Handicapped Placard Parking Procedures Change at Santa Monica Place

Wednesday, 11 Aug 2010, 9:15:00 AM

Hannah Heineman

Santa Monica Place as seen from the second story, looking in on the open inside of the complex.
Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Place
Santa Monica Place as seen from the second story, looking in on the open inside of the complex.

Santa Monica Place’s (SMP) remodel has touched everything including the mall’s two parking structures.

The City of Santa Monica’s Redevelopment Agency still owns the mall’s parking structures and paid to paint them. However, they split the cost with SMP’s owner, Macerich, to install and purchase the same parking control equipment for these parking structures that is used in the city’s other downtown structures.

According to Nia Tang, a senior analyst with Santa Monica’s redevelopment agency, “the investments made at the mall’s parking structures are an effort to integrate their operations with all the other downtown structures.” Use of the new equipment has changed the way cars now enter the mall’s structures. It used to be that drivers just pulled in during the day and received three hours of parking free.

Now, day parking includes taking a ticket before entering and free parking has been reduced to two hours. If visitors stay longer during the day they must pay for the extra time by either cash or a credit card at a machine. After paying, the machine validates visitors ticket so they can exit. Those who wish to park after 6 p.m. also receive a ticket upon entry and must pay a $5 flat rate at the machines. This $5 fee applies to evening use seven days a week. Flat evening parking rates used to only apply Thursday through Sunday evenings.

These mall parking changes have also impacted those with handicapped placards or license plates. Before the remodel, these individuals could park for an unlimited time at the mall during the day by displaying their placard or because they had handicapped plates. If they entered after 6 p.m. on Thursdays through Sundays, evening attendants at the structure’s entrance would exempt them from paying the $3 fee after checking their placard or license plates.

Because of the new equipment, now those with handicapped placards or plates must take a ticket upon entry and then push a button on the exiting equipment so a camera can verify their handicapped status. Once this is done they can exit without paying any additional fees in the day or the $5 fee at night. As of press time, there was no signage in the parking structures explaining the new handicapped parking rules.

As for the lack of signage explaining how handicapped placard holders should handle their fees in the mall’s structures, Tang emphasized, “the City is always interested in making improvements to our existing systems, if possible. We’re continuing efforts to make signage better for everyone.”

Santa Monica’s Business and Revenue Operations Manager, Don Patterson, said the use of the exit cameras for handicapped verification is a temporary solution. In the next few months the City will try to identify more efficient options, he said

Santa Monica is exploring what other cities do to accommodate handicapped drivers at modern parking structures. Some cities have the handicapped show their placard at a booth to be validated. Others have special equipment installed in the same machines where others pay that can recognize placards and then validate parking tickets. Another alternative is to no longer permit the handicapped to park for free in the structures as some cities do.

Patterson explained that a private company, Central Parking, is handling the parking at all the City’s downtown structures, the Santa Monica Main Library, the lots on Main Street, the Civic Center Parking Structure, and at the beach lots. The City works with a private company because it’s a specified field and they need someone who is “well versed in parking.” Central Parking costs are deducted from the revenues the City receives from the structures.

Tang explained that other fees, that are part of the parking fees, are a 10 percent City tax, City staff costs, and a reimbursement to the City and Macerich for the new equipment. This reimbursement fee will be split in half by the City and Macerich for seven years. After that time this money will be placed in a reserve account for upkeep of the parking equipment and capital improvements of the structures. She also mentioned that the City is not trying to charge those with handicapped status to help make up for the improvements in the mall’s structures.

There is also valet parking being offered on Second and Fourth Streets. Those with handicapped placards or plates have to pay the same fees as others for that service according to Patterson. At the end of August, the City will meet with Macerich to evaluate the mall’s valet parking program.

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