The Santa Monica City Council voted unanimously to continue the use of 400 parking spaces until December 19th in Beach Lot 5 South for a Santa Monica College (SMC) park-and-ride shuttle operation.

The park and ride shuttle operation moved on August 29th to Beach Lot 5 South at 2600 Barnard Way, near Ocean Park Boulevard, in Santa Monica — by agreement with the city — after losing another remote lot.

Santa Monica College had previously been using a site at Santa Monica Airport, but the area was no longer available after construction of a public park started last fall, Santa Monica College president Dr. Chui Tsang said.

Parking first became an issue when the college was left without 920 parking spaces as a result of the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

The college shuttle operation — which uses Santa Monica Big Blue Buses — operates from 6:45 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Thursday and some area residents are unhappy with the Big Blue Bus noise and “environmental intrusion,” which pass through Ocean Park.

Beach Lot 5 South is near a community of apartments and homes, including the Ocean Park neighborhood and Sea Colonies I, II and III.

Thirty-year Santa Monica resident David Birney, who lives in Ocean Park, said he opposes the continuation of college use of Beach Lot 5 South.

“The program is ill-conceived, thoughtlessly planned and executed, environmentally insensitive, with no regard to the disruptive and highly negative impact on areas that it intrudes upon, nor [does it have] any apparent concern for the residents,” Birney said.

“The issue for me is that this is pretty disruptive,” said Dan Relles, who has been a resident of the Sea Colony for about 13 years. “If you go out to the street or just open your ears, you’ll hear the buses running constantly.”

Relles pointed out that it is hard to measure the costs of a degraded environment or noise pollution and how it affects residents.

“I think our costs are being discounted entirely,” he said. “We’re having to live in a reduced attractive environment because of the buses.”

Tsang presented the proposal to the council, expressing his willingness and commitment to work with the community to develop a solution.

Tsang said the reason for the request for the college to continue using Beach Lot 5 South was simple — that the college has not been able to recover parking spaces that were lost in the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.

In addition, the college has been unable to locate an alternative shuttle lot, despite what Tsang called a “vigorous search.”

Before passing the proposal, the council pledged to work with the community to alleviate the negative impact of the busing program.

Birney pointed out that his opposition to the extension of (continued from previous page)

Beach Lot 5 South for SMC’s shuttle program is not about the parking.

“It is about traffic, pollution, smog, noise and a kind of arrogance — a disregard — uncharacteristic of the City of Santa Monica, for its residents, its citizens and its green spaces and oceans,” Birney said.

Former mayor and judge David Finkle — who supported the continued use of Beach Lot 5 South — also spoke at the meeting. “Is it worth it to nurture and support the college in its times of need?” he asked.

The council approved the proposal to continue the use of the 400 parking spaces in Beach Lot 5 through December 19th, as long as these five conditions are met:

n The college must apply for a California Coastal Commission permit for using Beach Lot 5.

n Tsang must attend any neighborhood meetings with the Santa Monica city manager that are necessary to develop strategies to eliminate negative impacts.

n Santa Monica College must use environment-friendly buses.

n The college must provide quarterly reports to the city and regular updates to the community on any progress in finding different parking.

n The college must focus, with the Big Blue Bus, other city staff and the Metropolitan Transit Authority, on reducing the amount of vehicular traffic.

In addition, Tsang agreed to respond in writing to a series of questions asked by the Ocean Park Association and the Sea Colony homeowners.

“Tsang seemed very willing to work with the community to develop a solution,” Birney said after the meeting. “And the council, despite its vote, wants an end to the problem.”

“We have a rebirth of people in this process that are trying to solve the problem,” Relles said. “The new city manager and the new president of the college say they’re deeply committed to solving this problem.”

Both Birney and Relles said they are curious to see when and if this problem will be rectified.

“I heard them [the college and council] say the right things, but saying things and translating them into action are two different topics,” Relles said. “And I’ve seen no translation into action at this point.”

The City Council asked that college staff return to the council’s meeting Tuesday, August 8th, with the proposed agreement and proposed length of time the shuttle system would remain at Beach Lot 5 South. By this time, the college staff should have met with local residents such as Birney and Relles about their concerns.

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