SMC parking: the hunt continues

Parking at Santa Monica College has been an issue "since the dawn of man," according to Jere Romano, Santa Monica College police sergeant. Many student this year have complained about the lack of parking spaces available. Santa Monica College is aware that parking is an issue and is actively looking for solutions.

"There is a strong desire for change," Romano said. "The district doesn't want to say 'screw students'."

According to Romano, this year's parking troubles are not the worst seen at SMC, though it may appear to be that way. The first few weeks of the fall semester tend to be the worst time of the year to find parking because of the amount of students who end up dropping classes later on.

The main reason for the influx in traffic, according to Romano, is that more people than just students are using the garages.

In addition to enrolled students, those who come to use the pool, venders, prospective students, visitors for KCRW, class speakers and guests for a variety of clubs and programs park in the SMC parking lots.

"To be a good school, you need those programs. So lots [of spots] go to those," Romano said. "We try to bring the world to you, but in doing that we have to inconvenience you in parking."

Another feasible possibility for the decrease in available spots is the steady increase in enrollment SMC has seen in the past few years.

The current system for garage parking includes the use of a tangible permit that must be visible on the dashboard of the vehicle. The use of a permit does not guarantee a spot.

"The permit is just a hunting license for a space," Romano said.

According to Chris Benvenuto, director of Fiscal Services, when the parking garages on Santa Monica College were built, the school was issued a Certificate of Participation. This was essentially the agreement that the garage funds would be fronted for the school and then reimbursed by revenue produced by parking permits.

The funds are in a restricted account with the sole purpose of paying these parking structure expenses. Without the purchasing of parking passes, the debt would remain unpaid.

In addition, SMC faculty is conducting a parking study to counteract the parking issue. The team includes Mike Tuitasi, vice president of Student Affairs, and Greg Brown, Facilities director.

Next year, the permit system will be replaced by virtual parking management. The district will no longer be involved with the process. The license plate will become the permit. If you would want to change the "permit" to be applicable to another car, you'd have to change the license plate number online. This would clear up the issue with students accidentally leaving their parking permit out of sight on the dashboard.

Cars parked in the lots without a visible permit receive a ticket for $53. However, if a student is able to articulate the reason why they do not deserve a ticket, it can be brought down to a $20 service fee.

"You have to have compassion and empathy for students," Romano said. "A lot of time we understand where the student is coming from... There is no incentive for my department to write tickets."

If students are not able to find a spot on the regular campus, they are encouraged to park at the Bundy campus.

When the Bundy campus fills on occasion, students can park at the Airport Arts campus, which is about six blocks away. From there, they can take a shuttle (which comes every 15 minutes) to the Bundy campus, where they can then take the regular shuttle back to the main campus.

Another option is to Uber/Lyft to school. SMC is currently looking for a drop off spot specifically for that purpose. The new metro system will likely clear up some of the traffic by providing another transportation method.