August 13, 2013 |

Residents Prevail In Parking Meter Dispute

Residents Prevail In Parking Meter Dispute

When Bob Dylan sang “Don’t follow leaders/Watch your parking meters” he never dreamed that at Monday night’s Council meeting a large number of Culver City residents would refuse to follow their leaders by demanding that parking meters not be installed on the south side of Jefferson Boulevard.

On the agenda was a motion to install parking meters at specific locations within parking meter zones. But the residents’ protests (which included a real protest sign) won out. The Council passed the motion but did not include the language that would have allowed for the installation of parking meters on the south side of Jefferson between Overland Avenue and the easterly border of Culver City.

The reaction of the residents, who packed City Hall’s Mike Balkman Council Chamber, and flooded the Public Works Department with emails, came as something of a surprise to Public Works. The Council had begun, in 2011, to advise staff on the future installation of meters. According to the city staff, policy direction from the Council was “to install parking meters adjacent to all business/commercial/industrial streets except places of worship, schools, State and Federal government facilities, and residential frontages.”

However, the “on-street parking supply” between Overland and Hetzler Road was described by staff as being used “primarily for employee parking” for businesses on the north side of Jefferson. Therefore, it was recommended that meters be installed on the south side.

This was not the view shared by residents of condos such as Tara Hills, Raintree, and Lakeside. When Gabe Garcia of Public Works, in his staff report, said that staff had observed some business types but few residents using parking spaces on south Jefferson, some jeers and groans were heard.

Garcia offered a compromise, saying “It is not staff’s intention that residents and guests pay for parking meters.” He explained that the city would give residents what is known as a “smart card” that would be inserted into the meters to identify residents and in that sense “pay” for the ten hours (8 a.m. to 6 p.m.) that would be covered by the meter fee.

The Council and staff heard spoken and written testimony from 25 people, among them the presidents of several homeowners associations. All were against the installation of meters on the designated stretch of south Jefferson.

A Tara Hills resident told them “You should be ashamed of yourselves for even considering this. You wouldn’t put meters in front of your own residences!”

Linda Bartlett, also of Tara Hills, stated “There is no other place to park---no alternative,” and added that the “smart card” wouldn’t work for everyone. “What about caregivers and nurses—what about people who work nights?”

The fact that the smart cards would have to be inserted at 8 a.m. to exempt residents for ten hours and that this would be difficult for temporary visitors, for people with irregular schedules, and for shut-ins who would not be able to get to their cars, was brought up by several people.

Even former Planning Commission member Paul Jacobs chimed in, stating that the installation violates the city’s stated policy of not having meters in front of residential areas, a violation which the city would then enforce penalties for. “It sounds like a Saturday Night Live skit.”

The four Council members present (Jim Clarke was out of town) agreed with the protesters.

“It makes sense,” said Mehaul O’ Leary. “I’m sure that when many of you purchased your properties, part of the sales pitch was’free parking.’ The issue is that this is a residential street. [The meters would be] in front of your houses.”

Meghan Sahli-Wells commended staff for its efforts but said it was “a matter of equity” for the residents and that staff would have to come up with other ways to eliminate the existing parking problems they may have been attempting to ameliorate with the meters on south Jefferson.

Andrew Weissman noted that Jefferson fits more than one definition because it is partially commercial (the northern side between Overland and Hetzler). But, he said, the residential side must be considered.

And Mayor Jeff Cooper simply added “Common sense trumps. No meters on Jefferson.”

The Council agreed to install meters at 8520 National Boulevard and also at other locations mentioned in the staff report. These included meters along the Baldwin Hills Scenic Overlook.

Sahli-Wells did not approve of meters at the Overlook and voted no on the motion because of that language. The motion passed, 3-1.

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