By Martha Groves
May 27, 2009
The staff of the California Coastal Commission has recommended that the agency approve permit parking zones in five areas near Venice beach, delighting residents aggravated by the constant presence of recreational vehicles and provoking anger from public access and homeless advocates.
If the so-called overnight parking districts are approved in June, it would mark the end of a 12-year battle by residents, said Mark Ryavec, a Venice activist.
"This is a struggle for residents to be able to secure their neighborhoods and secure parking in their neighborhoods and to stop what too often was a public nuisance," Ryavec said Tuesday.
Many who live near the beach complain that people living in campers take up precious curb spaces and pose health and safety problems.
In a letter to the commission, Nikoletta Skarlatos said she came home from a hearing in February to find her street filled with campers and their occupants.
"One was dumping raw sewage and urine directly into the storm drain," she wrote. She said she walked to the back of her house and "saw a pile of human fecal matter against my house wall."
Steve Clare, executive director of the Venice Community Housing Corp., expressed disappointment in the recommendation. Restricting parking, he said, is part of a "pattern of denial of public access" to the beach overnight.
Other opponents also challenged the proposed restrictions, complaining that they would displace people who now live in campers and cars.
"That is a big issue," acknowledged City Councilman Bill Rosendahl, who represents Venice.
Rosendahl said he was studying programs in Santa Barbara and Eugene, Ore., that have designated overnight parking lots for RV dwellers where they can also take advantage of social services. Rosendahl said his office has contacted the Obama administration to plead for federal stimulus money for such "wraparound services" for RV occupants staying in designated areas.
Municipal code prohibits overnight sleeping in vehicles on city streets, but police have fought a losing battle to enforce the law, Rosendahl said.
"If the commission votes in favor," he said, "it becomes the kickoff of an overall process that will take several years before all aspects are met."
Of the five permit parking zones proposed by residents, two extend to the coastline. In those areas, the staff report said, street parking for individuals without permits would be prohibited from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m.
Three public parking lots near the beach would stay open 24 hours a day. Visitors could prepay for four hours of parking. Three other inland areas would restrict parking from 2 a.m. to 6 a.m.
Residents could buy three annual permits for $15 each and two visitor permits, good for four months, for $10 each.
A permit, however, would not guarantee a parking space, said Yadi Hashemi, the acting senior engineer responsible for the Los Angeles Department of Transportation's parking permits division. He added that permit prices were expected to remain the same for "the foreseeable future."