By Gary Walker
Residents living south of Loyola Marymount University are increasingly becoming more vocal about the manner in which a survey conducted by a firm hired by the university is soliciting information on a potential parking district.
The university recently hired Sanders Research to conduct door-to-door interviews in order to discern if there is an appetite for a preferential parking district near LMU’s south entrance. University officials have offered to pay for three parking passes and two guests passes per year for those who are willing to consider establishing such a district, including a temporary one.
“(A temporary parking district) would give (homeowners) flexibility to decide how restricted it would be, if they choose to establish one,” said LMU Vice President of Administration Lynne Scarboro. “(The Department of Transportation) believes a temporary parking district could be fast-tracked.”
Some residents have complained that the questioners neglected to ask whether or not they would like a preferential parking district, and others have said the survey does not include a similar question.
The Argonaut obtained a copy of the survey that LMU is conducting and question number 12 reads: “Would you support the creation of permit/restricted parking on your street?” There are boxes where homeowners can check yes or no.
The survey also includes, among other things, questions on how late any potential restrictions on parking should last, what times residents feel are the most difficult to find parking, to whom do they attribute the neighborhood’s parking deficiencies and if a one-year preferential parking pilot program would be useful.
Preferential parking districts can be created when two-thirds of households of a block vote in favor of the parking zone. Petitions to the Los Angeles Department of Transportation would be required and the process could take between one to two years to implement, according to city transportation officials.
Scarboro said that with the help of Councilman Mike Bonin’s office, a temporary district could take approximately two months to establish.
City Council approval is required to establish a parking district.
Westchester resident Stuart Berriman views the offer as a mechanism for LMU to pad its coffers.
“Clearly, permitting is a continuation of the restriction on the freedoms we enjoyed before LMU enforced paid parking, and enacting permitting would strengthen their revenue stream while continuing to cause residents harm, not just in the immediate vicinity to LMU, but would spread the problem throughout the community,” he said.
In a letter to LMU President David Burcham, Joseph and Dianne Belli, who reside on Holy Cross Place, stated their reasons for opposing permit parking on their street.
“Having experienced permit parking in other areas of the city, it is restrictive and completely removes the friendly, quiet and quaint feel of a neighborhood,” they wrote. “It’s also hassle to have to deal with permits, visitor’s permits and the occasional parking tickets that will be almost impossible to avoid.
“We are asking that Loyola Marymount University provide ample on-campus parking for its faculty, staff and students. The street parking congestion that is being caused by the university is destroying our property values and our once quaint and quite streets.”
Scarboro, as previous LMU administrators have stated, said the university will continue to charge students, faculty and visitors on campus to park, in spite of pleas from homeowners to rescind the fees.
The fees generated from parking are being used to pay the debt service on a $35 million bond obtained by LMU to build an on-campus parking structure.
While LMU officials say there are homeowners who have told them they would consider a preferential parking district as an option, Patrick Cain is one of the very few to speak publicly about it. Cain, who lives approximately a mile from the university, said the offer of a temporary district could be an approach to alleviating the parking problems.
“Change can be difficult but it seems to me that (a temporary parking zone) is a reasonable offer,” said Cain, an LMU alumnus who is also on the university’s board of regents. “It seems like it could be a helpful way to say, ‘Let’s try it and see how it works.’”
Bonin, who represents Westchester, echoed LMU officials when asked about the parking districts, saying it would have to be the homeowners’ choice if they wanted to implement a restricted parking zone.
“If the neighbors want a preferential parking district, I will do everything in my power to make that happen quickly,” the councilman pledged. “If they do not want a parking district, then I will not impose one on them.”
University officials say they have recommended the idea of a parking district in order to create an atmosphere where LMU students and faculty will find it easier to park on campus instead of in the adjacent neighborhoods.
In addition, during negotiations over LMU’s 20-year master plan, neighborhood groups recommended creating a permit parking zone and charging students and visitors to park on campus.
The idea of preferential parking has been soundly rejected by neighbors almost unanimously.
Bonin said now that classes will begin Monday, Aug. 26, there will be an opportunity to gauge how acute the problem is with the new semester in session.
“In the event that the impact of (students parking) in the neighborhood is severe and residents are eager to alleviate the problems associate with an overflow of parking, I think we would be able to move very quickly on a temporary parking district,” he said.
The topic of the survey, as well as the parking district and parking fees is on the agenda for Thursday, Aug. 22, when representatives of the homeowners, university officials, members of the Neighborhood Council of Westchester-Playa and LMU student representatives will hold their quarterly meeting at the Westchester Senior Center, 8740 Lincoln Blvd., at 6:30 p.m.
Westchester: Homeowners take issue with preferential parking survey questions
By Gary Walker