A traffic officer issues a ticket as officials begin cracking down on parking… (Mariah Tauger, Los Angeles…)
After years of warnings, debate and delays, Los Angeles officials this week began ticketing the cars of drivers who "apron park" on the streets of Westwood, a move critics say will create a parking crisis around the UCLA campus.
For decades, Westwood residents — many of them UCLA students — have packed their cars into driveways in such a way that they block sidewalks and spill out into the street. They argue that the makeshift, but illegal, practice is the only way to deal with a critical lack of parking around the campus and in the Westwood Village area.
But in the last few years, apron parking has been attacked by a growing and eclectic group of critics, including former presidential candidate Michael Dukakis and a UCLA professor who is a leading authority on parking. They say blocking the sidewalks forces pedestrians to make needless detours and violates the Americans with Disabilities Act.
The city decided to act after being sued by plaintiffs who said apron parking broke laws regarding the disabled. The city attorney's office recently advised the Los Angeles Department of Transportation to start enforcing the parking laws.
City officials also hope the change will influence how residents get around.
"People will have to rethink, 'Do I really need a car?' " said Los Angeles Department of Transportation spokesman Bruce Gillman, saying residents can opt for car pools or public transit.
Ticketing was originally set to start last month, but Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes Westwood, wanted to give students more time to prepare and to avoid any chaos as UCLA prepared for finals week and graduation exercises.
Residents who live in the apartments around UCLA are outraged over the ticketing, noting that some landlords guarantee them an "apron spot" in their lease. Some landlords charge tenants extra for the spots even though they are illegal.
The need for extra parking is clear: There are about 850 legal curb spaces in UCLA's North Village, but about 5,700 vehicles belonging to residents.
"There are too many people," said UCLA student Kevin Farzad. "It's the college slums."
Farzad and his six roommates share a four-bedroom apartment directly west of UCLA and have had to adapt to a tricky parking situation.
The roommates leave spare car keys in a communal area in case cars need to be moved to let a roommate out.
Westwood residents all too familiar with the lack of parking have always had similar strategies.
"As far as everyone remembers, people have always parked like that," said Omeed Alipour, a 20-year-old biology student at UCLA.
Students say that even with the threat of a $58 ticket, alternative forms of transportation like bike riding or taking the bus pose their own challenges.
"It's pretty impossible to get around without a car," Alipour said. "Students have jobs and internships to get to."
Alipour, who helped organize students through Facebook to protest the parking enforcement changes, concedes that summer is a tough time to galvanize student support because everyone is away for the summer break.
"I don't think there's anything else we can do," he said. "We were more just trying to bring publicity to the issue."