woensdag 5 maart 2008

Parkeerplaats voor Cavalia-bezoekers?

Het gemeentebestuur van Knokke-Heist moet de komende maanden met oplossingen voor de dag komen om onder meer de zomerse verkeersstromen voor het Cavalia-gebeuren te kunnen opvangen. In Barcelona waren er in de onmiddellijke nabijheid van de het paardenspektakel drie grote verzorgde parkeerplaatsen. Dat is in Knokke-Heist alvast niet het geval. De badstad zit daarbij in hetzelfde bootje als de Californische badplaats Santa Monica. Ook daar is een paar jaar geleden het Cavalia-spektakel neergestreken. Een succes tot en met, maar de verkeersafwikkeling werd een ware ramp. Te meer daar in de badplaats op hetzelfde moment nog andere evenementen werden gehouden. Dat zal deze zomer trouwens ook in Knokke-Heist het geval zijn.

Vanwege Cavalia en andere grote evenementen wil men in Santa Monica het parkeerprobleem nu in alle ernst aanpakken. Dat schrijft de Santa Monica Daily Press vandaag:

When it comes to attracting long-term cultural events to the parking lot adjoining the Santa Monica Pier, local business owners and residents seem to agree on two points. First, something absolutely has to be done to alleviate the congestion that events like Ashes & Snow bring to Santa Monica, a city that without large events, already has its fair share of traffic. Second, there needs to be a consistency in drawing the kind of successful events like Ashes & Snow and Cavalia in order to put Santa Monica on the cultural map. Those were the pair of issues that were pointed out repeatedly during a community workshop last Thursday when business leaders and residents discussed a possible extended event policy for the 1550 lot, located immediately north of the pier off Pacific Coast Highway. “Everyone is in agreement that signature events are good for the city,” Laurel Rosen, the president and CEO of the Santa Monica Chamber of Commerce, said. The lot has hosted a series of successful high-profile events over the past few years, from Cirque du Soleil to equestrian ballet Cavalia, and most recently, Ashes & Snow, a nomadic photographic exhibit that occupied the lot from January to May 2006, bringing more than 400,000 visitors and generating an estimated $1.2 million in sales at the pier. The event helped bring in business during the relatively quiet winter period. After the success of Cavalia and Cirque du Soleil, the City Council in late 2005 adopted a policy outlining use at the 1550 lot. The Community and Cultural Services Department at City Hall is currently in the midst of creating a new policy that will allow City Hall to evaluate different opportunities for the lot, balancing the economic and cultural opportunities that come with the event with its accompanying drawbacks. City staff plan to introduce a draft of a proposed policy to the City Council in April. “Events are a tricky type of critter,” Cultural Affairs Manager Jessica Cusick said. “They evolve, they are constant, they are very fluid.” The 1550 lot events serve three basic purposes — they bring in income to the beach fund that support the various services offered; they provide community access to cultural activities; and they benefit tourism, helping maintain Santa Monica as one of the top tourist destinations in the world. “It’s making us more competitive with other cities in a sense of drawing unique visitors to unique and special events,” Cusick said. Currently, events are only possible if City Hall puts out a request seeking bids, and those who do express interest have to meet very specific criteria, something that has resulted in lost opportunities, according to Open Space Manager Callie Hurd. “What we would like to do is have more flexible criteria,” Hurd said. One of the biggest tricks in balancing the positives and negatives of having large-scale, long-term events at the lot is finding ways to combat parking and traffic issues. A resident who lives south of the Santa Monica Pier suggested signage along Ocean Avenue to guide out-of-town drivers, many get stuck on Appian Way and worsen gridlock. Many people who attended the workshop agreed that a shuttle service or a shared parking agreement with building owners in Downtown Santa Monica could be an effective measure to combat both parking woes in the area and traffic. The residents and business owners didn’t seem to have a particular opinion about the specific type of events they would like to see at the lot. What they did make clear was that the burden to find solutions to the negative side effects of events should fall on the event-holder. “We have to have some type of tradition (at the lot),” Paul Hortobagyi, the general manager of the Le Merigot Hotel, said after the meeting. “Then in five years, Santa Monica is going to gain the cultural status that it does deserve.” The success of the events at the 1550 lot have been known to trickle over to the businesses on the pier and into Downtown Santa Monica. One of the beneficiaries of the added business from Ashes & Snow was Ocean Avenue Seafood. “Immediately we saw an increase in guest counts, an increase in sales,” General Manager Christopher Hopgood said. The restaurant created special package deals for guests that included dinner and tickets to the show, something they would consider continuing for future events, Hopgood said. However there remains the issue of parking. “A lot of real positive things were overshadowed by the parking issue,” Hopgood said.