City ponders vacant lots and crowded streets

by Danny Brown
Published February 21, 2008

For those who think parking in downtown Manhattan Beach is filled to capacity, better think again. A recent study of parking spaces in the area revealed there is, on average, a surplus of 680 spaces available during the peak hours of non-summer days. Resulting from the completion of two new city lots in 2005 and 2006, the city’s parking problem is no longer due to a lack of supply. However, according to a council study session Tuesday, the problem now stems from how that supply is utilized.

“We have the spaces available, it’s just a matter of providing the right incentives for people to park there,” said Councilman Richard Montgomery.

The 2008 Downtown Parking Management Plan of Manhattan Beach, which has been in development since September 2006, revealed the city’s biggest challenge is managing long-term parking.

Low parking meter rates of $.50 per hour along business-packed streets encourage both patrons and employees to “feed” the two-hour meter lots rather than parking in the city structures -- which account for half of the available space. And, many of the business employees of the downtown area feel that the free all-day parking found in the residential neighborhood surrounding the business district is preferable.

In a parking survey, 39 percent of employees said they usually park on residential streets, versus the 19 percent who utilize the city’s public lots.

“Right now we have a problem between people who want to park long-term for free on a street and the residents who live there,” said Councilmember Nick Tell.

To help reduce long-term parking in high-density commercial areas, the study suggests raising the rates and lowering the time limit of meters.

Community Development Director Richard Thompson said he hopes this will cut down on the long-term parking at such places and redirect it into the lots, where prices would remain lower and the hours would possibly be raised to all-day.

Currently, both the public and private lots are at little more than half capacity.
“People are still going to park in the residential areas, you can’t beat free all-day parking,” he said.

Another possible solution considered by Montgomery is a permit parking program for residents similar to the one recently implemented at Mira Costa High School.
“We’ve gotten nothing but positive feedback on the system over there,” he said. “I don’t see why it can’t work downtown.”

In addition to such permits the study suggests implementing more work-parking permits and spaces for employees to use at the city’s public lots.

Another area council has begun to scrutinize are restaurants. The study shows that such establishments generate 41 percent of the parking demand, although they only comprise 20 percent of downtown businesses.

“Well, the good thing is that after years of work we’ve finally got this study in our hands,” said Mayor Jim Aldinger of the 65-page document. “Now it’s going to take some time to go through it.” ER