Stating that the city must do a better job at addressing the issue of people living in their vehicles, Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa has refused to support a law restricting the parking of oversize vehicles on city streets.

The law, which was approved by the City Council in June, amends the ordinance establishing oversize vehicle parking restrictions by creating a process in which the council, through an ordinance, can restrict the parking of vehicles longer than 22 feet or taller than seven feet between 2 and 6 a.m., except those with permits.

Parking restrictions can also be established if a council member representing a district where fewer than six street sections are impacted requests that the Department of Transportation investigate the situation. If the department determines that the overnight parking of oversize vehicles is adversely impacting the visibility of oncoming traffic or reducing the availability of parking, the restrictions can be created through a council resolution.

The council’s approval of the law came after the California Coastal Commission in June denied the terms of a proposed lawsuit settlement with the city and a Venice stakeholders group. The settlement stated that oversize parking limits must first be in effect for six months before overnight parking districts (OPDs) could be implemented where neighbors vote for them.

When the new law came before Villaraigosa, he returned it without signature, telling the council members that he expressed his opposition to the lawsuit settlement in an earlier letter and encourages them to use the ordinance only as a starting point.

“In that letter I suggested that the city must do a better job of approaching the issues relating to homeless persons residing in vehicles in a serious and thoughtful manner,” the mayor wrote. “Since I am fully aware that this amendment to the municipal code regarding regulation of so-called ‘oversize vehicles’ is the latest attempt to address certain of those issues, I would urge the council to use it as a jumping-off point to something more positive.”

Among his concerns with the ordinance is that it could lead to the introduction of oversize vehicle districts throughout the city in which commercial trucks, buses or other large vehicles could be affected. Villaraigosa added that he believes the concerns could be addressed without vetoing the law and he suggested that alternatives be given to those being displaced by the parking regulations.

While the law will still be enacted without the mayor’s signature, opponents of overnight parking districts were pleased that he stood by his earlier position and requested the council to revisit the matter.

“We are gratified that the mayor continues to demonstrate an understanding of the real issue,” said David Ewing of the Venice Action Alliance. “Safeguards such as viable alternatives for displaced vehicles and requiring findings to justify banning certain vehicles will make a better ordinance.”

Fellow alliance member Karen Wolfe added, “Although I would have preferred a veto, I’m proud to live in a city whose mayor reminds the City Council of its responsibility to thoughtfully deal with homeless issues.”

Both Ewing and Wolfe argued that the ordinance is too broad and they expressed concerns similar to Villaraigosa’s on the impact to commercial vehicles, that it requires no parking alternatives and the potential for the entire city to become a “no oversize vehicle” district.

“We certainly understand that it is an important tool, but the ordinance is written so broadly, that as the mayor’s letter said, it could theoretically create an oversize vehicle district of the entire city,” Ewing said.

Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association, which sued the Coastal Commission over the overnight parking restrictions, said the association has long asked for the oversize parking amendments. He argued that the new law will be effective at removing campers and large RVs from residential neighborhoods.

The action alliance has always supported the use of the oversize vehicle ordinance in tandem with a safe parking program, which designates lots where people living in vehicles can park overnight and receive access to services, Ewing said.

City Councilman Bill Rosendahl would also like to see the ordinance implemented in conjunction with wraparound services through the safe parking plan. The Venice Neighborhood Council was scheduled to hear a presentation on the safe parking program from a representative of Rosendahl’s office Tuesday, July 20.

“The oversize law is now the law; we are working with the neighborhoods, community and DOT and over time we will implement (the restrictions) appropriately and properly in context with the law,” Rosendahl said. “My hope is that it will run parallel with the (request for a proposal) process of finding a vendor to help us with wraparound services.”

Though he was disappointed that the mayor did not support the new ordinance, Rosendahl said he is confident that the city will be able to deal with the parking concerns effectively while providing services to those that need them.

“This new ordinance is another tool in the tool box for police to deal with the issues that we have,” he said.

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