Wednesday, December 15, 2010

My Comments For The Bergamot Transit Center Village EIR

(Cross posted from Bay City Urbanist. The following are my comments concerning the Bergamot Transit Center Village for the draft environmental impact report (EIR). Before the end of today's business day is the last chance to submit comments for the draft EIR. Messages should be directed to jing.yeo@smgov.net & Council@smgov.net)

Concerning the Bergamot Transit Village, I have some serious  reservations about the project as currently proposed. I'll preface by  saying I am not opposed to development, I am not opposed to increased  density, and I am not opposed to the building height, I in fact welcome  those things. I believe we need more housing for people, and that mixed  use is a better way to build for a number of reasons, such as more  walkable environments. I work near this site, and to be honest I might  even want to live there someday considering it would put me within a  block and a half walking distance of work, and with convenient access to  the train and art galleries.

However what we don't need is so much more housing for cars. As proposed  this project introduces more parking capacity than the Santa Monica  Place mall, an invitation for a prolific increase in vehicle trips in an  area already high in traffic volume. With other major developments in  the area in the works, this problem will be compounded. Is this really  transit oriented development, or simply transit adjacent development? I  don't believe it is necessary to introduce 1,900 car spaces at the site  of what will be a major public transit center and dedicated bike path.

There  is a disturbing trend of development at transit centers along light  rail across the country, where luxury accommodations and high parking  capacity attract a demographic less likely to be regular transit users.  One of the reasons for this, is that high parking capacity is expensive  to produce, especially underground parking. While going with underground  parking reduces the land use of the parking, a good thing,  it also substantially  increases the cost per space to build. If parking is not unbundled from  living costs, these costs significantly drive up the cost of living,  pricing out many who would be the most likely to use transit. Using  figures quoted by Donald Shoup, author of the book The High Cost of Free  Parking, which state that underground parking spaces typically cost at  least $50,000 per parking space, this project proposes to build over $95  million dollars worth of parking. That is just on construction, not  including the monthly costs of maintaining such garages. This should  give a clearer picture of the cost burden of parking.

So if we  are to create truly affordable housing, we must consider scaling back  the parking, and or decoupling the cost of parking from the cost of  units. Residents who wish to live car free should not be subsidizing the  cost burdens of those who wish to drive, especially at a site so ideal  for alternatives. To fit within the goals of the LUCE, of generating no  new car trips at peak times, it is imperative we both scale back  parking, and ensure the cost of what parking is offered, is recovered by  user fees from drivers, and not all tenets. This will create a much  stronger economic incentive for those willing to give up owning a car,  to make their trips instead by foot, by bike, by train and bus. Car  sharing should also be considered, such as that offered by LAX Car Share  in Santa Monica, a company that would certainly want to set up  locations at or near this site as they have done near other major  transit centers in Los Angeles.

As a regular cyclist, I also urge that bike parking be well thought  out, well designed, safe and secure, for both residents and guests. I  also urge that a sufficient quantity of bike parking be provided, not  only for current ridership rates, but in anticipation of the continuing  growth of bike commuting in Santa Monica. With this development  positioned so close to what will become a dedicated bike path along the  Expo Line right of way, and with convenient connections to the rest of  Santa Monica's bike route network, this site demands better facilities  for bicycling.

I think many residents are rightfully concerned  about this project becoming a traffic nightmare, generating thousands of  new daily trips, but it doesn't have to be that way. This can be an  opportunity to show how transit oriented development can grow a city  without growing it's automobile traffic, that is if it is done right.  Santa Monica, a city where sustainability is an issue of near universal  concern among residents, and with a long term plan which calls for  principles of smart growth, is an ideal place to demonstrate sustainable  urban development. However I don't believe this project currently meets  those ideals yet with the sheer volume of parking proposed. Let's build it, but let's build it right.

-Gary Kavanagh

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