The Future of Parking Comes to West Hollywood

Posted: May 28, 2011 in Los Angeles Specific Issues, Parking Structures, Volkswagen
Tags: , , ,

Anyone who lives in or visits West Hollywood knows that parking is a problem.  A major problem.  And an expensive problem when one of the countless parking enforcement drones (employed by private contractor Serco) slaps an inflated ticket on your car the moment a  meter expires or when you parked in what you thought was a “safe” space or area.

West Hollywood just finished construction of a new 333 space parking structure. It’s accessed off of Robertson and El Tovar and, when the library is complete, it will also have an entrance on San Vicente Blvd where where the new library is grafted onto the front of the structure.

Artist's rendering of the nearly completed library. This is the front of the building on San Vicente Blvd across from the Pacific Design Center, just north of Melrose. The parking structure is in back and can be entered off of Robertson Blvd and El Tovar.

Here’s the basic information from the City’s press release on the opening of the structure.

The five-story, 333-space, West Hollywood Park/Library Parking Structure provides convenient parking for park visitors as well as the surrounding business community. Features of the West Hollywood Park/Library Parking Structure include:

  • Three rooftop tennis courts
  • State-of-the-art Pay on Foot (POF) technology where visitor’s process their own parking tickets via cash or credit card payments
  • Advanced validation system for special events
  • Multiple safety features including emergency call boxes

Hours of operation are from 8 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily. Parking rates include:

8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Daily
1st Hour is free
1 Additional hour free with park validation
Thereafter $1 each 20 minutes
$12 maximum

6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Sunday through Wednesday
$1 each 20 minutes
$6 maximum

6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Thursday
$1 each 20 minutes
$8 maximum

6 p.m. to 2 a.m. Friday and Saturday
$10 flat rate
Two hours free parking for park visitor’s with validation

That’s all nice, but it’s not the most interesting parking structure to come to West Hollywood.  The City Council has approved the construction of 5-story, 200 space, automated robo-parking structure in place of the 67 space surface lot currently in back of City hall at 8300 Santa Monica Blvd at Sweetzer Ave.

The current look of West Hollywood City Hall at Santa Monica Blvd and Sweetzer Ave.

These kinds of parking structures have been used for decades in other parts of the world. According to an article in WehoPatch, the only other similar parking structure, west of the Mississippi, is being built right now in Santa Monica, near St. John’s Hospital.

My favorite parking structures, by far, are the two, gigantic, automated parking structure used by Volkswagen at its Autostadt delivery center and theme park near its headquarters in Wolfsburg, Germany.

The twin automated carpark towers rise over the VW's Autostadt theme park.

The City has budgeted $13 million for “the structure, technology, motor court and community plaza area.”  The cost to engineer and fabricate the actual mechanism is approximately $2.6 million or $13,200 per space. The contract goes to Unitronics, an Israel-based automation and logistics solutions specialist.  The project is supposed to start construction in June 2012 and finish by July 2013.

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Comments
  1. Hi Todd, my name is Elizabeth Chase, and I am a Fiat Specialist at Fiat of Van Nuys. I wanted to talk with you about working together to help with the parking problems of WeHo with Fiats…. My cell is 310-929-0492. Also, I wanted to put an ad together to share information of Fiat of VN with the community! thanks, elizabeth

  2. Sam Page says:

    Excellent idea, Elizabeth!

  3. joninla says:

    After reading your story in WeHo News, I wanted to know what your personal opinion is about the planned new West Hollywood City Hall ROBO-GARAGE.

    Coincidentally, even before seeing your article, I thought the Volkswagen Robo-Garage to be ‘all that and more’ and find the idea, concept and general idea of building such a structure a fascinating idea.

    However, when I first saw the PATCH story about the Current Plans and Cost for West Hollywood’s own Robo-Garage I was shocked and have become outraged that the City of West Hollywood would spend what will be more like $16-$18 to cram a parking structure in behind City Hall.

    First, there is no current parking problem/shortage for City Hall Property and it’s needs. It is surprising that there is ‘sufficient parking’ anywhere in Los Angeles, let alone West Hollywood. But given the location of City Hall (the corner of Santa Monica Blvd and Sweetzer (which is already the exact “BOTTLENECK” in daily Santa Monica Blvd near gridlock congestion), and the need for every residents to visit city hall being a very (if ever) actual need, and when necessary, it is usually no more than a few minutes (under 5) to get a parking permit.

    I’ve never seen the lot full or cars waiting for a spot to open and do not understand why the City believes there is a need for more parking, let alone such a major and critical need as to consider such a massive investment and construction of a parking structure that will obliterate the views form the entire south side of the City Hall Building.

    As you already written in an article the exact sentiments I’ve had for years, I will just repeat – No matter how technologically improved the City’s Planned Structure is, it will never compare the Volkswagen’s German Facility. Thus as a structure to “show innovation”, “be the first”, “symbolize the new world we live in”, “the statement of superior innovation, thought and dense city population solutions” …. It fails all all of the above.

    Further, it is nothing new as there are articles dating back to the 1950’s about such garages, all of which were eventually abandoned due to the actual inherent nature of the “LOS ANGELES DRIVING MENTALITY” and inpatients, and the very nature of anything mechanical will break down and need to be fixed, as well as needing to be shut down on a regular basis for routine maintenance.

    The Second Major Problem I see is that the City is building More Parking in order to allow MORE CARS being driven to, parked, and driven back out of what is already a fixed ‘problem intersection’ which can not be fixed. North/South Sweetzer is too narrow to even allow a left or right turning lane, the street in not straight or aligned at the corner, so that even a non-stop direct attempt to simply drive N/S is not usually possible, due to the need to adjust an compensate of the misaligned corners.

    It is not just the narrowing of Santa Monica Blvd at Sweetzer that is the real cause of the “Bottleneck” but the combination of that along with a Bus Stop, the misaligned intersection and most significant, the Left Turns and Right Turns for the cars needed to both get to the City Hall Parking Lot, and then Leaving when they are done.

    The City. The Traffic. The Environment. The Congestion. The Pedestrian Safety. The daily living.

    ALL – on their own are major reasons why The City of West Hollywood should do everything in its power to REDUCE as many as possible cars that ever need to be driven to and parked behind the City Hall Structure.

    A “remote structure” and no on-site parking for the City Hall SHOULD be the unattainable to most desirable GOAL TO ATTEMPT TO REACH for each one of the reasons standing on their own. Putting them all together, it is INSANITY to want to have more cars driving to City Hall and even more insane to spend $16 Million Dollars to do it (by including a “public meeting room” on the top of the new structure.

    How is a meeting room going to work on the top of a structure that can only park/retrieve 3-4 cars at a minimum of 2.5 minutes per car, and up to 4minutes (assuming 100% perfect operation).

    How will a meeting of 100 people (or let say 50 people) be possible? At the end of the meeting, 50 people will be leaving at the exact same time and need to have the Robo-Garage retrieve their car (plus the time for the people to get in and settled, belted and ready to drive off) at the rate of 3 cars ever 4 minutes (plus).

    In addition to the problem of all cars coming to a meeting at the same time, there will also be the regular people parking in the new Robo-Garage wanting their cars parked/retrieved, perhaps just as a group meeting is starting or ending.

    Who is thinking this is a good idea or something ANYONE would want regardless of cost. I would think people would consider paying $16 or more if necessary TO MAKE SURE THAT PARKING SITUATION IS NEVER NECESSARY.

    The other serious concerns/issues of safety, ‘green’, vandalism, curiosity interest are all so obviously reasons to NOT build this project.

    Does anyone actually want this garage. Exactly who (I’ve been thinking) would stand up and say “I THINK THAT SOUNDS GREAT. I WANT TO WORK IN CITY HALL, HAVE NO VIEW, SPEND MORE TIME IN TRAFFIC SO THAT I CAN THEN GET TO AN AUTOMATED PARKING GARAGE THAT WILL ONLY TAKE 2-4 MINUTES COMING AND GOING” over the existing flat open parking lot with a virtually zero wait, a city hall with few visitors and no reason anyone would want to drive to City Hall out of need or for any Tourist/Curiosity/Youthful dangerous playing in and around.

    Who exactly wants this garage and why exactly do they want it – I wonder – and your article was so objectively reporting the news, I was curious what you thought about the realities of the Major Building Project that has not yet started, and I personally hope will never break ground.

    • Todd Bianco says:

      Hey Jon, thanks for the thoughtful and detailed comment. These things seem to happen when they are a pet project of a Council Member. I love high tech stuff, but not when it interferes with something that already works fine.

      I too have been to City Hall many times over the years and I’ve NEVER had a hard time parking there. I’ve gone for building permits, parking permits and meetings. And if the meeting is in the evening, the parking lot was more than sufficient for the number of people who show up for these types of things. It is a HUGE problem if a large number of people all want to get their car out at the same time. That said, the demonstration video showed 4 separate entry/delivery bays, and if each can work at the same time then a crowd would get cars faster (assuming no mechanical failure and software working perfectly).

      They also don’t talk about what will be charged to park your car there. If the City is looking for a new revenue stream, it will take lots of time to repay the investment and piss off more people in the ensuing years. When you take what was free and start to charge for it, people will continue to look for another free space.

      The Robo Garage is completely unnecessary; but it’s “cool” and it would be an interesting addition to City Hall. This alone shouldn’t be the reason to have the garage. It simply is too expensive and it will not help either City Hall or the surrounding businesses who relied on the free parking at night (e.g., Hamburger Mary’s).

      You also point out the hopelessness of the traffic bottleneck at the Sweetzer-Santa Monica Blvd intersection. I drive this intersection several times a week and the difficulty of making right turns, the short cuing of north/south left turns onto Sweetzer and the bus stop all conspire to choke traffic.

      West Hollywood had a golden opportunity a decade ago when it was planning the rebuilding of Santa Monica Blvd when it bought it (or took it over) from CalTrans. There was a small group of residents (myself included) that wanted the City to use the center median as a trolly line that would go from Doheny to La Brea and run late into the night. It would help many residents get out of their cars and eat, drink, shop, enjoy the park, attend meetings, etc. without having to drive. Most of the residents live within walking distance of either Santa Monica or Sunset. The City could have built a large (free for at least 4 hours) parking structure at the Melrose/Santa Monica Blvd Triangle and rather than the horrible Gateway project a La Brea, it could have been a smaller mixed-use with a large parking structure.

      And if the City really wanted to do something more, it could repurpose the useless City Line that follows an irregular route that no one knows about and very few people use. I know. It goes by my house and there is usually only the driver. They could have redirected those lines to start at a Trolly station and drive regular routes to Cedars, the Beverly Center, 8000 Sunset, Sunset Plaza, etc.

      The City has never had a grand plan for transportation and parking. Everything screeches to a halt in WeHo (although it’s worse in Beverly Hills on Santa Monica Blvd between Beverly Blvd and Wilshire). The City lacks vision. It lacks a true transportation master plan. The building codes allow new condos to have tandem parking when it should require one full space for each bedroom and one guest space for every two units. No tandem. The City could have been a shining example of finding ways to get people out of their cars when in the City. It can’t solve the greater Los Angeles transportation problem, but it could have shown the way with something more than the haphazard way things are done here.

      On the subject of Volkswagen and the Germans in general. Germany is fiercely nationalistic The mighty German industrial base loves to show off the best engineering technology in the world. You see it in everything from their cars to appliance. Just look at the various car museums that have been built by BMW, Mercedes and Porsche. Or VW’s Autostadt. The architecture is world class. Even something like VW’s glass factory in Dresden is an impressive show of pride and confidence. We don’t get a lot of that in the US. Maybe Apple’s new campus in Cupertino will start a trend!

      • joninla says:

        Thank you!!! Not only do we clearly have the same feelings about the situation, you were able to reiterate the key points in a more readable form. (I had a serious head injury many years ago that has left me incapable of coherent written messages – after a lifetime of absolutely perfect grammar and the most concise writing style – as my only ‘natural born gift’ which I did not learn or put any effort in to)

        ANYWAY – I have ignored the WeHo political scene intentionally for 15 years, but after what I am seeing, and the incredible contrast of Monumental Construction while the Economy is at its worst , and the visible number of people I have known and no longer are around, and the clearly increasing number of homeless people having nowhere to go but in font of these spectacular WeHo projects.

        ARE YOU UP FOR TRYING TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT THIS? I literally do not have the basic communication skills necessary to even attempt to organize an action group.

        So far, everyone I’ve spoken to (I have a dog and since adopting him, I have met hundreds of locals whom I would never have known before) has at least thought is a terrible idea (but resigned to accept he Counsel’s total power) and many have shared their own equal or even more intense anger when they describe their empathy for the homeless and hungry who need basic assistance – not a Robo-Garage.

        I know it is totally impossible to affect any change via the existing and absurdly stupid system of “meetings with time for Resident Input” – and am laughing yet again at the 2minues given to anyone to speak – as if they are even listening.

        HOWEVER! Prior to the injury to my head, I was a licensed attorney working in a firm that specialized …. Well what they said was different from reality …. but they specialized in 1. Creating and Managing small local Cities in Los Angeles County, 2. Seeking ‘clients’ most vulnerable to being able to steal as much of their significant estates at death, while getting paid outrageous fees for basic legal work … waiting out their death 3. Knowing the few “DANGERS” that must be avoided at all costs – in order to be able to continue the 40+ years of total unnoticed illegal activity.

        I think the ONLY WAY (and I think it is absolutely necessary at this point -before such massive spending creates projects that will actually devalue the City (devalue its appeal, its daily life and THE PROPERTY VALUES OF ALL THE OWNERS OF PRIVATE PROPERTY (home, apartment, business).

        Further – if there really is that kind of money to spend on corrupt “pet-projects” (the next group of leaders will be just as corrupt – but at least they will be naive and inexperienced for a while) they should be projects that SPECIFICALLY AND ARE PUBLICLY KNOWN/SEEN/ADVERTISED to the general population so as to DRAW PEOPLE TO WEST HOLLYWOOD (rather than away with the garage, increasing parking fines and hotel taxes and the beginning of the current spiral downward – into a major negative affect to the City.

        Just as examples – $13 million dollars is available from all the white prius ticket writers (which they plan to increase to fund the robo-garage and all the money the weekend Party/Tourist/Entertainment that is brought in to the City …… The Residents who have to live with the negatives of that influx (noise, traffic, parking, vandalism, crime et al) SHOULD BE COMPENSATED DIRECTLY FROM THE WINDFALL OF TAX REVENUE BEING SPENT.

        – A micro-local STIMULUS CHECK – TO EVERY RESIDENT OF THE CITY – $375 which will help the people barely surviving, help keep a few more evictions from happening, and all the way up to the wealthy who will just spend it on non-necessities …. Most or a large portion of which would be spent in WEST HOLLYWOOD BUSINESSES which are dying, and it would in in itself generate back to the City money from the increased taxes that the “Stimulus Money” is spent on.

        – Or a $13 Million Dollar (or more!) SOLAR ARRAY PANEL SYSTEM ACROSS THE CITY – The Energy of which is collected, is distributed/offset or maybe enough to pay EACH RESIDENTS MONTHLY ELECTRICITY BILL.

        Again – both projects would be well publicized – and would make people eager to Move To West Hollywood to get in on the deal (fill vacant apartments, increase the falling property values) and being a project “so unheard of and unusual” it would garner “GREEN PRAISE” for the City, and be a draw for tourists (local and foreign alike). That in turn would generate an increased REVENUE CYCLE (rather than the current depletion of millions of dollars, no income generated at all – nobody will want or even be able to get near the garage to look at the thing – and is is creating a future on-going long term expense to the City for Regular Maintenance and Repairs …. After a personal youthful experience of NEEDING!! the new major model redesign for BMW – Learned and now preach “NEVER! BUY THE FIRST MODEL YEAR OF ANY NEW CAR – To say they haven’t quite gotten the assembly line quality up to par or had any knowledge of what kinds of problems actual driver may encounter with all the new changes – IS THE BIGGEST UNDERSTATEMENT I’VE EVER MADE. NOTHING WORKED AND THEY DIDN’T KNOW HOW TO FIX IT SINCE IT WAS THE FIRST TIME THE PROBLEM HAD COME UP.

        Now do we really think this BRAND NEW BREAKTHROUGH IN TECHNOLOGY that West Hollywood HAS TO BE THE FIRST EVER TO BUILD … will be the kind that “Version 1” of the entire project (program, software, hardware, mechanism) is perfect – has no flaws/glitches or total failures. Maybe the new totally computer operated system being installed for the first time ever in West Hollywood will have to realize there is a problem, figure a solution and … maybe have to install the beginning of “Version 2.0 ….. until the number gets so high it becomes the 2020 version and so on and so on).

        FINALLY – There is apparently now an approved low-income senior housing project ready to break ground. According to what I’ve read, it will be a $6 million dollar cost (to build …. not including the land value) and will be create an ‘astounding number’ of 17 low-income-senior housing units.

        The article said the City’s Low Income Housing Crisis is so bad that hundreds or thousands of people are already on the list – and the 17 NEW UNITS created by $6 million dollars will help – when they are given out to the hundreds on the list via a LOTTERY SYSTEM (which means in WeHo vernacular – Russian Immigrants already living in West Hollywood and neither on any list nor would qualify as “low income” moving in and using the request variance to the code to INCREASE THE NUMBER PARKING SPACES PER UNIT (low income and old – how many have cars and of those who is functional enough to still be driving??” and thus when completed, the garage will be filed with expensive German Luxury Cars.

        My god – $6 million dollars is available for low income housing! Think about HOW MANY UNITS CAN BE CREATED WITH THAT MONEY simply by buying from the current existing excess condo’s in foreclosure already or else permanently on the market for an already very low price – but there are no buyers.

        Again – the $6 million spent this way would not just house so many,many more truly needy people, it would improve all the buildings and neighborhood blocks where there are new conversions, it will reduce the number of unsold condo units flooding the market and driving ALL PROPERTY VALUES in West Hollywood – thereby increasing the Value of Every Residents Property – which in turn generates more revenue back to the City from the taxes on land with a higher value.

        I am not against building, big projects or too much of whatever people want to do with land they own — and I don’t care about “kick-backs'” or whatever to City Counsel members (I don’t like it one bit, but it happens in all government) …. I just want the projects to ALSO BENEFIT THE RESIDENTS, THE CITY, THE ENVIRONMENT AND THE Homeless & Needy — for the same price/cost to the City and whatever process the Counsel uses to benefit from the developers without having to report it as income for their taxes as well as in a form that is hidden from the Residents (it’s the unreported IRS income that I think is the key and only way to deal with the bad projects planned – get rid of the whole Counsel based on a fair and thorough investigation of the finances of the Counsel Members).

        …..

        Wanna get political and give it a try?

        I actually had another thought – to create an electric fleet of vehicles that will circle the city and be available ONLY TO RESIDENT – and FREE OF CHARGE … to both benefit and increase the desirability of wanting to live in WeHO ….. And cut down own the traffics that the local resident have to add to just to go to the market, liqueur store, gym or bar/club.

        How about it. You can get something close to your great suggestion (which I never heard was made) – and everyone benefits – even the next set of corrupt City Counsel Members.

        If not – well it’s nice to know someone has the same (what I think are common sense givens) OPINIONS about both what has and cold have been for WeHo and what is going to be if we don’t find a way to stop it. 🙂

      • Todd Bianco says:

        Jon, getting City Hall to change its collective mind about anything in West Hollywood is a tough slog. However, it has been done, most recently with the derailment of the plans to turn the property known as Tara into a large senior housing project.

        It’s probably easier to derail one project than to try to push them to come up with a cohesive transportation and traffic mitigation plan.

        First you have to identify the council member who is pushing it the most. Then identify a council member who may oppose it or be sympathetic to opposing voices. Newly-elected John D’Amico may be that person as he’s been very critical of other projects pushed through by John Heilman and Abbey Land. Get all your neighbors and dog walking acquaintances to email the targeted council member.

        That’s easier said than done. People are notoriously apathetic when it comes to these things because we are used to being helpless and powerless against the political machines that run local, state and national politics.

        I can ask for some editorial time in WehoNews.com to oppose the project.

        There will be planning commission meetings to permit the project. It’s important to show up at these meetings and oppose the project. The Planning Commissioners are more likely to listen to you than the City Council. The problem is that no one wants to go to a meeting that drags on for hours. And the noticing radius for such meetings is very small when it really should include the whole city.

        The easiest attack route is the cost and traffic congestion. It’s easy to whip up negative public sentiment about expensive pork projects and there isn’t a single resident of West Hollywood or Los Angeles who hasn’t complained about the horrible traffic in the region.

        City Hall’s parking lot is generally not very crowded because most of the employees either walk, take public transit (yes, they exist) or park in the Kings Road structure. If the City thinks it needs more parking spaces for its employees, then we can ask that the new structure be used only for employee parking and leave the free-moving surface and Kings Road structure spaces to the general public. Ha!

        If the City needs more office and parking space (or meeting space), it could also go “green” and buy one of the many existing vacant commercial buildings in town and repurpose it for modern office use. For example, the office building on San Vicente across from the 90069 Post Office has been vacant for years since New Line Cinema was consolidated on the Warner Bros lot in Burbank. It has a large subterranean parking garage that goes completely unused. It’s not even open in the evenings for parking for the surrounding bars, nightclubs, restaurants, etc.

        I’m sure there are vacant commercial buildings on the east side too. Or we could do everyone a favor and condemn the shopping center on the northwest corner of Fairfax and Santa Monica, build offices and a parking structure there and a sky bridge to Whole Foods.

  4. joninla says:

    You know – it’s not the spending I am so bothered about, but the choices which you have thankfully confirmed what I think are just so obvious both in terms of what is wrong with the current plan, and what should be done instead.

    As for the Robo-Garage … I too still love Volkswagen’s robotic glass parking tower. If the City want to blow a huge wad of money at a Robo-Garage-Project ….

    I think building a copy (I’ll just say it like it is. Volkswagen has already made the most dramatic structure and nobody’s gonna top it – Well certainly not the WeHo building/planning team – so WeHo should just copy it) and have it as part of the Pacific Design Center Complex – which the new Red Construction along with the Park/Library building and reshaping – makes it seem almost like an entirely new unified complex.

    If it’s true that William-Morris is going to move into the Red Tower – it will really spoof up the city and bring more high end money to the area.

    A Robo-Garage like Volkswagen’s would be a major draw for everyone. During weekday’s business hours, the Office Tenants can use and draw clients simply to want to park in the garage ….

    On the Weekends, it can used as part of a mini-technology lesson for kids to see. There would be a whole day worth of activities for kids/families with the Park and Library and they could add a “green” exhibit and include the garage (making sure kids can push the buttons and move the cars) and the remaining restaurants will not go under and new dining/retail will come and again – ADD TO THE CITY, AND CREATE EVEN MORE REVENUE FOR THE CITY TO SQUANDER.

    On Weekend Evenings – the bar/club scene both needs the parking and I think they could use more patrons which a Techo-Robo-Garage would be a draw.

    Finally, as we learned just how much revenue was generated by Pride, and Halloween …. The San-Vicente site is so unique in it’s ability to become a festival/fair site in the middle of the city ….. By Classing Up the whole new area with the Red Building and Library already almost done, a Robo-Garage could act as a tower/beacon for anyone who want to rent the area for Private Events (HBO did something last year I think, and WestWeek annually).

    Think about how much revenue would be made by just taking the existing park plan and area, and tweak it slightly to make it possible to become a Fair/Festival/Events ground with even faster speed and quality of the temporary fencing et al – and I am sure it will become a very desirable, chic and trendy regular enough activity that dining/retail will be willing to invest the money are return the West Side of WeHo back to what used to be a very high end dining enclave.

    But it is all about the City Hall Garage and the current investment in creating a silly but fierce narrative about all the PRO’s and Necessity of the monstrosity that will be stuck behind city hall sooner than we know. I think now it’s more about power and unwillingness to admit error or change a plan that “The Power That Be” that control west hollywood, have already made it WeHo’s version of the 10 commandments, written in stone and never to be changed.

    LOL

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