Free Meter Parking For Select Electric Vehicles In Santa Monica

Monday, 21 Oct 2013, 7:41:00 AM

Parimal M. Rohit

If you are the owner of a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) with a specific color decal or before a certain date, then you may be entitled to free metered parking within Santa Monica city limits.

Council members adopted an ordinance Oct. 8 allowing some NEVs with certain state-issued decals to park at any of the City’s meters free of charge. Specifically, NEVs with green or white state-issued decals that expire in 2019 are exempt from depositing funds into a parking meter in Santa Monica.

Also exempt are NEVs with the original yellow clean air vehicle decals that expired in 2011. All other NEVs must pay for metered parking within Santa Monica.

According to City staff, the ordinance “would immediately affect vehicles with the expired yellow and neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) clean air decals, as those decals expired on July 1, 2011.”

“These vehicles, along with vehicles that display the valid and current white and green decals, would receive free parking at on-street parking meters,” City staff continued. “This proposed change would continue the incentive for early adopters of clean air technology and further the goals of the Sustainable City Plan by providing free parking at street meters for vehicles displaying clean air decals.”

Effectively, the new ordinance benefits some NEV owners but not others, a distinction that was cause for council member Kevin McKeown to be frustrated.

Council members asked City staff earlier this year to look into creating an ordinance to promote use NEVs by allowing drivers of electric and other low- or zero-emission vehicles to be entitled to free parking in Santa Monica despite evolving State laws. A distinction was not made in the council direction as to when the NEV was purchased.

Accordingly, it could appear the council directed an ordinance be created to promote increased use of NEVs by allowing any such vehicles with a State-issued decal to use metered parking within Santa Monica at no charge.

However, the adopted ordinance, which was approved five votes to one, did not provide an umbrella to all NEV drivers.

McKeown believed the council’s vote was effectively a reneged promise to future NEV purchasers.

“This City has, perhaps inadvertently, gotten into the process of yanking people’s chains and turning them around,” McKeown said after the vote was recorded. “We frankly did not solve the problem we set out to solve and we created a new problem. All of a sudden those people who we told it was okay to park at parking meters can start getting tickets again. I hope they’ll remember tonight and how this happened.”

NEVs are battery-powered vehicles resembling golf carts and are legally allowed on roads with speed limits up to 45 MPH. However, State law currently provides zero emission stickers to vehicles using carpool – or high occupancy vehicle – lanes on freeways. Since NEVs are not legally allowed on freeways, drivers of such vehicles cannot obtain a zero emission sticker and therefore would be subject to pay for parking in Santa Monica.

City staff had tried to balance incentivizing early adopters of clean air technology with a total parking exemption in drafting the ordinance in order to reduce “the impact on parking and … the impact to the City’s General Fund from lost meter revenue.”

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