New parking zone to affect SMC students

Santa Monica College students may face even greater parking difficulties next semester when the City of Santa Monica establishes Preferential Parking Zone CC on nearby streets. The new regulations will allow only permit-holding residents to park for more than two hours on weekdays from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Ashland Avenue, between 23rd and 25th Streets, according to a Santa Monica City Council report.

The City Council has also approved Oak and Hill Streets, between 23rd and 25th Streets, as well as Pier Avenue, between 23rd and Clover Streets, for inclusion in the Zone CC regulation.

However, residents on these adjacent streets have yet to voice sufficient support to put the regulations into effect.

“It will be implemented on Ashland Avenue sometime in the next two months, and the other blocks are free to petition,” said Jason Kligier, transportation planning associate for the City of Santa Monica.

According to Kligier, in order for a preferential parking zone to be established in Santa Monica, the City Council must authorize it, and residents from at least two-thirds of the street’s households must petition to support it.

“The neighborhood has had a problem for quite some time,” said Ashland Avenue resident Debra Thorne Ouzounian, who helped organize the petition signing. “The process took three years.”

In September 2008, 76 percent of residents in the affected Ashland Avenue area petitioned to create the zone. When the City resurveyed the residents in June 2011, most respondents remained in favor, according to the City’s report.

“Unregulated non-resident parking is impacting their ability to find parking near their homes,” according to the City Council report.

Students from SMC and the Art Institute, employees from nearby businesses on Ocean Park Boulevard, and those frequenting Clover Park, have reportedly been parking for extended hours on the neighborhood’s streets, according to reports from a community meeting.

“People from the college – they’re parking here for five to six hours,” said another Ashland Avenue resident who signed the petition, but wished to remain anonymous. “I’ve got my family coming to visit, and they can’t find parking on the streets.”

The intersection of Oak and 23rd Street is a half-mile from the Pearl Street entrance to the SMC main campus, and the corner of Ashland Avenue and 25th Street is almost a mile away.

However, some SMC students would rather contend with the distance than search for a parking space on campus.

“Groups of students will park here, take their skateboards out, and head off to SMC,” Ouzounian said. “I’ve seen students park here with a bicycle on the back of the car and do the same thing.”

According to Kligier, most of the surrounding neighborhood streets currently enforce preferential parking restrictions, including those bordering SMC.

Students must then rely on the already heavily congested metered parking on Pearl Street, and on-campus parking garages which are often at full capacity.

“I think it’s going to make it even harder for people to find parking at SMC, especially for students who commute from long distances,” said SMC student Isabel Spiegel, who drives only to satellite campuses, and reaches the main campus by bus. “In LA, public transportation is difficult, and a lot of people depend on their cars to get around.”