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West Hollywood moves forward with plans for ‘robo-garage’ while opposition launches petition

Posted on | July 23, 2012 | No Comments

West Hollywood City Council voted to go forward with the design phase of the automated parking garage planned for behind city hall at their July meeting.  The robo-garage, which the City Council first unanimously voted to build at its May 2, 2011 meeting, 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.

It will have space for 200 cars, up from the 68 currently available in the City Hall surface parking lot (one third of city code for a building of its side, with the overflow filling the Kings Road lot during the daytime) and  incorporates state-of-the-art computerized technology from Unitronics, a firm specializing in automated parking structures.

The discussion about the garage, however, got somewhat sidetracked by and conflated with the recent revelation that the city is embarking on a feasibility study to expand an outgrown City Hall.

Contained in the new budget, roughly $200,000 will be spent to determine whether or not it is feasible to build a combination City Hall/Sheriff’s branch station at the site of the current Sheriff’ Station.  The study will determine if the grand scheme of expanding City Hall (which is currently severely short of space and expected to become tighter) could be combined with a much-needed expansion of a too-tightly crammed Sheriff’s Department and inclusion of retail shops facing Santa Monica Boulevard to mirror the vibrant street life enjoyed across the street.

City Manager Paul Arevalo said that the plans in the works “barely building capacity to meet the needs today, let alone to allow for some potential growth in the future.”

Unveiling a petition to stop progress on the plan is the West Hollywood Residents Alliance, a committee formed to “foster discussion and agreement among residents to improve the community of West Hollywood… created out of the desire… to come together and affect positive change. It is an independent entity… not in opposition to [government]… merely an addition.

One of the reasons cited by opposition was the financial risk in uncertain economic times, with concern over. the bankruptcy of several California cities.

According to Mayor Jeffrey Prang, “The proposed parking structure is actually cheaper to build than a convention structure with ramps.  A conventional structure would also require digging 2 levels below grade to achieve the same number of parking spaces.

Finally, the “funding strategy has no impact on existing programs and services, requires no taxes or fees on the residents, and will not have an impact on our financial stability,” says Mayor Prang

Also entering into the discussion – and number one of the reasons listed in the petition against the project, was concerns about how well the technology works, citing the Hoboken, NJ experience and a painful experience with an automated garage at UCLA Medical Center.

According to Council member John D’Amico, who works as project manager at the latter location, the garage there has been inoperative more often than in use due to a hodge-podge of systems cobbled together in construction.

In the Hoboken experience, a software dispute and poor construction led to that city placing the project in Unitronic’s hands, and after that change the garage has worked as first expected.

The second point n the petition against the project is that “the required use of electric energy to operate this garage will increase the carbon footprint of the city and is not in alignment with GREEN policy.”

The staff report says that photovoltaic cells atop the roof will supply all the electricity needed for the garage to function while supplementing city hall’s power use.

Besides that, eliminating “excessive vehicular circulation through the neighborhood (people looking for spaces) results in removing greenhouse gasses equivalent to removing 92 cars from the road, or planting 67,000 new trees. The building will qualify for LEED certification at either the Gold or Platinum levels.

 

Adapted from WeHo News

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