January 26, 2016

City: Parking for employees, not for residents

SMCLC has just obtained internal City documents through a Public Records Request that reveal some startling and disturbing information.

It turns out that all employees who work for the City government are given free parking in Santa Monica and the majority drive to and park in the downtown area. This is at the very time that City Hall is waging a campaign to limit driving and parking for residents everywhere in the City, especially downtown.

And it gets worse. As the City has ratcheted up its campaign aimed at driving, each year even fewer City employees are taking public transit, biking and carpooling.

That's right – for every year since 2008, City employees’ use of alternatives to single occupancy cars, such as public transportation, bicycling and car-pooling (which was already low) has “experienced a steady decline.” http://smclc.net/PDF/2015COSM.Rule2202Memo.pdf

The total reduction since 2008 has been 22%!

In spite of what the City wants from its residents, every year fewer city workers are leaving their cars at home.

We are not blaming City employees. They work hard. We understand why they want to drive and park in Santa Monica. But when the City tells us that “getting people out of their single occupancy vehicles is key;” when they reduce driving lanes; refuse to provide parking at Expo stops; make street parking more expensive and difficult to find, then residents are being treated one way while the City treats itself differently.

In fact, its employees are being encouraged to drive and park in Santa Monica. For example, at The City Yards worksite at Bergamot, the City is right now planning a new parking facility for all of its 350 current and future employees there, despite that this is adjacent to a new Expo station and additional parking is needed for the Arts Center.

The City is the largest employer in Santa Monica with over 2,600 employees. The example they set matters. If City staff cannot find and use realistic transit alternatives, the City should acknowledge the same truth for residents.

We need to have fast, convenient, interconnected real alternatives available to driving around town geared to how and where residents actually go, a truly workable mobility plan—not just promises for years away.

In the meantime, the City should get its own house in order and not demand one thing for residents while looking the other way for its employees.

SMCLC intends to look carefully at these issues, as well as the proposed continuing overdevelopment of downtown, in connection with the upcoming consideration of the Downtown Specific Plan and its environmental review (EIR.) Stay tuned.