Santa Monica Parking Tips

Santa Monica parking spaces fill up fast and early seven days a week - especially during the busy summer months. Parking enforcement is very aggressive here. 

Don't even think about forgetting to feed any Santa Monica city parking meters you encounter - even for a quick in-and-out cappuccino run. You're virtually guaranteed to receive an expensive souvenir of your pitstop - your very own $64 Santa Monica parking ticket. (I know because I just checked my check register.)

A couple of years ago, in addition to receiving my very own parking citation keepsake - my car was towed to the city impound lot. It turns out I parked in a space that transforms into restaurant valet parking promptly at 5 p.m. I came out of a shop at 5:10 and my car was gone. That was a $400 lesson I won't forget - an experience I assume you'd prefer to forgo.

To that end, this guide you to a parking space close to your destination at a price you can live with can help. 

Technology Meets Real Time

Santa Monica parking is plentiful but lots fill up quickly, especially during the summer.Santa Monica parking is plentiful but lots fill up quickly, especially during the summer.

The City of Santa Monica parking system uses technology and real-time information to keep cars moving on major boulevards and limit the impact of traffic on local streets.

This includes a comprehensive street wayfinding system, including signs directing motorists to off-street parking and displaying real-time parking availability at many public parking facilities and Santa Monica city parking meters.

Real-time parking availability and rates can be found on this interactive, real-time Santa Monica parking map or by downloading this free smart phone parking app.

Santa Monica Parking at the Pier and Beach

There are several options for Santa Monica Pier parking:

  • Santa Monica Pier deck, accessed via the ramp at the intersection of Ocean Avenue and Colorado Avenue. This parking lot is open 24 hours a day. 
  • Lot 1 North, located immediately north of the Pier at 1550 Pacific Coast Highway. Lot 1 North is open daily from 6 a.m. to 2 a.m. 
  • Short-term parking is available at 1640 Appian Way. The lot is open daily from sunrise to sunset. The rate is $1 per hour with a 2-hour maximum.

City of Santa Monica beach lots are open for public parking from sunrise to sunset only. Fees vary by season and the location of the lot. Get the Comprehensive list of City of Santa Monica parking rates.

Beach parking lots are open for public parking from sunrise to sunset only, except for Lot 1 North, which is open from 6 a.m. to midnight. Fees vary depending on the season and location of the lot. (Se the rates for beach parking lots above.)

Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Place and Civic Center Parking

Parking for visitors to the Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Place and the Civic Center is available at four city parking lots and 12 parking structures. Parking structures 1 through 9 and the Civic Center structure are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. (See the comprehensive fee schedule above for rate information.)

Main Street Parking

Main Street Parking is available at four city parking lots, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The rate is $1.00 per hour. Sundays, the Farmer's Market takes place at the California Heritage Museum parking lot; 2612 Main Street, Santa Monica.

Visitors are encouraged to park at Lot 5 south, located at 2600 Barnard Way, where parking is free until 1:30 p.m. with proof of purchase and a parking voucher from the Farmer's Market.

Meter Enforcement Hours

Parking meters accept payment by both credit cards and coins. The city uses meter sensors to manage the limited supply of on-street parking that is always in high demand. The sensors allow the city's real-time parking map (see interactive parking map above) to show a driver where available on-street parking spaces are.

The free smartphone app also provides real-time information. Parking enforcement hours for meters are as follows:

  • Parking meters along Ocean Avenue, 2nd Street, and 4th Street between Wilshire Boulevard and Colorado allow 3-hour parking between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. daily.
  • Parking meters along Broadway, Santa Monica Boulevard, Arizona Avenue and Wilshire Boulevard between Ocean Avenue and 5th Street allow 3-hour parking between 8 a.m. and 2 a.m. daily.
  • Most meters along the rest of downtown Santa Monica streets east of 5th Street and in the Civi Center area allow 3-hour parking between 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.
  • Parking meters are not enforced on major holidays, except for meters that are enforced daily according to posted signage. Meters that are enforced daily must be paid on all weekdays, weekends, and holidays.

Final Tips For Your Visit

  • All city parking lots on the beach and pay-by-space lots are enforced 7 days a week, 24 hours a day, including all weekends and holidays.
  • Vehicles cannot be parked in the same space for more than 72 hours.
  • Yellow loading zones (15 minute limit) are enforced Monday through Saturday, 7 a.m. - 6 p.m. unless otherwise posted.
  • Green zones are enforced 24 hours for the time limit posted.
  • White zones are enforced 24 hours for the three-minute time limit.
  • Vehicles displaying special recognition plates issued by the State of California, or valid white or green Clean Air or Zero Emissions decals, can park at meters without paying, up to the posted maximum time limit. 

Finally, should you find yourself in my position - with your car towed from a city street - call the Santa Monica Police Department at (310) 458-8495 for information on how to retrieve it from impound. Be sure to bring your checkbook or credit card.