LONG BEACH — Every Monday night during football season, a competition of a different sort is played in the streets of Belmont Shore.
The home team, the residents, vie for parking space with the visitors, the tipplers, who flock to watch NFL games on wide-screen television at the popular Legends and other bars along the swank patch of 2nd Street east of downtown.
Surrounding residents--weary veterans of the parking wars that also are becoming more commonplace elsewhere in the city--believe they are involved in a one-sided battle that perennially casts them as the losers.
Empty Space Filled Fast
"It's horrible," said Robert Vaughan as he prepared to surrender a much-prized space fronting his Corona Avenue home to go for a drive with his wife, Netty. "Legends--I love the place but they attract a crowd."
Bruce Barton, arriving to visit his fiancee next door, relished his good fortune to have quickly found a parking spot.
"Usually this time on a Monday night, you can forget it," he lamented.
The parking competition is symptomatic of an ever-increasing problem facing Long Beach planners. For all of the success in rebuilding downtown and making the city a more popular place to live, Long Beach is facing the downside of growth. Parking woes lead the list.
New buildings mean more people. More people means more cars. And more cars means less parking.
Community groups and city government are trying to tackle the parking problem in places where shoppers, students or other interlopers invade quiet neighborhoods in search of empty curb space.
Toughest District in the City
Belmont Shore maintains a reputation as probably the toughest shopping district in the city to find a parking space, city leaders acknowledge. The degree of difficulty depends entirely on the time or day that the prospective parker arrives.
The situation has worsened in recent years with the opening of new high-rise offices in downtown Long Beach. Commuters en route to Orange County stop off at 2nd Street bars and restaurants on their way home in the evenings--such as the Monday night football crowd--jockeying for parking space with residents.
"Come down here at 2 a.m. . . . when every business is closed and the other side of the coin is (that) there is a problem in the residential community as well," said John Doyle, chairman of the Belmont Shore Board of Parking Place Commissioners.
At other times, "you can normally find a parking space pretty much when you want," Doyle said.
To cope with increasing demand in its first decade of existence, the commission has bought three parcels for use as parking lots and paid for them with parking meter revenues.
15 Lots to Be Bought
Now the commission and the city are taking that idea a step further. The City Council approved creation of a benefit assessment district Sept. 29 to expand the effort to buy land for parking. Financed with parking revenues backed up by business owners on 2nd Street, Belmont's main commercial thoroughfare, the plan calls for purchase of at least 15 lots that would add at least 135 parking spaces. If more money is available, commissioners say they might buy as many as 32 parcels.
At 60 minutes for a quarter, the parking meters generate about $150,000 a year.
The ambitious program was one of 16 recommendations advanced by the commission. Others included ridding the area of unnecessary driveways and inspecting garages when a house is sold to make sure it is usable to store cars.
The use of home garages has been one of the major debating points in the parking disputes. Belmont Shore homes and apartments tend to be so compact that garages become storage areas for belongings other than cars. And some garages were designed too small for anything more than the most compact of compacts.
City Councilwoman Jan Hall, who represents the area, said city staff recommendations concerning the policing of garages in Belmont Shore are scheduled to come before her council committee Tuesday.
Clean-Out Campaign Helps
In an interview last week, she lauded efforts by homeowners to clear out their garages to make room for cars. A clean-out campaign co-sponsored by the Belmont Shore Improvement Assn. enticed about 50 homeowners to put their garages back in service for cars, she said, resulting in a like number of available parking spaces on the street.
"In Belmont Shore, it's safe to say we've had parking problems and it's been an issue for a long, long time," Hall said. "We put in tougher standards than there are for anywhere else in the city."
Some may be impressed with the standards, but just wish the city would stick to its own rules.
Bruce W. Peterson, president of the improvement association, charged that the city is "routinely" granting variances that allow insufficient parking on new developments.
He said a furor that arose recently concerning the expansion of a Hof's Hut restaurant on Second Street illustrates how the city is neglecting enforcement.
Space Leased From Bank