By Vince Echavaria
For the third time, the California Coastal Commission has rejected a push by the city of Los Angeles to implement overnight parking restrictions on Venice streets.
With a majority of new members since the last time the commission took up the controversial issue, the board voted unanimously June 13 to deny the city’s request for overnight parking district permits. The commission, which oversees issues impacting the state’s coastline, previously shot down such permit requests in 2009 and 2010.
At stake was a tentative settlement agreement between the commission, city and Venice Stakeholders Association, which sued the coastal board over its prior denial of OPDs.
As with its two prior votes, the commission denied its staff recommendation for approval of the permits that would allow for parking restrictions on streets west of Lincoln Boulevard and near Marina del Rey. If approved, the OPDs would have been established between 2 and 5 a.m. on a block by block basis where at least two-thirds of residents voted to implement them.
Proponents argued that the parking limits are needed to preserve parking for residents on streets where spaces are occupied by those living in vehicles, visitors travelling out of Los Angeles International Airport, hotel guests and boardwalk vendors.
The issue reached a flashpoint in 2009-10 as proponents sought the parking districts as a potential solution to an influx of people living in recreational vehicles that were lining streets in the beachside community. Much of the problem was lessened following the placement of oversize vehicle parking restrictions, but proponents say the concerns remain.
Mark Ryavec, president of the Venice Stakeholders Association, a major supporter of the parking districts, argued that on its third try before the commission, the city was unable to make its case for approval of the permit request.
“The city completely fumbled its responsibility to defend the permit application,” Ryavec said.
Opponents of OPDs have argued that they should not be sought as a solution to homeless issues and that they would push the parking problems to other areas.
Despite the commission’s actions in 2009-10, Venice resident David Ewing said opponents didn’t know what to expect, considering the different make-up of the board.
“It came as a very happy surprise,” Ewing, a member of the Venice Action Alliance, said of the vote. “Our goal was to present the full array of legitimate arguments why OPDs are a bad idea in Venice, and I think we succeeded. The commissioners understood how ill-prepared the city is to go forward with this idea, and most importantly, they understood that OPDs are a solution in search of a problem.”
As part of its application, the city proposed various measures to mitigate the permit parking program’s impacts on public parking in the early morning. City staff identified 357 spaces in six city parking lots that would be available before 4 a.m., as well as 351 street spaces within three blocks of the beach that would be exempt from the restrictions.
In addition, the city proposed to establish a new bicycle share program and new bicycle lanes on several streets.
Noting the commission’s concerns about coastal access impacts, Coastal Commission senior deputy director Jack Ainsworth said staff believed that the mitigation measures were “more than adequate” to ensure access is protected in the early morning hours.
But opponents, some wearing “NOPD” stickers, reiterated their objections to enforcing overnight parking limits in the coastal community.
“OPDs do not solve the parking problems, they just push the problems onto their neighbors,” resident Andy Layman said.
Steve Clare, executive director of the Venice Community Housing Corporation, said the city has not provided a comprehensive parking study to defend its case in favor of OPDs and assess the extent of their impact.
For Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who is leaving office at the end of the month, the yearslong effort to implement OPDs was about “fairness,” as other coastal communities have had parking districts approved, but he said Venice has not.
Rosendahl acknowledged that the commission has spoken on the issue and he hopes to focus on positive projects being done for Venice like the upcoming summer zipline on the boardwalk.
“Obviously the Coastal Commission and I disagree,” the councilman said. “Now it’s time for the community to come up with creative solutions that I believe could include public valets, bike valets, bike corrals, bike racks, improved access to public transportation, things supported in the past.”
Some other supporters had also hoped that the commission would afford them the same rights to overnight parking restrictions that other beach communities have received.
“This is just a matter of giving us the right to do this,” resident Stewart Oscars told the commission.
In the end, some commissioners said they were reluctant to approve the permits because the city had not conducted a parking study to determine the demand for early morning restrictions and that the city could have addressed much of its problems by approving a new Local Coastal Plan.
“There is not enough analysis here; I believe the burden of proof is on the city to show that this is necessary,” Commissioner Esther Sanchez said.
Commissioner Dayna Bochco believed the city put itself in its position because it does not have a certified LCP. Commission Chair Mary Shallenberger agreed, saying, “So many of the issues we heard before us today should have been grappled with in the process of doing an LCP, but they weren’t. I do hope the city decides that it would be worth it for them to do an LCP.”
Ryavec said the stakeholders association is weighing its options on whether to proceed with the legal challenge in court, but he will no longer seek a settlement agreement with the commission.