Strict new regulations aimed at ensuring more parking in the commercial area of Belmont Shore went into immediate effect Tuesday night.
The regulations adopted by the City Council that evening require business owners on the 2nd Street shopping and restaurant strip to provide additional parking if they expand their properties.
Those not providing additional parking must pay fees that translate to about $20,000 per parking space. The regulations would not affect developments that have already received city approval.
The new law also requires parking for patio dining equal to stricter standards already set for indoor dining, and it eliminates a 600-foot-radius limit set for off-site parking. Now, businesses will be required to provide parking in the Belmont area--regardless of whether it is within 600 feet of their sites.
The changes are "long overdue," said Janet Davids, who represents the Belmont Shore Improvement Assn.
Shoppers, Residents Compete
As a resident of the area, Davids said she has experienced firsthand the parking crunch on the strip, where residents have to compete with shoppers, bar and restaurant patrons and other visitors for parking spots.
"We've been dragging along with this for two years," Davids said after the meeting.
Until now, business owners in Belmont Shore and Bixby Knoll--unlike other zones in the city--did not have to provide additional parking when expanding their existing commercial sites. Since 1980, there have been 25 instances of business expansion on 2nd Street, with many retail businesses replaced by restaurant or take-out eateries, according to Robert J. Paternoster, the city's planning and building director.
Because Belmont Shore is within the coastal zone of Long Beach and changes require approval by the California Coastal Commission, the city could have faced a two- to three-month wait before it could enforce the parking regulations. To avoid the possibility of businesses expanding between now and the time the Coastal Commission gives its OK, the council adopted an urgency measure prohibiting new development unless it complies with the provisions set in the new ordinance.
The ordinance also applies to Bixby Knolls and areas zoned as limited commercial districts, but will not take effect in those sites for another 30 days.
Entire Package Preferred
John Doyle, chairman of the Belmont Shore Parking Place Commission, told the council he would have preferred that it adopt an entire package of 16 recommendations made by the commission, instead of just implementing some of them.
Councilwoman Jan Hall told Doyle and other parking commission members attending Tuesday's meeting that the council last week approved "in concept" the other recommendations, which were forwarded to various city departments.
Those recommendations include establishing a benefit-assessment district to pay for more city-owned parking lots. With such a district, businesses that would benefit from new parking would be responsible for helping pay for it. In this case, Doyle said, this would not mean a cash contribution. Instead, he said, the businesses would agree to place their properties as collateral to help the city sell bonds to pay for parking.
The Belmont parking commissioners also recommended that the city acquire between 15 to 32 lots to provide 135 additional parking spaces.
The new regulations adopted Tuesday are the culmination of two years of negotiations between business owners on the 2nd Street strip and neighboring residents of the high-density area, where garages are few and residents of the houses and apartments built closely together engage in a daily search for a parking space.
The parking crunch in the area, Davids said, "has reached emergency proportions."