MONROVIA — After three years of heated public hearings and policy reversals and a scuttled special election, the Monrovia City Council has resolved--at least for the time being--the issue of overnight parking.
The council voted last week to replace its unenforced prohibition against overnight parking with an ordinance requiring residents to park on alternate sides of the street one night a week to facilitate street cleaning. But as a concession to proponents of an all-out ban, the council will allow individual neighborhoods to vote on whether to prohibit overnight parking.
Although the compromise placated those on both sides of the issue, council members acknowledged that it did not fully satisfy anyone.
"What we've done is not ideal," Mayor Paul Stuart said. "However, it's a big step in the right direction. We're taking a logical step that doesn't create a revolt. . . . But the problem of overnight parking will still remain."
Barring unforeseen delays, the part of the ordinance requiring alternate parking on street-sweeping nights will be in effect by October, City Manager Jim Starbird said.
But it will be much longer before individual neighborhoods can vote to restrict overnight parking, Starbird said, because the city must first define what constitutes "a neighborhood" under terms of the ordinance. The council must also decide whether a simple majority vote will be sufficient to prohibit everyone in a neighborhood from parking on the street overnight.
Starbird said he will present a schedule for working out details of the option at the next council meeting June 17. A lengthy process of staff study and more public hearings will follow, as city officials try to create a system that allows neighborhood autonomy but avoids a chaotic parking policy that changes from block to block.
"It's apparent that after three years we're still not ready to issue any dictum on parking," Councilman Robert Bartlett said. "There's still much work to be done on this very, very difficult matter."
Issue Arose in 1984
The controversy has polarized the city of 32,000 since Monrovia officials--following the lead of neighboring communities such as Arcadia and Sierra Madre--first considered an overnight parking ban in 1984. In addition to clearing the way for street sweepers, the absence of cars on streets was said to enhance the appearance of neighborhoods and make police surveillance easier.
The idea was well received in the newer subdivisions of Monrovia's northern corridor but was staunchly opposed by residents of the city's central zone, where the driveways and garages of many older homes do not provide enough parking for most families.
"I personally can't remember any issue in the nine years that I've been with the city that has generated so much input from the community," Starbird said.
After compiling all written and oral testimony on the parking issue, Starbird said he found overall community sentiment evenly divided on the issue, though 65% of northern residents favored the ban, while 74% of those in the center of town opposed it.
Decision and Dissatisfaction
Amid heated criticism from some residents, the City Council voted in January to prohibit parking on streets between 2 and 6 a.m. but allowed exemptions for residents unable to park anywhere else. This move only prompted more dissatisfaction, as applicants complained that they were denied exemptions because they had used up their "on-site parking areas" by converting their garages to workshops.
The controversy came to a head in March when the council--besieged by angry residents on both sides--voted to hold a special election to decide the issue. The election was subsequently decried as a waste of money and a means for council members to avoid making a tough decision in an election year. In April, the council put the election on hold and promised to make a final attempt to settle the matter.
But when council members set out to do that Tuesday evening, they were confronted again with the complexity of the issue, as reflected in an unwieldy list of possible actions. Besides the basic choices of holding a special election or eliminating parking regulations altogether, the council had three types of ordinances to choose from, each with its own options and special conditions.
Of these, the least popular was to maintain the overnight parking ban but allow additional exemptions for those who had converted their garages to workshops or storage areas. Bartlett argued that a plan with numerous exemptions would defeat the purpose of a parking ordinance and result in needless red tape.
Bartlett Favors Vote
Councilwoman Mary Wilcox originally favored a plan to divide the city along Foothill Boulevard, with overnight parking prohibited in the northern half and alternate-side parking in effect in the southern part. But Bartlett, one of the leading proponents of the special election, stressed the importance of letting residents decide the issue for themselves.
"With (the other plan), you just give them an edict," Bartlett said. "With this, you're allowing people in the neighborhood the say in whether they're going to have overnight parking."
The council debate ended with unanimous support for the new ordinance. Starbird said he believes the compromise measure will end the public debate as well.
"It seems to me to be a workable system if we can get all the bugs out," he said. "The underlying issue has been put to bed. I don't think you'll see overnight parking as an issue the way it has been."