LONG BEACH — Business owners in Belmont Shore are so desperate for more parking that they agreed this week to pay for it themselves.
Although they originally opposed the creation of a neighborhood assessment district, the merchants now back a revised plan to raise money for land that will be converted to small parking lots behind the 2nd Street strip of trendy shops and restaurants.
The new plan, which the City Council approved Tuesday, is a scaled-down version of the initial assessment proposal: Business owners won't have to pay as much tax, but they also won't be able to afford as many new parking spaces.
In a related matter, the council approved a series of ordinances designed to bring relief to other areas suffering from a parking crunch.
The ordinances allow the council to implement, if requested by at least two-thirds of the residents in any neighborhood, three measures:
* An overnight parking-permit system.
* A procedure that would allow occupants to park on the street space in front of their own driveways.
* A mechanism for inspecting houses at the time of sale to make sure the garage has not been converted to another use.
The assessment district, however, is specifically for the busy Belmont Shore business area.
The district will finance the purchase of houses near 2nd Street by selling bonds, which would be paid off with a combination of fees on commercial property owners and parking meter revenues. The houses would then be torn down for parking lots, possibly multilevel parking structures.
Before the tax can be enacted, the 62 property owners along 2nd Street between Livingston Drive and Bayshore Avenue must vote to approve the assessment district later this year. Business and property owners predict that the measure will pass easily.
Including the bond expenses, the parking spaces will cost between $55,500 and $64,500 each.
The initial parking proposal earlier this year called for financing 64 to 72 parking spaces by billing property owners 35 cents per square foot of lot size a year.
The Belmont Shore Improvement Assn., representing homeowners who would not have to pay the tax, supported that proposal. But the Belmont Shore Business Assn., whose members would have to foot the bill, was against it.
The new proposal calls for billing property owners on 2nd Street 12 cents per square foot of lot size a year--or about one-third of the original price tag. But that will pay for only 24 to 36 spaces.
"Originally, we wanted no tax on us," said Steven Gibson, president of the business association. "This is a compromise."
John Doyle, president of the area's parking commission, said: "Keep in mind, it is the businesses that are paying. They are buying lots and handing them to the city of Long Beach."
Wilbur W. Lorbeer, who leases his five lots to seven businesses on 2nd Street, asked the council to stick to the 36-cents-per-square-foot proposal. He said the added amount is insignificant compared to the need for additional parking on 2nd Street.
"We want to tax ourselves, and we're being prevented from doing so," Lorbeer complained after the meeting.
But business owners such as Gibson argued that in most cases a higher charge would be passed on to those leasing the land. And for the smaller businesses, that would represent a great burden, he said.
The proposal approved by the council, Gibson said, "makes it practical and workable."
For a typical business operating in about 1,900 square feet of lot size, the new tax will mean about $19 a month.
Over the 20-year life of the bonds, the assessment could be increased, with a cap of 66 cents per square foot.