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Monrovia to Put Parking Issue to Vote

August 10, 1986|SUE AVERY | Times Staff Writer

MONROVIA — Unable to come up with an acceptable solution after months of heated debates and position changes, the City Council has decided to let voters decide if overnight parking should be banned from city streets.

The council voted unanimously last week to let residents solve one of the most controversial issues ever to surface in the city through a binding measure on the November ballot.

A second, advisory measure on the ballot will ask whether parking should be restricted to alternate sides of the street one night a week to facilitate street cleaning.

Damned Either Way

"This is the most controversial issue in the city, and if we go with alternate-side (parking), we will be damned if we do and damned if we don't," said Councilman John Nobrega.

"Let the citizens make the final decision since we didn't stick to our guns originally" with a ban on overnight parking.

Councilman Bob Bartlett said that he wanted both questions to be binding, which would have meant that the measure garnering the most votes would prevail.

However, city staff said that the council would have greater flexibility and voters could more accurately state their opinions if the alternate-side issue was an advisory measure.

Councilman William Card, who favors the alternate-side position as a compromise between a total parking ban and no restrictions at all, said he was opposed to the vote.

If an election had to be held, he said, both measures should be advisory.

However, he sided with the majority of the council and agreed to put both measures on the ballot.

If voters reject the ban and the advisory measure wins, the issue will land right back in the laps of the beleaguered council.

The controversy began innocuously enough.

Last year, the city sent a questionnaire to each household, asking opinions on overnight parking. Nearly 54% of the responses favored prohibiting overnight parking, while an additional 35% favored some other kind of parking restriction.

For three months, the city asked motorists to voluntarily keep vehicles off streets on cleaning days. But that attempt failed when the number of cars declined by only 12%.

After holding two sparsely attended public hearings late last year, the council in January approved a ban on overnight parking.

The measure was met with overwhelming opposition by residents of the city's central area, where the driveways and garages of many older homes do not provide enough parking for residents, even though there was a provision for exemptions in hardship cases. The measure never was enforced.

In March, the council voted to hold a special election but later reversed itself after both proponents and opponents of the parking ban accused members of not being courageous enough to make a decision.

After a stormy public hearing in April, the council instructed city staff to study a compromise ordinance requiring residents to park on alternate sides of the street on street-sweeping days.

That decision came after City Manager Jim Starbird compiled written and oral testimony from the April public hearing and found community sentiment evenly divided on the issue.

And councilmen wavered in their growing approval of alternate-side parking when they learned that signs would cost up to $100,000.

Even though the council appeared ready to approve the compromise ordinance, that decision did not stop residents from continuing to criticize council members, prompting Bartlett to say he might resign.

In July, when the council voted to repeal the overnight parking ban it had passed in January, members again discussed the possibility of holding an election on the issue.

That decision had to be made by last week to meet the deadline for inclusion on the November ballot.

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