New permit parking district near LMU seems to be working, though not everyone is happy about it

By Gary Walker

After more than a year of battling Loyola Marymount University over students using their street as a parking lot to avoid newly enacted fees at campus lots and garages, one group of Westchester residents appears to have found relief by implementing permit parking.

Homeowners in the 7900 block of Fordham Road — a block from LMU’s south entrance — were initially among campus neighbors who vociferously refused to consider parking restrictions, instead calling on the school to rescind its January 2013 decision to charge for campus parking.

But after working with the city to establish a permit parking district that finally took effect on Aug. 4, curbside spaces have become much easier to find in front of the houses that line the west side of Fordham.

“It’s like we have reserved parking in front of our home,” said Jennifer Halvorsen, who contacted City Councilman Mike Bonin’s office to start the process earlier this year. “That’s an amazing result in the very first week.”

Parking rules on the east side of the street (abutting LMU) remain unchanged, but only residents who buy annual permits can park in front of homes between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. on weeknights.

Fordham Road resident Marilyn Beard, a former Loyola Village Elementary School teacher, said she and her neighbors weren’t all that optimistic they would get results but saw nothing else left to try.

“I was tired of fighting with LMU over this,” Beard said. “This has been an unpleasant, life-altering experience.”

Beard said she recently spent $134 purchasing three annual parking permits and two guest permits from a city Dept. of Transportation office.

LMU is reimbursing residents who show proof of purchase at the college, said LMU Director of Community Relations Grace Yao. Halvorsen said she received her refund on Aug. 6, less than a week after applying for it.

Despite resistance to the idea, university officials have long suggested permit parking, citing successes of similar plans near UCLA in Westwood and the Art Center College of Design in Pasadena. Santa Monica parking enforcement officers also run frequent patrols around Santa Monica College to enforce permit parking districts.

Several Westchester homeowners have accused LMU of seeking to pad its coffers at their expense by encouraging permit parking, which they view as a tactic to force students, employees and visitors to buy spaces in campus garages. They say parking has been a problem for years, but one that intensified when the college began charging for parking.

“I’m paying the price for their expensive campus parking, and now we have to deal with the restrictions of permit parking,” Beard said.

Yao stressed that the new permit parking district would only remain in effect for a year, unless residents choose to renew the restrictions. The school has also offered to reimburse for permits in perpetuity.

Yao, hired in February, also reiterated what many LMU officials have said before — that campus parking fee revenue is paying for a long-term solution to the neighborhood’s parking woes, specifically debt service on a bond that funded construction of a new campus parking garage. City approval of LMU’s 20-year master plan to revitalize its infrastructure required adding 609 campus parking spaces.

“One of the things that we have heard from our neighbors for years is the lack of parking on campus. That’s the reason why we’re building as much parking as we are at the location where our new life sciences building will be,” said Yao.

A community survey conducted by the campus found that 63% of those who described parking as a problem — a 67% majority of those surveyed — supported a one-year permit parking pilot program, according to LMU Vice President Lynne Scarboro. About 53% of the respondents who weren’t worried about parking also supported trying out the permit system, she said.

Yao, who also lives on Fordham, said homeowners on other nearby streets have been inquiring about how to set up permit restrictions.

Chris Lynch, who lives next to Beard, has been critical of LMU’s handling of the process and said that the various blocks south of campus haven’t done well to coordinate their concerns and efforts.

“LMU benefitted from the community not finding common ground on this,” he said.

Others remain resentful despite Fordham Road’s apparent positive results. Beard said she is having a case of buyer’s remorse about supporting permit parking on her street.

“I’m furious that I fell for this,” Beard said. “I would like to know how to get out of this.”