Cookie Takara dreads good weather. On days when the sun beams down on the beaches of Venice, the 32-year-old office manager packs up her car and flees, returning only when the beach-going hordes have gone home.
"There's such a horrible parking problem here that it's either do that or stay home all day and hold onto your space," said Takara, who lives on 28th Avenue near the border of Venice and Marina del Rey. "You can't just go out for a while and come back, because there won't be any place left to park."
Tired of having to plan daylong excursions to escape the parking crunch, Takara and her neighbors have petitioned the city to establish a preferential parking district in their 17-block corner of Venice. If established, the district would restrict parking for at least part of each day to residents who spend $15 per vehicle for an annual permit.
From Hollywood to Pacific Palisades, frustrated residents like Takara are turning to the city for help in easing the parking shortage in their neighborhoods. The densely developed Westside, where houses and apartments are sandwiched between busy commercial districts and popular beaches, already contains 16 of Los Angeles' 20 active permit parking zones. Eight more have been proposed. In addition, West Hollywood, Beverly Hills and Santa Monica have their own permit parking programs.
Richard Jaramillo, the transportation engineer in charge of Los Angeles' preferential parking program, estimates that 10 to 20 more petitions are being circulated by residents who want to establish permit parking in their neighborhoods.
"We're getting more and more requests every day," Jaramillo said. "If it keeps on like this, it's possible the whole Westside could become a series of permit parking districts."
Few people seem pleased by the prospect. Transportation engineers emphasize that permit parking is a short-term solution and say the answer to shortages lies in increasing the number of spaces that businesses must provide. Residents complain about having to pay for the right to park near their homes. Merchants fear that the lack of convenient street parking will drive customers away. Even Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, the father of Los Angeles' permit parking ordinance, characterizes the process as "painful."
"Sometimes I wonder why I did it," Yaroslavsky said, referring to his sponsorship of the ordinance, which the City Council adopted in 1979. "The creation of a permit parking district is a very painful exercise for a neighborhood. . . . It's imperfect, but I don't know a better system."
Permit parking also has unequivocal fans.
'Good Old Days'
"Our neighborhood is back to the way it was in the good old days," said Irving D. Hirschfield, a resident of the Fox Hills Drive area, where the streets used to be jammed with cars owned by people who work in nearby Century City. The neighborhood, bounded by Santa Monica, Beverly Glen and Olympic boulevards, became the city's first permit parking district in 1981, and the district was later expanded south to Pico Boulevard. "It took two years to get it established, but it was worth it," Hirschfield said.
To establish a permit parking district, two-thirds of the residents on each block in at least a six-block area must sign a petition. The Los Angeles Department of Transportation then conducts a parking survey of the area by checking license plates with the Department of Motor Vehicles to see if the majority of vehicles belong to non-residents. If the survey shows that 75% of the area's parking spaces are full during peak hours and that 25% of the cars belong to non-residents, a public hearing is scheduled.
After the hearing, the Department of Transportation makes a recommendation to the City Council's Transportation and Traffic Committee, made up of council members Michael Woo, Pat Russell and Yaroslavsky. The council decides whether to establish a district, usually about a year and a half after petitions are turned in because of a backlog of parking proposals, Jaramillo said.
Takara and her neighbors in Venice face an even longer wait because the proposed district lies within the coastal zone and must also be approved by the California Coastal Commission. Since voters passed an initiative in 1972 declaring the shoreline "a natural resource belonging to all the people," the city must replace each parking space it takes away from beachgoers, based on the rationale that a lack of street parking hinders beach access, said Tom Conner, Los Angeles' principal transportation engineer.
"The question is how many spaces we'll have to provide (for beach-goers)," Conner said. "We're proposing a one-for-one trade, but the commission may ask for two spaces for every one that goes to permit parking."