Neighbors Aren't Buying College's Parking Solution


Santa Monica College officials have concluded that the construction of two new parking structures on the west end of campus is the best way to solve the school's parking problems.

But neighbors--who have been fighting for years with college officials over parking--are challenging the traffic analysis in the environmental impact report that recommends the structures.

Residents claim further that the two proposed four-story structures will dump more traffic into their neighborhood. They are pushing for the continued use of shuttle-served off-campus parking sites and for a limit on enrollment at the 38-acre campus on Pico Boulevard between 16th and 20th streets. Current enrollment is 24,730, including part-time students.

The matter is expected to be decided on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. when the City Council meets to consider certifying the environmental impact report and approving a development agreement to construct the garages.

College officials have been searching for a permanent solution to a longtime parking problem. A temporary solution was found last year when permit parking was established for a 15-block area around the campus to appease residents.

At the same time, the city opened parking lots at Santa Monica Airport and at Olympic and Cloverfield boulevards and bused students to the campus at an annual cost of about $450,000. The bus rides were less than 10 minutes to the campus from both sites.

The Olympic Boulevard site, however, will be available only until the summer or fall of 1990, and the airport site is in the second year of a 10-year lease. Both sites will eventually be developed.

College officials said they have looked for other off-campus sites without success. One site frequently mentioned, a nearly three-acre parcel at Pico and Cloverfield boulevards, was ruled out about because of its $8-million asking price.

Judy Fritz, the college's parking services supervisor, said building the structures also makes sense because if they are not built, permit parking for neighboring residents would be revoked. City and college officials had agreed that the parking permits would be temporary. If permit parking were revoked, the battle for scarce street parking would resume, particularly along 20th Street, where tenants in several apartment complexes rely on street parking.

Fritz said there are about 1,500 parking spaces on campus, about 1,200 short of what is needed. One of the new structures would be built on an existing surface parking lot on Pico Boulevard and 16th Street. The second structure would be built on a softball field about 125 feet east of 16th Street, south of the College Business Adminstration Building. That structure would also include an underground level.

The two structures, which are estimated to cost about $9 million and would be completed in late 1991, would provide 1,274 spaces.

In 1983, the price of campus parking permits was raised to $20 a semester. Revenue from the increase was used to pay off a $240,000 balance of a $300,000 loan from Associated Students that was used to finance a parking structure near the corner of 16th Street and Pico Blvd. If the new structures are built, permits would likely be increased to $40 a semester to help pay for construction, Fritz said.

Residents say they should not be punished for a parking problem created by the college.

Linda Ross, who lives in a condominium on 16th Street and co-founded a group opposed to the structures called Parents and Children Against Traffic and Parking Structures, said officials have allowed enrollment to grow too high.

"The college has outgrown its campus," Ross said. "It must have smaller enrollment or several satellite campuses. You can't keep stuffing students onto too small a campus surrounded by small residential streets with lots of children and families already choking on the congestion."

Friends of Sunset Park, a new homeowners and tenants group, also opposes the structures and charges that the traffic analysis in the environmental impact report is flawed because it relied on five-minute traffic counts conducted in August, when enrollment is down and many area residents are on vacation.

Jennifer Polhemus, a spokeswoman for the group, said that because of the timing of the study, estimates on traffic were off by several hundred vehicles that affect traffic during the nine months when students are in class at the college and two nearby public schools.

Residents hired an outside traffic engineer, who agreed that the method used in preparing the traffic analysis was inadequate.

"It is my opinion that there would be a potential for significantly greater traffic impacts than stated in the EIR," said Donald Frischer, a Van Nuys-based civil and traffic engineer.

City planning officials maintain that the traffic study is adequate.

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