For three years, neighbors of the radically trendy boutiques and restaurants along Melrose Avenue have been locked in a pitched battle with the area merchants over parking.
Neither side has wanted to budge, until now. Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky, playing the mediator, unveiled a compromise arrangement last week that apparently is acceptable to both sides. It calls for a complex system of changing parking zones in the blocks surrounding the most congested stretch of Melrose, a stretch of about a mile, from Gardner Street to Highland Avenue. The aim is to allow shoppers to park in the daytime and residents to park at night.
"I can't tell you how significant this day is," Yaroslavsky told members of the council's Transportation Committee in announcing the proposal on Wednesday. "Months ago, odds are that this (council) room would be filled (with protesters). But people on both sides--the residents and the merchants--have worked with the spirit of the betterment of the community in mind."
Melrose Avenue, a monument to neon and glass, emerged during the 1980s as one of Los Angeles' premiere walking streets, attracting an eclectic mix of jet-setters, tourists and locals.
Its growing success, however, was accompanied by a crescendo of complaints from residents of the side streets that the shops and restaurants create a horrendous parking problem, as well as too much noise and congestion. Petitions have circulated calling for a permit parking system or other arrangement that would provide residents with a place to park when they get home from work.
Merchants have bitterly opposed plans to restrict parking, saying it could put them out of business. They have spent more than $15,000 in legal fees in preparation for taking the matter to court.
To avert a messy legal battle, the merchants and the residents have now agreed in principle to Yaroslavsky's complicated package of parking reforms, which has taken more than a year to negotiate. It is so complicated that when Yaroslavsky presented it to the Transportation Committee members Wednesday, they scratched their heads, looked at the zoning maps and asked few questions.
Basically, the members said they trusted Yaroslavsky, as well as the Melrose residents and shop owners who offered nearly unanimous support for the package. The committee's two members present--Mike Woo and Nate Holden--voted to approve the measure. With the backing of the city Transportation Department, it now goes to the full council for approval.
The plan is complicated because it tries to address the schizophrenic nature of Melrose Avenue--a busy commercial area by day and a residential area by night. As Melrose has blossomed over the past decade, the narrow side streets have become favored parking sites for visitors.
But because many of the shops and most restaurants are open well into the night, residents have complained that they come home from work and have to scout around for a place to park, often blocks away. Merchants, for their part, blame the city for not constructing parking garages.
The plan sets forth three different sets of parking regulations for designated areas:
The area from La Brea Avenue to Highland Avenue south of Melrose would have two-hour unrestricted parking from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m., with only residential permit parking after that on all days except Sunday. An exception was made for Hope Lutheran Church, which will be allotted 60 visitor permits for the steady stream of people coming for Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous meetings, choir practice and other church-sponsored activities.
The second plan would apply to the side streets north and south of Melrose from Alta Vista Boulevard to Gardner Street. These streets would have unrestricted two-hour parking from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. After 8 p.m., a split-street system would take effect, in which parking on the east sides of the streets would be only for residents with permits, while the west sides would stay unrestricted.
The third plan would apply only to Detroit Street and Formosa Avenue. On these streets, the plan calls for two-hour unrestricted parking during the day, but residential permit parking starting at night.
"I know that when you look at it for the first time, it's a mishmash," said Yaroslavsky. "But I looked at every block . . . and where there is a problem, we have addressed the problem."
Indeed, Yaroslavsky received praise at the hearing from both residents and merchants.
"I would say Zev put in a tremendous effort to bring both sides together," said Arturo Martinez, president of the Melrose Neighborhood Assn.
Richard Jejebian, president of Merchants on Melrose, said the consensus among the 200 or so store owners he represents was to support the plan. At the hearing, he offered praise not only for Yaroslavsky but for residents as well, saying they were generous for accepting less residential parking than they initially wanted in order to help keep Melrose a thriving business area.