By Hillel Aron
By Joseph Tsidulko
By Patrick Range McDonald
By David Futch
By Hillel Aron
By Dennis Romero
By Jill Stewart
By Dennis Romero
Until now, however, none of the cities denied permit parking by the commission has filed a lawsuit. That will likely change. Santa Monica officials have said they will do whatever it takes to save the residents‘ street parking. Their options range from setting new rates -- something they have put on the back burner until the commission makes a final decision -- to filing a lawsuit that questions the state agency’s authority.
”If we change the rates, and that‘s clearly an option, the Coastal Commission would have to sue us,“ Feinstein said.
”I and the city,“ said Mayor Ken Genser, ”are committed to doing whatever we can to maintain these districts for our residents.“
Just how far the city will go was apparent in the months leading up to last week’s vote. Faced with the prospect of losing the spaces overnight, city officials mounted an unusual campaign to coach and organize Ocean Park residents, going as far as sending sample form letters and outlining the key points speakers should make at the January 11 meeting. (Among the key points were the dearth of street parking, the availability of parking in beach lots and the makeup of the community -- it is not just rich homeowners.)
”Don‘t be exclusionary,“ Frick advised the residents, at a prepping session the Saturday before the meeting. ”What is important is to put a face on this issue. We don’t want to alienate this commission.“
Despite a sunset visit to the beach by a commissioner who couldn‘t find a parking space on the eve of the crucial meeting, Santa Monica officials had reason to be optimistic. After all, they had met with a majority of the 13 commission members and the issue of parking rates was never broached. In fact, the commission’s staff -- which city officials had been meeting with for a year and a half -- had recommended that the zones be approved if the city adopted measures to mitigate the impact of the preferential zones, measures the city already had embarked on.
Commission staff, for example, proposed that the city be required to create 154 spaces to help replenish those taken up by preferential parking. Of these, 65 already are in place. The city also must keep the Tide and Pier beach shuttles running during the summer months. The only sticking point seemed to be a staff recommendation that the city must reapply for the permits in five years. (The city opposes that condition, saying it would be too costly, inhibit long-range planning and leave residents in limbo.)
”We were expecting them to follow their staff‘s recommendations and approve the applications,“ said Frick. ”We were fully mitigating the impact of preferential parking.“
After waiting for seven hours to speak, the residents who showed up at the commission meeting in a Santa Monica hotel made many of the key points outlined during the prepping meeting. The permit-parking zones, they noted, were not created to keep away beachgoers, but rather to protect residents from the employees and customers of Main Street businesses who had turned their streets into parking lots.
”Thirty years ago, it was always difficult to find parking,“ said former Santa Monica Planning Commissioner Susan Cloke. ”Today, with preferential parking, spaces are still in short supply, but at least we have a chance. We are sandwiched between Main Street and the beach. Our neighborhood is not the destination for Main Street or the beach, but we become the parking lot.“
But opponents of the zone argued that the existing spaces are not only illegal, but exclusionary.
”Public streets belong to the public,“ San Francisco--based Mark Massara of the Sierra Club told the commission. ”I wish they [the residents] would turn their heads to the real culprits here, the city. Make no mistake about it, they unfairly deprive low-income, inland Californians access to the beach. This is a clear-cut environmental-justice case.“
Santa Monica officials argue that Santa Monica has set the benchmark for many cutting-edge environmental issues.
”What is ironic is that this is a city that has promoted economic diversity, is a major leader in bay protection and an international leader in environmental programs,“ Feinstein said. ”We have done the right thing. If they are going to kick us, it doesn’t make a lot of sense.“