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City Council Says Go Ahead with Robo-Garage

The City Council gives the OK to proceed with plans to build an automated parking garage behind City Hall despite uncertainty over whether City Hall will stay in that location. The Council says the mid-city area needs the parking.

The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously to proceed with the at its Monday night meeting, despite also planning to do a .

The robo-garage, which the City Council first unanimously voted to build at its , will offer a valet-like experience where people leave their cars and the automated system stores the vehicles in parking berths using motorized lifts, conveyers and shuttles.

The 5-story garage will incorporate state-of-the-art computerized technology from Unitronics, an Israeli firm specializing in automated parking structures. It will have space for 200 cars, up from the 68 that are currently available in the City Hall surface parking lot.

There had been some question in the public’s mind whether the Council should approve this garage until it was sure whether City Hall would stay in its current location at 8300 Santa Monica Boulevard.

In June, during the city budget discussion for 2012-2013, news emerged of a to move City Hall a mile west to the southeast corner of Santa Monica Boulevard and San Vicente Boulevard, where the sheriff’s station currently stands. The plan would be to build a combination City Hall and sheriff’s station there, plus other retail shops.

Councilmember John Duran said that regardless of whether City Hall moves or not, the garage should be built to alleviate chronic parking shortages in the mid-city area. Duran said that mid-city businesses like O-Bar, which closed in July 2011, have a hard time surviving because of the parking problems.

Mayor Pro Tem Abbe Land said the garage was clearly needed “if we’re going to continue to get economic development along Santa Monica Boulevard.”

Mayor Jeff Prang agreed, calling it an “important investment if we want our neighborhood businesses to survive.”

During public comment, one speaker suggested that regardless of whether the automated garage is built, the city should buy one of the two gas stations on Santa Monica Boulevard between Crescent Heights Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue and build a parking garage there since that part of town is in such desperate need of parking.

Retaining ownership

Even if City Hall moves (a proposal that would be five or more years away) and the city sells the current City Hall building, City Manager Paul Arevalo recommended retaining ownership of the parking garage.

“It’s like water rights,” Arevalo said. “We should retain the garage.”

Councilmember John Heilman said the garage would be an asset that would only add value to the current City Hall building if it was sold.

Rather than selling City Hall, Duran suggested that the city could lease spaces in the building to non-profits who have been displaced from the city due to high rents for commercial spaces. “There’s nothing wrong with us becoming landlords,” Duran said.

Technology

There were questions whether the technology for the automated garage would actually work as promised.

Councilmember John D’Amico’s day job is at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica which recently opened the only other automated parking garage west of the Mississippi River.

D’Amico reported that garage has does not operate properly and has been closed the majority of the time since opening. D’Amico said that automated garage was piecemealed together using four different systems.

Public Works Director Oscar Delgado said that an automated garage in Hoboken, NJ also had similar problems until Untronics came in and installed its  technology.

Funding

There was also some question whether the city actually has the $16 million to pay for the garage after the state of California seized redevelopment funds from cities across the state to pay for the state’s budget crisis.

Arevalo said the $16 million would come out of the General Fund reserves and the rest would be made up through bonds.

joninla September 17, 2012 at 10:22 PM
Taking the commercial lot across the street (with Hollaway Cleaners) it is clear that the proper approach to deal with a shortage of parking (which there is not at city hall, but assuming there were) is to hire AS NEEDED a private 'parking valet service' to come and assist with parking as needed. If there actually is a shortage, they bonded licensed car valets can double or triple park cars behind each other at a virtually nominal cost compared to the permanent investment in a major project that will cost a fortune to run AFTER and ON TOP of the $16 Million Price tag.
Riley September 17, 2012 at 11:55 PM
Check this out: http://www.wehoconfidential.com/2012/09/city-council-aims-to-increase-parking.html I love when the City leaders tell us that they are paying for their extravagant projects with "bonds" as if we, the citizens are not ultimately the ones who are paying for it. How many parking meters and tickets for unpaid parking meters will it take to pay for the $16 million (+ the 2 million for design) robo garage? Umpty-gazillion...that's how many and we will be the ones paying.
Stephanie September 18, 2012 at 12:33 AM
@Riley: You are right on the money...pun intended. Another major point or two about this robo garage that WE, the People, will be paying for, are these: 1) When and where was the PUBLIC INPUT for this exorbitantly expensive project when it changed from a well documented 25th Anniversary Capital Project entitled "The West Hollywood Community Service Center" ??? Where are our desperately needed community rooms in the plan for the 16 MILLION DOLLAR robo garage? No where to be found and it seems the community was not included in the input process when the project dropped the West Hollywood Community Service Center and became the Automated Parking Structure. Ask questions. We deserve answers, we really do.
joninla September 18, 2012 at 10:12 AM
Why did D'Amico, our resident expert on the failings of the most recent Los Angeles area Robo-Garage vote for this boondoggle? I really thought he had the best interests of the City and the Residents as his goal in making decisions. What explanation can he give for voting for this outrageous expenditure for a known faulty system? Just going along with the other council members? Mr. D'Amico had lost my previous complements for at least trying to change this city for the better.
joninla September 18, 2012 at 10:21 AM
I am glad the 'feasibility study' was referenced in this one article. If the City Council is going to vote their way, what can be done. Not much. But if the City Council members are actively or participating in an illegal scheme to pay off special interests with City Assets, that would be a criminal conversion of City Assets and/or part of a conspiracy to commit such a theft of over $200,000 of City Funds. SPECIFICALLY - there is no physical way of putting the city hall and Sheriff's Department on the one County Owned Lot where the outdated Sheriff's station is. The Sheriff's Station Lot size is just barely larger than the existing city hall lot (including parking). If both City Hall and The Sheriff needs to expand, they can't do it on a lot that is not big enough for City Hall on its own, let alone Both. The feasibility study clearly is a fraudulent scheme to pay someone $200,000 under the guise of a bogus 'study' which everyone should check google maps and city maps, to see the Sheriff's lot is very small and not as large as it would appear. The majority is the bus depot and the PDC. The delay in the robo garage was not taken into account apparently when they tried to slip a $200,000 plus item through the Council. We can't vote them out, but they can be removed for illegal appropriation of City Funds/Assets.

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