Friday, August 12, 2016

Open Letter on Proposed Bright Avenue Development

Dear Whittier City Council,

As your constituent I am writing in support of the proposed mixed-use development on Bright Avenue between Philadelphia Street and Wardman Street.  As you know, this project would involve the demolition of the long vacant and blighted Bright Hotel, three City-owned parking lots and the construction of 124 housing units, 3,466 square feet of retail space and structured parking.  This project will make Uptown more vibrant, more prosperous, more pedestrian-friendly and provide badly-needed housing.

As the Whittier Daily News reported on August 10th ("Uptown Whittier could get more housing, but parking puzzle remains") the City Council voted Tuesday August, 9th to pursue an exclusive negotiating agreement (see PDF document for item 7.G on agenda) with the owner of the Bright Hotel property, a decision which I support, given that this developer is the party who has the most invested in the site and has the greatest capacity to realize a project there in the immediate future.

I understand the concerns Councilmembers have expressed over the loss of city-owned parking at that location, but there are a few important things to keep in mind.  First, replacing the 193 City-owned parking spaces currently on site will be extremely expensive.  The average cost of constructing an above-ground structured parking space (not including land costs) in Los Angeles is about $27,000 and the cost increases to about $35,000 per space for underground spaces (source: http://shoup.bol.ucla.edu/HighCost.pdf).  Since the developer is proposing a mixture of above-ground and underground structured spaces, let's say the average cost per space is $31,000.  This means that replacing all 193 city-owned parking spaces will cost $5,983,000 or $48,250 per housing unit in the proposed development.

If you care about promoting affordable housing, like I do, you can't ignore the significance of those numbers.  That parking cost gets passed on as higher rent, or if the project goes condo, higher home purchase prices.

The City needs to be prepared to contribute financially to the cost of building that replacement parking, if you insist that it all must be replaced.  As an Uptown resident and voter, I can tell you from personal experience that I have never once driven to a business in Uptown Whittier, yet that's never stopped me from shopping and dining here all the time.  It's much easier for me to just walk.  There are so many people who live in the immediate area that foot traffic alone provides a substantial amount of support for local businesses.  For those who choose to drive, there are options like the City-owned parking garage one block up Bright Avenue, which has very affordable rates.  Putting up parking meters on Greenleaf and charging rates that vary with demand could raise funds for the City to build parking structures in the area and would make it EASIER for people to find parking during busy times like Friday and Saturday nights.

This project gives more people the chance to live in an area where they can walk to restaurants, shops and entertainment.  That has always been Uptown's strength.  Don't squash this opportunity by being too rigid on parking.

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