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Crowd at Hearing Opposes Parking Permit Fees : City Clerk Shoved by Angry Residents Attempting to Enter Packed Chambers

September 21, 1989|SANTIAGO O'DONNELL | Times Staff Writer

About 250 people packed Glendale City Hall this week to oppose a city proposal to charge fees for overnight parking in some yet-to-be-determined neighborhoods.

At one point, City Clerk Aileen Boyle was shoved by angry residents who were trying to enter the already packed council chambers, where the Parking Commission was holding the public hearing. Several Glendale police officers wearing riot helmets were called in to contain the crowd.

Glendale Traffic Engineer Tom Horne was heckled while defending his proposed parking restrictions, and loud applause greeted the many speakers who criticized the proposal.

The proposal, primarily aimed at easing congestion in densely populated neighborhoods, would charge residents to park their cars on streets. The fees would range from $15 to $120 annually, depending on the number of permits per household and the amount of available off-street parking.

Despite the public outcry, all five City Council members said they still support Horne's proposal.

Commission members said they will hold further public hearings before making a recommendation to the City Council. The dates for those hearings have not been set.

Monday's session was the commission's fourth public hearing on the proposed parking restrictions. All have attracted standing-room-only crowds opposed to the proposal.

Access Demanded

After two closed-circuit television monitors in the lobby of City Hall failed to function for the first 30 minutes of the meeting, about 20 people ran up the stairs and demanded access to the council chambers, already crowded beyond capacity.

Boyle came out to meet the enraged residents and asked them to return downstairs. But she almost lost her balance when momentum carried the crowd toward the door. She had to step aside.

"This is the first time I've ever been shoved in City Hall," said Boyle, a longtime city employee.

The crowd reluctantly stepped back when Glendale Police Sgt. Bill Fishbeck threatened to have people removed from the building.

Inside the council chambers, the first speakers requested that the hearing be postponed and moved to a bigger auditorium to accommodate a larger audience, as the screams and forceful knocking on the door monopolized the attention of commission members and the audience. With tension mounting in and out of the chambers, Parking Commission Chairman Frank Cashion rejected one appeal after another to call off the meeting.

The incident ended when the television monitors began operating, but the hostility to the proposal did not. Speakers said that there are no parking problems in their neighborhoods that merit a permit fee, that the proposal amounts to taxing the poor, and that the City Council is responsible for any parking problems because it has allowed too much development. Hence, some speakers said, the city should pay for any solutions to the problem.

One man said the proposal was "downright stupid." Two women threatened the city with a class-action suit. Four more speakers made impassioned calls for a citywide referendum. Several accused council members of being greedy and friendly toward developers.

Competence Challenged

Other speakers challenged the competence of the city Planning Commission, which was repeatedly blamed for recent apartment construction in south Glendale--the most crowded and least affluent section of the city and the one initially targeted for the parking permit program.

"We're paying for mistakes that someone else made when they saturated the city with apartments," said Evan Hughes, echoing remarks made in previous hearings.

Horne, defending the proposal, reiterated that parking permit programs are operating successfully in such cities as Pasadena, San Marino, South Pasadena and Beverly Hills.

He said the program could be enforced citywide to avoid the appearance of discrimination. In response to accusations that the restrictions would be a hardship on the city's poor, Horne said that exemptions could be granted to handicapped people, senior citizens and perhaps apartment residents who have no off-street parking available to them.

Long Overdue

Despite the public opposition, all five council members said Tuesday that the overnight parking permit program is long overdue and that it is the only viable way to alleviate the city's traffic congestion.

Councilman Dick Jutras said the opposition is based on ignorance. "They don't understand what the program will do," he said. "They don't realize it's the only way to go."

Councilman Carl Raggio said opponents were exaggerating the economic hardship the permit fee would cause.

"The permit fee won't cost a hell of a lot," he said. "The people that came here . . . probably spend more on six-packs of beer to get drunk every night."

Mayor Jerold Milner said the residents at Monday's hearing "abused their privilege to exercise free speech."

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