There are many policies that elicit the impassioned diatribes of local constituents, but there is no more inflammatory subject than the destruction of much-beloved parking facilities. That great American triumph of utilitarian design is increasingly under threat from the machinations of would-be do-gooders who question the inherent value of such land use. Or, at least that is what the petitioners of ‘Save Parking Structure 3’ say, as thousands of residents rally to halt plans to demolish a four-story parking garage in Downtown Santa Monica to make way for approximately 100-to-150 units of affordable housing, 50 of which would be designated as supportive housing for the formerly homeless.
According to the Santa Monica Daily Press, the California Coastal Commission approved the demolition of Parking Structure 3 last Thursday, which, in its current state would have required $4.4 million in repairs to extend its lifespan. Plans for the demolition go back nearly a decade to the construction of nearby Parking Structure #6, which, according to engineering consultant Walker Consultants, more than accommodates the loss of 337 parking spaces. The initial plan was to replace the parking facility with retail or cinema development, but the 2018 Housing Commission ultimately prioritized the site to address pressing affordable housing demands within the Los Angeles metropolitan region.
Merchants and landlords in the Downtown area are none too pleased, and, after taking a battering during the coronavirus pandemic-induced retail decline, are concerned that a loss of parking spaces will significantly impact their bottom lines. Furthermore, several business owners accuse the city of failing to properly consult with or notify them regarding the project.
Step in local resident and landlord John Alle, who has taken it upon himself to gather signatures in protest to the proposed plans, noting that petitioners “support housing for low income and homeless, but not on the downtown area and not by removing much-needed parking.” He is not alone in his grievances; Josephine Bakis, another signatory, writes that “We need MORE parking downtown not less. It would be absurd to use this land for low-income housing which should not be built on the most expensive land of the city;” and in more blunt terms, Kathleen Hymes wrote that “people with MONEY should park there so all the stores can make money. Get rid of the homeless who hang around.”
While tempers will likely remain red hot for the foreseeable future, the City of Santa Monica is fully intent on beginning the demolition process in 2022 and it’s uncertain whether this petition will ultimately have any effect. The city has yet to pick a developer or architect for the site.