Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program To Be Updated

Saturday, 24 Aug 2013, 9:06:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

With everyone looking up and pondering whether the blue sky and sun will give way to high-rise developments, the Downtown Specific Plan is not the only blueprint for the future that Santa Monica’s civic leaders are currently deliberating.

Also on tap is what would be developing on the ground in terms of parking, as the Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program begins to make its way through the Planning Commission en route to the City Council.

Placed on the Planning Commission’s Wednesday agenda, the Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program in its current format is set to expire in 2016. Accordingly, city officials have brought forward the Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program, last updated in 1986, to be revamped.

The Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program, according to City staff, gives proposed projects or uses the option to pay a designated fee rather than provide some or all on-site parking spaces required by the zoning code.

With the current program expiring within three years, City Hall is now making it a priority to implement a restructured parking in-lieu fee program for Downtown Santa Monica.

“The proposed modifications would increase the amount of the fee to reflect current costs and market conditions,” City staff stated, adding the infusion of fee revenues would be used “to pay for a variety of tools that provide additional parking and access to parking.”

The extent of the Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program’s boundaries would be finalized after the DSP is adopted.

When the Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program was adopted in 1986, new developers coming into town were given the option to pay $1.50 per square foot of building area. City Hall, in turn, would use the income to finance new parking spaces.

According to City staff, a fee of $1.50 per square foot of building area is now “insufficient to finance the current costs of new parking spaces.”

Going forward, the Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program will still be optional for those developers who do not want to provide code-required onsite parking.

As for the actual fee itself, City staff initially proposed $20,000 per parking space. City staff estimated the cost to build one parking space in Santa Monica ranged from $25,000 to $50,000. Still, the City worries a $20,000 parking in-lieu fee, despite being below-cost, might be high enough to discourage program participation.

Nonetheless, City Hall’s consulting team maintains a $20,000 per parking space in-lieu fee is appropriate.

Whatever the final fee will be, city officials currently proposed that fee should be paid by the developer in one lump sum and prior to the issuance of any building permits.

The fee would also be annually adjusted to reflect changes in the Consumer Price Index.

Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates submitted to city officials a 127-page report analyzing both the history and future of the Downtown Parking In-Lieu Fee Program.

The report’s introduction states: “The proposed parking in-lieu fee program seeks to facilitate continued economic vitality in Santa Monica while recognizing that flexible parking regulations can enhance project feasibility and profitability, as well as enable the City to finance additional parking and mobility improvements.”

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