Parking Remains Problematic
Carissa Cole, a first-year student at Santa Monica College, spent $80 last semester for a main campus parking permit that she never used. Like many students, Cole regularly drives to school and would spend over a half-hour searching for a spot in the two parking structures available for students. If no spot could be found, she was forced to resort to metered parking, finding free parking a couple blocks away from the school, or even parking at the satellite campuses and riding the shuttle bus.
"I didn't buy a permit this semester because I'd much rather save my money and walk or take the bus. Parking is such a nightmare; you never find a spot unless you come to school two hours early," she said.
Parking permits cost $85 per semester and $100 for a full year. If students are dissatisfied with their purchase, they can return the permits within the first three weeks of the semester. After that, they have to fight for a petition to receive a refund.
According to Greg Brown, SMC's director of facility projects, there are 2,429 parking spaces on the main campus. Of those spaces, 1,774 are for students and the rest go to faculty members, who pay a reduced fee.
Brown reported that the Bursar's Office has sold over 3,200 parking permits this semester alone. There is currently no cap on the amount of parking permits sold each semester. According to Brown, SMC is currently using all revenue from parking permits to pay off the initial loans they received to build the two current parking structures.
Most students who cannot find parking in those main campus structures are forced to find metered parking, if available. Meters around campus range from twenty minutes to four hours. Those unlucky enough to find only two-hour meters are forced to skip out on classes to avoid tickets. With no grace period to return to the meter, students have been receiving $50 parking citations almost daily.
As maintained by Sgt. Jay Trisler of the City of Santa Monica Police Department, "Officers have the discretion to issue a citation. There is no mechanism to see how long the violation occurred."
With so many tickets being written for parking violations each day, students may wonder if there is a quota officers have to reach each month. According to Sgt. Trisler and the California Vehicle Code Sec. 3, Ch. 105, setting quotas is illegal.
The City of Santa Monica Police administer citations for illegally parked cars or cars parked at an overdue meter, but the SMC Campus Police can do the same, making it twice as likely that students will receive tickets. When asked why both police forces patrol the parking around SMC, Sgt. Trisler only responded with, "I can't answer for the college police. For us, we enforce the laws in the City of Santa Monica."
Unfortunately for students, the SMC Campus Police work with a private organization in Santa Ana to process the payments of each citation. In order to contest these citations, students have to drive all the way to the Santa Ana office.
So how is SMC working on fixing this parking problem? Brown says that the new student services building currently under construction will give the school three levels of underground parking, a total of 500 more spaces. Will permit prices raise in order to pay for this new structure? No. The new structure has been paid for by a bond issue that tax payers voted for last year.
Brown also reports that there are plans for a new parking structure at the AET satellite campus that will allow for 430 more parking spots, no permit required.
"I think these new structures will make a big improvement in parking, especially with the 'Any Line, Anytime' Big Blue Bus services," said Brown.