Venice's severe parking crunch could be eased by establishing a shuttle bus system for beachgoers and preferential parking zones for residents, according to a preliminary study that will be released today by Los Angeles City Councilwoman Pat Russell's office.
The study, which describes ongoing and future efforts to improve parking in the crowded beach community, also suggests that officials enlarge and improve existing parking lots and consider using beachside valet parking attendants.
Steve Andrews, a deputy to Russell, said the study lays out several plans for dealing with Venice's parking problem. By the end of January, a special Venice task force is expected to decide which solutions are best.
"This brings everything into focus," Andrews said. "It gives people some sense of what is ongoing. . . . Pat Russell's goal is to put a comprehensive action plan into place by January or February. And part of it is just coming up with practical, immediate measures that will really make a difference."
Venice has been plagued by parking problems for decades. No one knows exactly how many new parking spaces are needed because demand fluctuates according to the season and the day of the week. But the shortage is especially acute during the summer and on weekends, when tourists descend on the 40,000-resident community.
On busy days, the beachfront parking lots are usually full by mid-morning and lines of cars in search of curbside parking clog the narrow residential streets. Residents without off-street parking spaces are often forced to leave their cars blocks from home.
The study released by Russell's office notes that a substantial increase in residential and public parking is needed. It lists 10 possible solutions for increasing public parking and four ways for improving residential parking, and notes that several smaller efforts to improve parking are already under way.
The possible public solutions include expansion of parking on the Venice Boulevard median, expansion of the beachfront parking lots, the development of new parking lots on the beach and elsewhere, a shuttle bus program, and the use of valet parking attendants, which could increase beachfront parking by 30%.
Residential parking problems could be improved by easing city parking restrictions, allowing residents to use public parking lots during off-hours, building special neighborhood parking lots, or establishing special preferential parking districts for residents, according to the study.
Michael L. Dieden is the president of the Venice Action Committee, a pro-development group that participated in the parking study. Dieden called parking a critical problem that stands in the way of progress in Venice. He said his group favors the shuttle bus plan as the fastest way to improve the problem.
Dieden said the shuttle bus system could be in operation as early as next summer if Councilwoman Russell supports it. Under the plan, beachgoers would be encouraged to leave their cars at satellite parking lots on the Venice periphery, and city-owned busses would transport them to and from the beach.
The Venice Action Committee will sponsor public hearings on the parking proposals in January. The cost of the shuttle bus plan is unknown. But if the idea gets a favorable response, he said the group will immediately begin work on a marketing scheme. "The key is to let people know it's there," Dieden said.
Shuttle Would Help
Another community group, the Venice Town Council, has complained about parking for several years. Moe Stavnezer said a shuttle bus system could help ease congestion. He added, however, that the city should also force developers to increase the amount of public parking contained in commercial buildings. "It wouldn't solve the problem," Stavnezer said. "But it would help."
Stavnezer was less enthusiastic about preferential parking zones, in which existing curbside parking would be restricted to residents with special passes. Stavnezer said preferential parking has not worked very well in other communities, and he added that additional parking is needed anyway.
Andrews, from Russell's office, acknowledged that the parking problem will not be solved easily. Various community groups in Venice have different parking priorities, and funding is always difficult to find because parking structures generally are not self-supporting. But he said the solutions suggested in the study should provide hope for those routinely confronted with the problem.