PARKING POLITICS - It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that “it’s no use fighting City Hall”, but the advent of the Internet and Neighborhood Councils has allowed us to choose that very option—so it’s anyone’s guess as to whether fighting the unfair City law ticketing individuals who use parking spaces with broken meters, and fighting this City’s unenlightened parking policy, is either courage or naiveté at its best … or worst.
Take, for instance, the latest vote by the City Council to reaffirm its practice of ticketing motorists who use broken meters—approved 12-1, with credit going to Jan Perry for doing the right thing and opposing this practice, which is quite likely in contradiction to state law.
It is both disappointing but quite consistent with City Council history in its vote, which makes drivers the victims when parking meters are broken in a City which is as parking-poor as any major city on this planet.
It is an outrageous rip-off of LA citizens who have to search for a parking space and when they finally find one, spend time maneuvering into it, gathering their belongings, locking the car, finding coins or credit card to pay, and then discover the meter is broken. At this point they are faced with risking a $63 ticket, or getting back in their car and driving around again looking for a “legal” space.
This neither helps our traffic congestion nor our mobility problem, and most drivers are not even aware of this unfair practice—which contradicts attempts by state lawmakers to stop unfair ticketing practices in some cities.
This practice may help LA City coffers a bit, but for every motorist nailed with this unfair tax, it’s one more guaranteed “no” vote for raising City sales taxes by a half-cent (also approved as a spring 2013 ballot measure by the benevolent and enlightened Herb Wesson and the LA City Council).
The Times article mentions that the LADOT reported its old parking meters were commonly vandalized by fee-avoiding miscreant motorists, but that only five meters a month require repair now that they’re newer and take both credit cards and cash.
Yet the same LADOT spokesman reports that ongoing tickets for broken meter violations generate $5 million a year … which averages out to $83,333 per broken meter during only 3 hours on average that the City reports each is broken. So the “real story” begs for elaboration and dissemination to the tax- and fee-burdened public.
Of course, this is the same City of LA that continues to underserve its citizens’ parking needs: although there are many parking lots and spaces that the city already oversees, it’s evident that we don’t have enough parking infrastructure to meet our commuters’ and shoppers’ needs.
It’s also evident that LA needs to emulate the neighboring cities of Santa Monica and Culver City, which have done quite well with large parking structures and lots that generate revenue and get people out of their cars and onto pedestrian-friendly commercial corridors.
Our response: we use paradigms such as “transit, not parking” or use adjacent residential streets to access commercial corridor destinations. “Parking guru” and UCLA Professor Shoup may have been wrong when he overplayed the “transit, not parking” paradigm, but he is spot-on when he advocates using our parking meters and lots to more effectively generate revenue for the City of Los Angeles.
Revenue that can and should go to public/private partnerships such as the Westside Regional Transportation Center concept, which is a vital project that should be built adjacent to the future Exposition/Sepulveda Rail Expo Line station (and when the planning and funding comes, a connecting station for the future north-south transit line that Measure R funds to connect the Westside with the Valley).
Unfortunately, that land parcel, which is also adjacent to the critical Pico commercial corridor and equally-critical Sepulveda and Sawtelle corridors, is owned by Alan Casden who, as I’ve opined previously to CityWatch is creating a car-oriented development at a transit-adjacent site and threatening the credibility of the Metro transit and City Planning process.
Equally unfortunate is that at last Wednesday’s special Planning meeting to address the Casden project, we learned from the Casden team that it is “working with and in contact with Metro, City Planning and Neighborhood Councils” to improve and mitigate for this transit-oriented project that will get people out of their cars.
● Yet my own contacts with the Expo Line Construction Authority report that it has stopped trying to deal with the Casden team and is moving forward with the Expo Line construction process without considering the Casden project—which currently has 2000 parking spaces devoted to a car-oriented residential and commercial project, but ZERO spaces devoted to Expo Line riders, and which currently forces Expo Line riders to walk up Sepulveda and to Pico Blvd. and denies them direct project access.
● Yet every Neighborhood Council and community group has said “NO!” to the project as is, and wants a more environmentally-friendly and transit-friendly (not just transit-adjacent) project—in large part because it is so huge that it violates the West LA Community Plan and because it is oriented to CAR access, not RAIL/TRANSIT access.
● Yet City Planning just had a meeting at the Henry Medina Parking Enforcement Building (next to the future Expo Line station and Casden project—how ironic but fitting!) last Monday to focus on what SHOULD be built adjacent to the Exposition/Sepulveda station and along the Pico corridor, and IGNORED the Casden/Sepulveda Project altogether.
Fortunately, Bill Rosendahl and Paul Koretz, whose council districts both include and abut the Casden/Sepulveda project, have come out strongly against the project as is, but it’s anyone’s guess as to whether the other thirteen councilmembers will support their position.
There IS an answer that is both jobs-friendly, environment-friendly, and will enhance—not obstruct—access of commuters to the future Exposition/Sepulveda station, which should be the site of a public/private partnership between Metro, the City of LA and private developers to include the aforementioned Westside Regional Transportation Center and establish a large park-and-ride parking lot as well as for facilities to enhance bus, jitney, bicycle and pedestrian access and multimodal transfers to other forms of transportation.
Any project at this site should be a facilitating factor for the Pico commercial corridor, and an industrial/commercial Internet/Media jobs center with accompanying restaurants could be a boon to the region.
And if a residential component MUST be included, perhaps a hotel should be considered with indoor rooms, an indoor pool, and a community center to attract transit-using tourists and an army of jobs for the Westside…without forcing people to breathe fumes from the adjacent I-405 freeway.
It’s hoped that Councilmembers Rosendahl and Koretz (and the entire City Council) will also reverse course on their parking policies—especially that which penalizes motorists who are too-often stuck between parking spaces with either broken meters, or no parking spaces at all.
We need to HELP, not HURT, the motorists of L.A. who are quite frequently the loyal and taxpaying citizens of Los Angeles. More parking should be built to get motorists off the streets and onto our sidewalks (and into our businesses).
We may have to deal with broken parking meters, broken parking policy, broken promises on the part of developers and City officials, and broken Planning processes … but the spirits of Angelenos to move our City forward into the 21st Century remains anything but broken.
(Ken Alpern is a Westside Village Zone Director and Boardmember of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC), and is Co-Chair of the MVCC Transportation/Infrastructure Committee. He is co-chair of the CD11 Transportation Advisory Committee and chairs the nonprofit Transit Coalition, and can be reached at Alpern@MarVista.org.
Tom Ponton is a co-founder and a past (and first-elected) Chair of the Board of the Mar Vista Community Council (MVCC, and is currently co-chair of the MVCC Recreation and Open Spaces Committee. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed in this article are solely those of Mr. Alpern and Mr. Ponton.)
INFO: (Planning official Henry Chu is still seeking input on the Casden/Sepulveda project for the next one-two weeks. Snail mail is OK, but e-mail is quicker and much less likely to be lost or delayed.
Please make sure the names and planning case numbers are in your e-mail header:
Casden-Sepulveda Development: Case #CPC-2008-4604-GPA-ZC-HD-CUB-DB-SPR, CEQA #ENV-2008-3989-EIR, Related Case #VTT-70805-GB:
● Hearing Officer Henry Chu: email@example.com
● Michael Logrande, Director of Planning: firstname.lastname@example.org
● CD11 Councilmember Bill Rosendahl: email@example.com