Friday, August 30, 2002
C.A. Upholds Controversial Santa Monica Parking Plan
By a MetNews Staff Writer
A challenge by the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce to the city’s November 2000 decision to reserve about 1,000 parking spaces in a prime shopping area for local residents was rejected yesterday by this district’s Court of Appeal.
The creation of a 28-block preferential parking zone around Santa Monica Boulevard and Colorado Avenue, one of about 50 such zones in the city, did not require an Environmental Impact Report under the California Environmental Quality Act, Justice Walter Croskey concluded for Div. Three.
Under the legislation establishing Preferential Parking Zone XX, vehicles must have a permit to park along unmetered curbs on residential streets in the zone between 7 a.m. and 2 a.m., seven days a week. Permits are only issued to residents, except that commercial permits may be issued to local businesses if it is determined that over 50 percent of the parking on a given street is unoccupied during business hours.
The city declared the zone exempt from CEQA review, citing a statutory exemption for “existing facilities,” including “highways and streets.” The city noted that only existing streets would be affected, that the use of the streets would not be expanded, and that there would still be more than 500 spaces available to non-residents within the district, since 300 spaces were metered and 265 were on commercial streets to which the restrictions did not apply.
The chamber argued that the exemption did not apply to a broad permitting scheme as opposed to an individual permit, and that an exception to the exemption for projects having significant “cumulative impacts” and/or “unusual circumstances” applied.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge David Yaffe rejected the arguments, as did the Court of Appeal.
Croskey said there was no authority suggesting that the existing-facilities exemption is limited to individual permit issues. The “exemption itself specifically states that it is applicable to activities involving the operation of existing public facilitiesóand that is exactly what the legislation here involves.”
The fact that the city had submitted prior PPZ decisions to CEQA review is irrelevant, the justice said, because there was no legal requirement that it do so and no contractual relationship between the city and the chamber that would entitle the latter to rely on past practice.
With respect to the claim that the impact of the PPZ was so significant as to put it outside the exemption, Croskey said the chamber failed to carry its burden of proof.
The justice rejected the opinion of the chamber’s expert that the zone would significantly affect traffic, parking, air quality, and the economy.
There were no facts presented in support of the opinion, Croskey declared. And the inference that the zone will hurt businesses by giving preference to residents does not create a CEQA issue, he said, because that is a financial, not an environmental, impact.
Attorneys on appeal were Christopher M. Harding and Kenneth L. Kutcher of Harding, Larmore, Kutcher & Kozal for the chamber and Senior Land Use Attorney Barry A. Rosenbaum and Deputy City Attorney Cara E. Silver for Santa Monica.
The case is Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce v. City of Santa Monica, B151761.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company