment to the Development Agreement it holds with the city included several changes that didn’t sit well with community members, as well as some council members.
Among the proposed revisions are changing the current requirements of one parking spot per 322 square feet of office-floor area to one parking space per 500 square feet, allowing the leasing of up to 1,053 excess parking spaces to off-site businesses, and implementing a Transportation Demand Management Program.
The staff report claimed there would be several benefits to the city’s Land Use and Circulation Element plan if the amendment were approved.
According to city staff, the amendment would allow the implementation of LUCE’s goals of increased shared-parking programs, which in turn would allow for more efficient parking management in the area, conserve resources and prevent negative impacts resulting from new parking structure construction projects. That would, as a result, decrease traffic through the use of the Transportation Demand Management Program, according to staffers.
According to Dale Goldsmith, a Yahoo Center attorney who presented his client’s arguments at the meeting, about 30 off-site parties already utilize the extra parking spaces, including nearby auto dealers (, , and , which use 400 to 500 spaces); local businesses; and .
After doing a study of unused parking spaces in December, Yahoo found it had about 1,053 free spaces available.
Outgoing Planning Director Eileen Fogerty said representatives for the center “were mildly indifferent at best” when approached about shared parking. Fogerty suggested that was because the issue of shared parking is not critical to the Yahoo Center’s business model.
Jeffrey Tomlin, a transportation consultant for the city, said that shared parking was essential to the new Bergamot project’s success when the Exposition Light Rail comes to town.
He said that having shared parking at a walkable distance would create a more appealing transit village, rather than building more parking structures. (The Yahoo Center is about a quarter-mile away from the planned location of the light rail station.)
One of the subjects of debate was the lack of clarity in the original Development Agreement.
According to City Attorney Marsha Moutrie, the language of the agreement was vague to the point where renting out spaces was not completely allowed, nor completely prohibited. Councilman Kevin McKeown requested that the city attorney’s office determine the distinctions for the matter of public record.
Goldsmith said that the prior owner of the complex was already leasing to non-tenants at least 10 years ago “without any detrimental effects, without any objections and without any complaints” from the city or the general public.
He also said the city benefited from the center’s parking lease practices by receiving the paid parking taxes, adding up to $1.8 million in tax revenue to date. He suggested to the council that the best way to resolve the conflict was concrete, clear language in subsequent agreements and amendments.
During the public hearing, several residents accused the council of showing preferential treatment toward the Yahoo Center and rewarding it for a violating the agreement, instead of punishing it.
Julie Brown presented a petition signed by nearly 250 other Santa Monica residents against the City Council’s rewarding the Yahoo Center for the alleged exploitation of the development agreement.
McKeown requested time to consider the amendment further, asking for a financial analysis before making any final decisions. He asked for a substitute motion to hold off, and Councilman Bobby Shriver seconded it, but the substitute motion was denied.
In the end, the motion to move on the amendment to the development agreement with the Yahoo Center parking was passed by everyone but McKeown and Shriver.
There were lots of vocal responses from the public, enough to make Mayor address the crowd to ask that it respect the council and the meeting.
Related blog post: "What We Have Here Is A Failure To Communicate"