Parking is at a premium at Surfrider Beach in Malibu, an affluent community… (Los Angeles Times )
Here in the land of cars, parking spaces are scarce and sought-after. Nowhere is that more true than in the popular communities along the coast, where tension is common between the visitors drawn to the beach and the residents who live there. Malibu, in particular, is notorious as a place where some locals obscure public accessways to the beach and put up fake "No Parking" signs and orange traffic cones curbside to discourage visitors from parking.
And Malibu's latest move is unlikely to dispel the "no trespassers" vibe that sometimes emanates from its shores: Volunteers are being empowered to hand out parking tickets with fines of $50 to $75 attached.
Most parking on public streets in Malibu, including the 27 miles along Pacific Coast Highway, is free and unrestricted. But Civic Center Way, which branches off PCH and is conveniently located near stores and the beach, becomes particularly clogged with people who choose to park all day and others cruising for spaces. So the city recently instituted a three-hour limit on parking during the day and tapped the local citizens watch group Volunteers on Patrol to enforce it. They will also ticket cars in some "No Parking" spaces near Zuma and Paradise Cove beaches.
There are a number of problems with this plan. On a practical level, it doesn't make sense to give volunteers jobs that run the risk of confrontation with the public, no matter how much training they are given to minimize altercations.
But more than that, we are concerned that this is just one more way of making Malibu inhospitable to visitors. City Councilman Lou La Monte says that's not the case, and that the goal is to encourage turnover of parking spots and give more people a shot at a space. But if it's really about improving the parking situation, then we suggest the volunteers spend time scouting out those scurrilous fake "No Parking" signs that some residents place outside their houses to prevent visitors from parking there. No, the volunteers can't remove the signs (they're on private property), but they can alert the proper authorities, who can get residents to remove them or face being ticketed.
If the volunteers really want to be of service, they could help beachgoers find the legitimate access paths to the beach that some residents go out of their way to hide. They could also patrol the beachfronts and make sure residents and their security guards aren't shooing visitors off public sand.
Malibu officials say this is an experiment and they'll see how it goes. We say: Dispatch volunteers to serve the public in Malibu, not to be parking vigilantes.