Mid-City ‘Robo-Garage’ Set for Construction

The city council approved plans to move forward with construction of a mid-city automated “robo-garage” on Monday. The automated system would store vehicles in parking berths using motorized lifts, conveyers and shuttles. (Photo by the City of West Hollywood)

The West Hollywood City Council approved plans to go ahead with construction of the automated parking garage behind City Hall at its meeting on Monday night.

The $16 million “robo-garage” is said to 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. Using state-of-the-art computerized technology from Unitronics, an Israeli firm specializing in automated parking structures, the structure will have space for 200 cars, a significant boost up from the 66 currently available in the City Hall surface parking lot.

Council authorized staff to proceed with the construction documents phase of the project and to advertise for construction bids.

The majority of the 14 people speaking during public comment were in favor of the garage, saying it would be good for the mid-city area, which routinely has parking shortages.

Resident Mark Lehman called it “innovative and efficient,” and said it would stimulate the economy in mid-city.

Genevieve Morrill, president of the West Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, called it “fabulous, futuristic and forward thinking.”

Commercial real estate broker Chris Bonbright called the automated garage “visionary,” and said it was more efficient than a standard parking deck.

Three people spoke against the project.

Resident Tom DeMille, who is a candidate for City Council in the March election, questioned the $16 million price tag. The money could be better spent on other services for residents, he said.

Resident Cathy Blaivas was concerned about the lack of meeting rooms, noting that the two meeting rooms in City Hall were too small for large meetings.

Mayor Jeff Prang said the automated garage would be less expensive than a conventional parking structure, and that the original plans never called for community meeting rooms but, instead, for more office space for City Hall staff.

Councilmember John Duran said the structure would provide parking for City Hall employees and nearby businesses.

“We have two community meeting rooms in City Hall already. The fact we’re getting 200 new spaces in the mid-city is a great relief to the community,” said Duran.

Duran also said the residents wouldn’t have to pay back the bonds, that revenue from use of the structure would pay the bonds.

Councilmember John Heilman called the project a “win for the community.”

“Land that is so expensive in this area, if you have to use all that land for parking, it’s not using the land in the most effective way,” Heilman said. “Allowing the parking in a structure like one that’s proposed behind City Hall is so much more efficient. I think it really is the wave of the future.”

Construction will start in Spring 2013 and be completed in Summer 2014.

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Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
8 years ago

btw, Unitronics is an israeli company, their address is a PO box at ben gurion airport in tel aviv. they are publicly owned (penny stock going for $0.90) and their ENTIRE market cap (value of all shares outstanding combined) is $9 million.
and most people have no idea how much it costs, the news media stupidly reported a cost of $2.6 million: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Te0N2yhtnHY&feature=player_embedded

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
8 years ago

very good question by ‘anonymous’. yes chloe, the city’s plans are to finance this adventure with money from the parking fund as well as through another bond issue. of course this breaks down to 95% bonds and 5% parking fund. the bonds are basically a loan to the city at a high interest rate (in spite of the much touted AAA bond rating, given by the same rating agencies that rated every horrible subprime mortgage as AAA during the credit bubble). investment banks bid on being the issuer through a broker who usually tips them off under the table on… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago

Another serious pont about this project is that there seems to have been no significant public input into the taking away of the community service center portion of this project. When it was first presented to the community this was entitled “The West Hollywood Community Service Center and Parking.” It was dubbed “one stop shopping” for community service. Look on the City’s website. What happened to all of that? Why did no one ask the constituents if it was okay to spend our money on this toy?

Chloe Ross
8 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

It is a good question but one that is not readily answered by the city. The answers are confused. It is my feeling there will also be another bond issue floated to raise the money to build this gadget. Bonds sold are meant to be redeemed /cashed in at some point. You might ask a bond broker what exactly happens with bond issues and what happens with defaults.

voolavex
voolavex
8 years ago

Clearly there is a strong reaction to the Upsy Daisy garage being shoved forth by the city. The comments of Rudolph and Stephanie show us numbers that should have been more widely disseminated to the residents. Both comments bring a cold truth to this whole production. The City seems to have seen “The Producers” one time too many – in all its incarnations. The various projects embraced by our elected representatives send me straight to Bialystock and Bloom and while they may all wind up producing “Prisoners of Love” in the slammer, the bond investors and the residents will be… Read more »

Rudolf Martin
Rudolf Martin
8 years ago

“stimulate the economy”? certainly for the developers. has anyone seen the city’s official estimate for monthly costs of operation, insurance and maintenance? james mills? i bet it will certainly be at least $5.22million for just the first 10 years based on what Unitronix charges in New Jersey. insurance not included. add the $2million already spent for ‘design’ and we’re at $23.22million. cost overruns not included. when this project was first approved it was budgeted at $13million. cost per parking space: $116,100.00 cost per added parking space: $173,283.58 meanwhile city hall is contemplating moving their operations to a new ‘civic center’… Read more »

Stephanie
Stephanie
8 years ago

We must question members of council who state that issuing bonds is a good thing and that “we” don’t have to pay out the money for the bonds. REALLY? Just how does he think those will be repaid? Whose taxes do you think pays for everything in this town? “THEY” are about to do it again with issuing $15,000,000.00 (that’s MILLION) worth of bonds for the Automated Parking Garage behind City Hall, (IT IS 16 MILLION TOTAL, but 1 million is to come from the parking fund, so we hear.) and don’t believe everything they say about how it is… Read more »

voolavex
voolavex
8 years ago

I do not support the $16mil Upsy Daisy Parking feature being pushed into existence by the Gang of Five. I might be less con in a year or so – but right now, there are so many, many things that would be money better spent than the proposed leviathan so cherished by “Mr. Rolling in Money” and his legions. I fail to see how it will either pay for itself or “solve” the massively horrible “mid city” parking problems. I simply don’t. These were alleged to be solved by the Aaron Bros structure (which I note is frequently underused.). And… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago

Total waste of money. Why not build this at a location that could actually use such a structure. Further west of SMB or up along the Sunset Strip would have been a much wiser decision. Is this being built for the community or for the employees of WeHo City Hall? Truly pathetic.

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