PICO RIVERA — When city officials agreed last August to ban parked vehicles from front lawns, they expected protests. Residents had been complaining for months that the ordinance would violate their property rights, so officials knew it would take a careful plan to phase in the new law.
During Phase 1, residents were educated about the ordinance and why it was passed. That went smoothly enough, with upbeat notices about how the city's image would be improved and how property values would increase.
Phase 2 began two weeks ago when the law took effect and parking enforcement officers started putting warnings on the windshields of offending vehicles. More than 800 warnings have been delivered. And more than 200 angry residents have called City Hall to complain.
Now city officials admit they are a little concerned about Phase 3, when penalties will be slapped on owners of vehicles parked in front yards. That is set to begin in September but may be delayed to coordinate it with a new street-sweeping plan.
City Manager Dennis Courtemarche said his staff will present a report on the community's response at the next council meeting July 20, and he will recommend that the Public Works Committee study the ordinance further.
The report may cause the council to change how the ordinance is enforced, Courtemarche said. Enforcement of the law is not expected to be delayed, but the council may approve exemptions for some residents, such as the handicapped.
"But there's a good reason why it was passed and that hasn't changed," Courtemarche said.
However, not all residents see the wisdom in banning vehicles from front yards.
Of the 250 calls received about the ordinance so far, 70% were upset about it, 20% were seeking information about how to comply with it and 10% favored the new law, said Public Works Director John Medina.
"Most of them wanted to know, 'Where can I park my cars if I'm going to get a ticket on my lawn and on the street, also, on street-sweeping day?' " said Mary Espinoza, Medina's secretary, who handled the bulk of the calls.
"I had those who thought it was a ticket and one who said to me, 'I don't care what you do. Give me as many tickets as you want, I'm going to park my car on my lawn,' " Espinoza said. "There wasn't much I could say to that person."
Not New Idea
Prohibiting lawn parking is not a new idea, Medina said, noting that all cities bordering Pico Rivera have similar policies. He said the City Council has given residents ample time for compliance.
"It just needs to become a habit," Medina said. "Other cities also experienced similar problems, but as time went on, the people adjusted. Nobody likes change."
Not all Pico Rivera residents see the wisdom of the new law. During public hearings of the Planning Commission and the City Council in 1985 and 1986, residents complained that the ordinance violated their property rights.
Other residents pointed out that the city has allowed conversion of garages into extra rooms without considering the effect upon street parking and that the ordinance is unfair to multi-vehicle families.
The ordinance includes a provision allowing driveways to be expanded to a maximum width of 20 feet, not to exceed 40% of the lot width, an option city officials believed might reduce crowded street parking. Instead, the provision prompted additional complaints that such improvements were not affordable.
'Don't Like It at All'
"A lot of people don't like it. They don't like it at all," said Karen Harding, who fought the ordinance and has already received one warning on her vehicle. "I've told everyone who gets one to call City Hall and raise a commotion."
Harding, a 30-year-resident of Pico Rivera whose family owns three vehicles, said she is reluctant to park on the street because a neighbor recently had a windshield bashed in by a brick.
"I don't think (the ordinance) beautifies anything," she said.
Although the city has mailed residents notices about the ordinance, only one notice has been in Spanish, in a city where more than 80% of the population is Latino. The advisory notices placed on vehicles are in English only, and Medina said he did not know why they had not been printed in Spanish.
"From the calls we got, I don't think they're having any difficulty understanding it . . . The parking signs on the street are in English, not Spanish, and they understand those," he said.
The parking problem is compounded on street-sweeping days, when driveways are the only legal place to park. The city now contracts for area street sweeping--cleaning both sides of all streets in a single area during a weekly time slot--but considered changing it so that only one side of a street would be swept on any day to make it easier to comply with the lawn parking ban. However, Medina said switching the entire city to alternate side sweeping would have been too expensive, costing $70,000 more a year.