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Council Considers Nixing Free Parking

Due to downtown area popularity and growth, the City Council is thinking of ways to increase parking supply at city structures.
walker.JPGFree parking lovers could be in for a rude awakening soonthe City Council is considering a new policy that would eliminate the free parking period in the Cardiff and Watseka structures and meter all on-street spaces in efforts to solve parking structure overcrowding in the downtown area.

While the City Council has not approved this initiative, it was one of many suggestions Steffen Turoff, Walker Parking Study project manager, made at the Monday City Council meeting. The City Council commissioned Walker Parking Consultants in 2009 to study parking resources in the downtown area.  

During his presentation, Turoff said that, while there isn't a "parking shortage," 40 percent of people coming to downtown park in the Cardiff and Watseka structures--and don't leave.

"Where you have free parking or cheap parking, people sit, and visitors come and can't find parking," he said. "Difficulty in finding parking is more likely to deter visitors and businesses from coming to the area than are higher parking fees. We're not saying outrageous fees, but a fee to keep the parking spaces turning. The destination is the draw."

He suggested that one way to curb parking overcrowding in the city's main structures would be to replace the two-hour free period with a $1 per hour fee for the structures on Watseka and Cardiff Avenues and a $.50 per hour for the Ince Boulevard structure. In addition, visitors would no longer have the "additional two-hour free" parking with movie validation deal and instead would be charged a maximum of $2.50. These rates are competitive with neighboring cities' parking rates, such as Santa Monica and Beverly Hills.

Residents and business owners alike gave the study findings mixed reviews.

"I think that a lot of the suggestions seem to make sense, but there if there's no enforcement, it will make our lives horrible," said Meghan Sahli-Wells, president of the Downtown Neighborhood Association and local resident.  "If you are going to accept these recommendations, please talk to the Culver City Police Department and make sure they have the people on board who are willing to do it, and that there's the money availableperhaps the program can pay for itself with the added revenue."

"I think it would be terrible. The whole magic of Culver City is that it's the one place in the city that's not a hassle," said Tender Greens owner David Dressler in a separate interview. "To go the way of other cities who gouge you for parking would be a step in the wrong direction."

 Downtown Business Association vice-president John Byers is particularly concerned with the removal of the two-hour free structures: "We feel it is important to maintain access for all of the visitors who come downtown. I feel that this would be a detriment to that. It's important to keep downtown businesses in consideration of this study."

Council members also grappled with the conclusions from the study: "In your study, do you take into account that human nature will look for free parking?" Mayor Christopher Armenta said.

Councilmember Jeffrey Cooper also wanted to reassure those troubled by the suggestions: "We want the audience to know that this information is a tool. It is not hard-written that we are going to utilize these suggestions purely. I'm sure we will tweak it and bend it so that it is effective for our city."

 The City Council decided to bring back the specific recommendations set forth by the Walker Parking Study in a later meeting.
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