A Melrose Avenue restaurant owner was told Monday to find a creative way to disguise a parking lot if he wants to build it in the residential area behind his cafe.
Fernand Page, owner of the Moustache Cafe, 8155 Melrose Ave., asked the Los Angeles Planning Commission to allow him to tear down a house that he owns and uses as an office to build a parking lot.
However, residents armed with 170 signatures on a petition protested that the parking lot would create traffic problems and more noise and would be an encroachment by commercial developers that would hurt residential property values.
In an apparent compromise, planning Commissioner Robert Janovici said he would approve the proposed 30-car parking lot if the cafe owner could find an innovative way to blend the commercial use of the property with the residential nature of the community. The lot is currently zoned for residential use.
Business owners along this heavily traveled section of Melrose Avenue have been converting the residential property behind their stores into parking lots for several years. But what alarms residents is that some business owners have been buying property further into the residential area.
"It is a trend and it must be stopped," said Linda Weiner, organizer of the Melrose Action Committee, a newly formed homeowners' association. According to homeowner Charles F. Timms Jr., who testified at Monday's hearing, Melrose Avenue store owner Fred Segal has torn down a second home he purchased on Crescent Heights Avenue next to Melrose Avenue for additional customer parking.
Residents fear that he may do the same with a third Crescent Heights Avenue residence, which he uses for storage.
"Parking is profitable," Segal said, because it is essential to survival of the businesses that are assets to the community.
Parking has become increasingly difficult for both residents and businesses in the area. Homeowners blame the proximity of the Improvisation comedy night club and the Moustache Cafe.
Business owners said permit parking along the residential side streets has made the situation intolerable. Both groups would like to see the city build public parking lots.