The Venice community is putting its contentious issue of having overnight parking restrictions on certain streets to a vote.

As the proposals for Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs) in five areas — Oxford Triangle, Presidents Row, West Venice, East Venice and Villa Marina — go through the approval stages, community members on both sides of the effort are attempting to re-affirm where the community stands on the controversial issue.

If the districts are established, overnight parking would be prohibited in the areas between 2 and 6 a.m. nightly, except for vehicles with permits. Restricted parking signs would be installed by the city Department of Transportation (DOT) on a block-by-block basis upon written request from City Councilman Bill Rosendahl’s office.

Community members opposed to the parking restrictions have called for the Venice Neighborhood Council to rescind its support of overnight parking districts. The proposal, known as “initiative A,” requests the Neighborhood Council to send a letter to Rosendahl’s office, the city Bureau of Engineering, DOT and the California Coastal Commission, stating that it has rescinded support of the parking restrictions.

“I believe that this is a violation of our constitutional and civil rights,” Mark Lipman, the initiative’s author, said of the overnight parking issue. “It’s set up in such a bad way that it affects so many people from different walks of life.”

Other residents who believe that the neighborhoods should be able to decide if they want parking limits are backing the Neighborhood Council’s support of OPDs. They have proposed “initiative B” in response to the petition of residents opposing restrictions. Initiative B asks the Neighborhood Council to re-affirm that residents “have the same democratic right as other L.A. residents to establish, by two-thirds of petition signatures, OPDs for their blocks,” and to convey that support to government agencies involved.

“We thought we should respond in a positive way by submitting initiative B, which simply states that the VNC affirms the rights of residents to set up OPDs on their blocks if they want them,” said Mark Ryavec, initiative B author.

After receiving the two proposals, which tallied at least 100 signatures each, the Neighborhood Council scheduled a special election on the measures based on its bylaw requirements. Venice stakeholders will be able to vote for either initiative at the special election scheduled from 12:30 to 3:30 p.m. Saturday, February 21st at the Venice Public Library, 501 S. Venice Blvd.

“We’ve had a good two and a half years of debates,” Neighborhood Council president Mike Newhouse said of the overnight parking issue. “The VNC has heard from all sides and it’s a great example of a really thorough debate on this issue.”

The parking district restrictions were proposed after residents expressed concerns over vehicles, primarily recreational vehicles (RVs), being parked on Venice streets for extended periods. Some residents argue that the vehicles have turned the areas into a campground, created unsanitary conditions and taken up parking spaces.

“We’re in a parking-starved environment,” said Ryavec, who serves on the council’s homelessness and vehicular living committee.

Residents in support of OPDs have said that while “the streets aren’t for living,” the city needs to consider alternative solutions for people forced to live in their vehicles, such as providing more affordable housing and using designated lots for overnight parking.

But others argue that the regulations are not the way to solve the parking issue because they would affect the homeless and those living in RVs, and people would be challenged to find parking at night. Lipman claims that the districts are “set up in a way to discriminate against certain residents,” as not all areas are included, and says many are still not aware of the plans.

“There are a number of renters who have not been informed of this,” Lipman says.

Supporters of the restrictions also note that the OPDs would only take effect if at least two-thirds of the residents in the respective neighborhoods approve them and Rosendahl submits a letter to DOT. But Lipman argued that the districts established would create a “domino effect” by forcing those vehicles into parts of the community that are not in favor of restrictions.

“It will shift the problem from one block to another until the entire community is blanketed with parking restrictions,” he said.

The overnight parking proposals have already received the backing of the city Bureau of Engineering and Board of Public Works, but appeals were submitted to the Coastal Commission, which authorizes a Coastal Development Permit. The California Coastal Commission has scheduled a hearing on the issue in June after staff found a substantial issue with the OPDs, saying they could affect public access to the beach in the early morning hours.

Rosendahl, who supports allowing residents to vote for parking districts, explains that the contentious issue has been a challenge to work with.

“The issue of people living in their campers and cars is a real issue,” the councilman noted. “This is a work in progress and it’s not a short-term situation. The goal is to have some real clarity on where we stand on this by June.”

In supporting the parking district effort, Rosendahl said he wants to ensure that residents who live west of Lincoln Boulevard and are currently without OPDs have “the same opportunity for fairness” as in other parts of the city and surrounding cities. He says he will take into consideration the results of the Neighborhood Council’s special election.

“I welcome the opportunity for democracy to express itself,” Rosendahl said.

As far as how the Neighborhood Council will proceed with the election results, Newhouse said the council intends to go with what the voters decide.

“We’re going to respect that vote,” the council president said.