LONG BEACH — For years, Rita Reggio witnessed the daily scramble for parking spaces in her congested neighborhood and hoped for some relief. Granted, there is not much street space available, but Reggio thought of a way to maximize what was already there. The problem was convincing City Hall.
Unlike many residents, however, Reggio knew how to get it resolved. As a result, her block has something no other neighborhood street in the city can claim: marked parallel parking spaces.
It may not seem like a big deal, but the process took more than a year as Reggio and her petition from homeowners bounced from City Hall department to department. In the end, Reggio is convinced that her street got marked thanks to her persistence--and some political savvy on her part.
"They painted it two days before the election," she said.
Reggio chose to do her heaviest lobbying the month before her City Council representative's reelection.
Says Councilman Wallace Edgerton: "You can certainly bet that when I'm sitting there a week before an election with a street of people waiting for something to be done, you can bet that I'm going to pull every stop."
Reggio and her neighbors had petitioned to have white parallel parking lines painted on Obispo Avenue between 10th and 11th streets. That simple maneuver would increase parking, they reasoned, because drivers would know exactly where to stop their cars without accidently hogging two spaces. City officials initially balked, arguing that such street markings are painted only where there are parking meters. They also gave her other explanations that, she says, later turned out to be wrong.
"We thought this was ridiculous," Reggio said. "We are taxpayers and City Hall works for us."
Edgerton said he tried to help the Obispo Avenue residents earlier but was stonewalled by the city bureaucracy. Then with the June elections coming up, Edgerton said, "I got exasperated and I went to (City Manager) Jim Hankla and said 'Here it is, a week before the election and it looks like I can't get anything done.' "
Within days, the spaces got painted and Edgerton got reelected.
Reggio, a high school teacher, said the 42 marked spaces have made life easier for the people on her block. "This is the only place in the city of Long Beach where this was done and it's wonderful," she said.
Of Reggio, Edgerton said: "She just wouldn't give up. She's very persistent. She wouldn't quit hounding me, therefore I wouldn't quit hounding the Traffic Department. And that's how it works.
"It's basically a story about the political process. You can say the squeaky wheel finally got the grease because it kept squeaking."