by Nick Welsh
Six months after it opened for business, Santa Barbara’s $25-million five-story parking garage is still only one-third to one-half full during most workdays. According to public works officials, the 575-space Granada Garage typically has between 150 and 250 cars parked in it, despite a chronic downtown parking deficit — frequently cited by garage advocates — of about 1,500 spaces. City engineer John Schoof predicted the lot will be used more once the Granada Theatre renovation is complete, and pointed out that the Granada Garage is still operating with only one of its two entrances. “And we have to admit that Santa Barbara does not advertise the existence of its garages architecturally,” said Schoof, acknowledging that some motorists might not understand the new structure, with its many architectural style notes, is in fact a parking garage.
The extent to which the garage is utilized could be a factor in the upcoming debate regarding whether parking should be allowed to continue on three blocks of downtown bike lanes on Figueroa and Anapamu streets. City officials allowed on-street parking in these bike lanes while the Granada Garage was under construction, and now some downtown merchants and the Downtown Organization don’t wish to relinquish these additional parking spaces. City traffic engineers and planners have issued conflicting recommendations on this score. Schoof has recommended city planning commissioners also take a wait-and-see approach regarding City Hall’s failure to include a turning lane on Anacapa Street into the Granada Garage. This Thursday, planning commissioners are scheduled to review various remedies; the cheapest and easiest would be to remove 13 on-street parking spaces in front of the County Administration Building’s Anacapa Street entrance. Schoof and other planners want to see the garage operating at full volume with both entrances open before deciding if any action is required.