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Parking leaves a lot to be desired

Music Center patrons are scrambling now that the DWP's prime spaces are off limits.

October 14, 2008|Mike Boehm | Times Staff Writer

A no-show actor, singer or soloist at a performance can throw things into disarray. Ditto a missing parking lot.

Since last month, the lot at the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power building has been off the grid as far as Music Center patrons are concerned, resulting in some hassles and hasty dashes to make opening curtains.

The DWP lot, across Hope Street from the Music Center, appealed to many performance-goers: an easy in, easy out, above-ground lot that, until the price rose from $5 to $8 a couple of years ago, was also a money-saver compared with the Music Center's 1,000-space underground garage.

But the 350 DWP spaces vanished after the department decided that public parking during off hours and on weekends could pose a security problem, spokesman Joseph Ramallo said. He wouldn't elaborate, but some of the spaces are beneath the DWP's high-rise headquarters, and experts say it typically takes extra staffing to secure such lots.

A particular headache developed on Sept. 21. Los Angeles Opera, the Mark Taper Forum and the Ahmanson Theatre all had Sunday matinees, and Grand Avenue in front of Walt Disney Concert Hall was closed for a street festival.

Opera-goer Daniel J. Fink reports that, with the Music Center's underground garage filled, he was directed to a lot at 1st and Olive only to encounter "three lanes of cars trying to find their way in." After finally parking, Fink said he "literally ran" and made it to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion just in time but spent half of the first act sweaty and flustered.

Officials of the Music Center, the opera and Center Theatre Group, parent of the Ahmanson and Taper, said they have received a few complaints from patrons about such difficulties. The Los Angeles Philharmonic, which had no concert Sept. 21 and plays in a 2,265-seat hall that sits atop 1,700 parking spaces, reported no complaints.

Only after the Sept. 21 bottleneck did the Music Center learn that the DWP had closed its lot to performance patrons, spokeswoman Catherine Babcock said.

As a short-term solution, more attendants have been added to make parking go more smoothly at the 1st and Olive lot, said Nick Chico, who oversees parking for the county. However, that lot is in the footprint of the Grand Avenue redevelopment project and could vanish as soon as year's end, he said.

As a permanent fix, the parking department has secured preliminary approval to open 300 more underground spaces for Music Center patrons in a county lot across Grand Avenue.

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mike.boehm@latimes.com

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