The West Hollywood City Council voted unanimously Monday to move closer to realizing its vision for a fully automated parking structure at City Hall.
The 200-space facility will cost $16 million, according to a staff report. The preliminary design calls for a five-story building that rises to a height of nearly 50 feet and occupies 11,000 of the building site's 25,000 square feet. The project also includes a 4,000 square-foot public plaza.
Automated garages use state-of-the-art computer technology to store vehicles in parking berths via motorized lifts, conveyers and shuttles, according to the website of Unitronics, an Israeli company the city has hired to provide and install the project's robotic elements.
"The building structure will be concrete with decorative finish materials to be determined in the next phase of design," the report states. "A portion of the east facade will be glass to allow for viewing of the internal operation of the automated system. The glass wall will incorporate art by Ned Kahn."
Council members called the project innovative and cost effective over the long term despite the parking structure's multimillion-dollar price tag.
"Parking in a structure like the one that's proposed at City Hall is so much more efficient," Councilman John Heilman said. "It really is the wave of the future, which is going to be in the long run much more cost effective."
A number of residents and local business people said the parking facility is a welcomed addition to West Hollywood, especially in the city's the central section where parking is always in short supply.
"It is by far the best solution for urban planning and use of space," said Chris Bonbright, who noted that automated parking structures accommodate the same large number of vehicles as a sprawling parking lot "dead zone."
Stephanie Harker criticized the $16 million price tag, the majority of which will be paid for by municipal debt.
"Because of our triple-A bond rating we're able to get very low interest rates and then service that debt from the revenues we receive from the parking," Councilman John Duran said. "The resources of the parking structure are going to pay back the debt service on the bond."
Harker also opposed the project's current scope.
"The community service portions of the original project are gone," she said. "The community service center and parking became automated parking garage and community plaza."
Mayor Jeffrey Prang explained the intention was to have a "community service center" consisting of city staff offices, not community rooms for public meetings and events.
In the next phase of the project's design process the city's architect, LPA Inc., and construction consultants will create detailed plans that must be approved by the Building and Safety Division and county agencies such as the Fire Department and Flood Control District.