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City Council Report

 

City Council Meeting: October 8, 2013

Agenda Item: 7-D

 

To:               Mayor and City Council 

From:           Gigi Decavalles-Hughes, Director of Finance

Subject:        Introduction and First Reading of an Ordinance Modifying Section 3.16.120 of Santa Monica Municipal Code Related to Exemption of Payment at Parking Meters for Clean Air Vehicles

 

 

Recommended Action

Staff recommends that the City Council introduce for first reading an ordinance eliminating the phrase “valid and current” from Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 3.16.120 related to exemptions from payment at parking meters.

 

Executive Summary

Over the past several years, the City has adopted various policies to better manage its parking resources. Additionally, the City has continued to adopt policies that seek to minimize pollution and encourage the use of environmentally sustainable transportation. For clean air vehicles, these policies sometimes contradict one another. The adopted Land Use and Circulation Element includes numerous policies to eliminate parking subsidies and to use pricing to manage parking. The Sustainable City Plan includes policies to encourage the use of clean air vehicles and reduce the City’s dependence on non-renewable energy sources. Since 2002, the City has used various versions of an exemption from payment at parking meters to encourage this environmental goal. The current version of the ordinance provides an exemption from payment at parking meters for vehicles that display current and valid decals. As the decals expire, so does the exemption from payment at parking meters, eliminating one incentive for the use of clean-air vehicles. To balance the City’s parking and environmental goals, this report proposes to eliminate the phrase “valid and current” from Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 3.16.120, thereby permanently providing the exemption from payment at parking meters for early adopters of clean air technology. This recommendation provides the incentive for early adopters of clean air technology provided for in the City’s Sustainable City Plan, while limiting the total exemption to only those that qualify for State-issued decals, reducing the impact on parking and reducing the impact to the City’s General Fund from lost meter revenue. 

 

 

Background

At its meeting on August 27, Council directed staff to prepare an amendment to Municipal Code section 3.16.120, clarifying local parking policies to encourage electric and other low- or zero-emission vehicle adoption by removing unintended consequences caused by having linked those policies to changing state rules, and return to the Council at a future meeting for discussion and possible adoption.

 

On July 10, 2012, Council introduced an ordinance and adopted comprehensive parking policy and rate changes that have helped the City better manage its parking, most visibly through the relocation of over 900 long-term Downtown parkers out of the core structures to the previously underutilized Civic Center. These changes further implemented specific parking policies adopted in the Land Use and Circulation Element (LUCE).

·       21.2: Consider eliminating direct and hidden subsidies of motor vehicle parking and driving, making the true costs of parking and driving visible to motorists.

·       21.5: Strive to implement measures to minimize the time motorists spend searching for parking through way-finding and pricing parking to create availability.

·       21.6: Consider parking pricing and commuter parking limits as tools for managing congestion.

·       26.6: Use parking pricing as a tool to manage congestion.

 

Over the past decade, Council has also adopted numerous policies to further its environmental sustainability goals, including policies related to natural resources and transportation that include:

·      Reducing total greenhouse gas emissions by at least 15% below 1990 levels by 2015 citywide.

·      Increase percent of total vehicles that are qualified low emission / alternative fuel vehicles.

·      Reduce number of signalized intersections with unacceptable motor vehicle congestion (LOS D, E or F) during peak hours.

·      Reduce the number of locally classified streets that exceed City thresholds for traffic levels.

·      Increasing energy use from renewable and more efficient sources.

·      Increasing average vehicle ridership (AVR) for commuters.

·      Increase ridership on the Big Blue Bus.

·      Increase bicycle ridership through the various policies included in the Bicycle Action Plan.

 

As a means to encourage the use of clean air vehicles, Council has adopted policies that provide for an exemption of payment at parking meters for vehicles that display clean-air decals. These decals are typically available only to early adopters of the technology through a State program that often provides other incentives, such as single occupant use of high occupancy (HOV) lanes. The original yellow decals were issued for gas-electric hybrid vehicles and were valid through June 30, 2011. White decals are available for an unlimited number of Federal Inherently Low Emission Vehicles (ILEV) and are valid until January 1, 2015. Green decals are available to the first 40,000 applicants that purchase California Enhanced Advanced Technology Partial Zero Emission Vehicle (PZEV). Attachment A includes a list of qualifying vehicles. Additionally, some early owners of Neighborhood Electric Vehicles (NEV), 100% electric, low speed vehicles, also have decals.  

 

On February 26, 2002, Council adopted an amended ordinance exempting electric vehicles displaying Clean Air Vehicle Decals from depositing money in City parking meters. On November 12, 2002, in order to expand the exemption for payment at parking meters to compressed natural gas (CNG) and liquid petroleum gas (LPG), Council amended the ordinance to extend the exemption to all clean-air decals.

 

On July 27, 2010, Council adopted modification to SMMC Section 3.16.120 that clarified holidays and also that sought to streamline the language providing exemption for payment at parking meters for various special recognition plates. As part of the streamlining of the language, the words “valid and current” were added to clarify that only those license plates and decals that are then current are exempted from payment at parking meters. This language was recommended at that time, in part, to ensure that the City had the ability to continuously honor new clean-air decals and special recognition plates that may be created in the future to ensure the City’s ability to continue to provide incentives to early adopters of the latest clean-air vehicles.

 

Discussion

Santa Monica has specific adopted policies to use parking pricing as a means to manage traffic and congestion and to encourage the use of low to zero emission vehicles. Over the past decade, Council has adopted various versions of a policy that provides an exemption from payment at on-street parking meters as a means to encourage the use of clean air vehicles. By utilizing the State’s decal program, described in the “Background” section, which has limitations and well defined requirements, the City’s  exemption has been restricted to adopters of the latest, cleanest vehicles. In addition to limiting the incentive to early adopters of clean-air vehicles, the utilization of the State’s decal program limits the potential revenue loss for the City by providing free parking at on-street meters to only those vehicles that display State-issued decals.  

 

The proposed modification of Santa Monica Municipal Code Section 3.16.120, would eliminate the phrase “valid and current” from the Code that exempts clean air decals from payment at parking meters, thereby extending indefinitely the exemption from payment at parking meters for early adopters of various clean air technology. The proposed ordinance would immediately affect vehicles with the expired yellow and neighborhood electric vehicle (NEV) clean air decals, as those decals expired on July 1, 2011.  These vehicles, along with vehicles that display the valid and current white and green decals, would receive free parking at on-street parking meters.  This proposed change would continue the incentive for early adopters of clean air technology and further the goals of the Sustainable City Plan by providing free parking at on street meters for vehicles displaying clean air decals.

 

Alternatives

Council could also consider alternatives to staff’s recommendations, specifically:

1)    Maintain the current policy of only honoring “valid and current decals.”  This alternative would further Council’s environmental goals by providing exemption from payment at parking meters for the latest clean-air vehicles and would continue the expiration of the privilege as technology changes and new decals are authorized by the State.  However, early adopters of clean vehicle technology would continue to lose the additional City-provided incentive as the various decal programs expire.

2)    Modify the ordinance to provide the exemption from payment at parking meters to only the expired Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) decals, while continuing to sunset the privilege for other clean-air decals, such as the yellow, white, and green decals.  This recommendation would favor the LUCE and Parking policies Council has adopted by providing the payment exemption only to the latest, cleanest vehicles and NEV vehicles.  This alternative impacts early adopters of clean vehicle technology, except for NEVs, as the various decal programs expire.

 

Financial Impact and Budget Actions

There is no immediate financial impact or budget action necessary as a result of the recommended action.  The revenue gain from the expiration of the yellow decals was not significant enough to be measureable when the program expired.  

 

Prepared by: Donald Patterson, Assistant Director - Finance

 

 

Approved:

 

Forwarded to Council:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gigi Decavalles-Hughes

Director of Finance

 

Rod Gould

City Manager

 

Attachments:

A.    Qualifying Vehicles for Clean Air Vehicle Decals

B.    Ordinance