In their continuing battle for the area's limited parking, Venice residents have been told that the City of Los Angeles must provide more parking for beachgoers before the Coastal Commission would consider approving their application for preferential parking.
But Los Angeles city officials said there is no money to build additional parking lots for beach traffic.
Teresa Henry, Coastal Commission planner, told residents at a Venice Town Council meeting last week that the city would have to provide one or two visitor parking spaces for each preferential-parking slot they want.
"Our first priority is to protect public access to the beach," Henry told the crowded Venice City Hall audience.
Similar restrictions have not been required of new commercial developments, however. Although customer or tenant parking must be provided, Henry said the commission has permitted owners of new commercial developments to replace only 50% of the potential public parking spaces displaced by their projects.
Venice residents, who have been pushing for permit parking for several years, need Coastal Commission approval as well as City Council authorization.
The Venice Civic Union and the Venice Action Committee have presented Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter with proposals calling for preferential parking for residents in beach area lots and streets. They also want more inland parking lots for visitors.
The plans proposed by the two civic groups call for the city to pave new residential and inland public parking lots on city-owned land and to expand the summer beach shuttle system.
But even with the additional lots, Henry said, a shuttle system would have to be convenient to beachgoers during the same hours that permit parking would be enforced.
The program must be "guaranteed to work," she said.
"You cannot discourage beach use by using preferential parking," the Coastal Commission staff member said.
Last summer, the city ran a weekend and holiday shuttle between a Venice Boulevard parking lot and the beach.
Los Angeles transportation planner Thomas Conner said the experimental service, used by more than 3,000 beachgoers a week, was self-supporting. The buses cost 25 cents each way.
But the lack of city money may be a major stumbling block to any immediate plan for additional parking lots.
James Dickhart, planning deputy for Galanter, said, "At this point, there is no money for the city to take it (parking lot expansion) on by itself."
"It is difficult to make money or even break even on parking lots, especially with the high cost of land in the area," Conner said.
But residents say there are many city-owned parcels that could be paved. The city owns about 50 pieces of property, Dickhart said, but about half of them are not conveniently located for residential parking.
Venice's parking situation is unique. The city, built near the turn of the century, was patterned after its Italian namesake, complete with canals, walkways and little attention to automobile needs.
"The streets were not designed for cars, they were designed for boats," said James McGlothlin, a member of the Venice Action Committee.
Now, with most of its canals filled and paved, Venice has little room for parking, especially in the older beach areas constructed before property owners were required to provide customer or tenant parking.
Nonetheless, last year an estimated 4.87 million beachgoers visited the community, which is popular for its cultural diversity.