By Jim Smith
What’s behind the effort to bring permit parking to Venice? In a word, gentrification. In Los Angeles, and cities around the country, it’s a familiar story. A family of professionals spends big bucks to move into a so-so neighborhood. Before long the happy couple looks out the window and sees – gasp – strangers parking on their block. Who could these sinister people be – child molesters, foreigners, or perish the thought – homeless!
Then, calls are made to the local representatives and signs go up denying parking to anyone not from here. Most of the neighbors breathe a sign of relief as more parking places on up, especially on streets adjacent to commercial districts.
In Venice, this smooth process has run into snags for a couple of reasons. First, everything west of Lincoln Blvd. is in the coastal zone, which by law can be enjoyed by all Californians, regardless of where they live, or whether they have a hefty annual income or not. No law or city ordinance can restrict the right of inlanders to enjoy our fresh air and beach.
The second snag for the permit parking steamroller is a sizable community of lower income residents and free-spirited Venetians who do not want to pay to park or plan ahead when friends drop over. They – we – do not think the coast should be off-limits at any time of day or night to our overnight guests (whether inebriated or not), surfers, swing-shift workers, or that dreaded specter that is haunting Venice, the RV dwellers.
This is not the first time that efforts have been made to bring in permit parking. I recently ran across a copy of the Rialto Neighborhood News, the newsletter for the Rialto Block Association. The Sept/Oct 1982 issue had an article on preferential (permit) parking. The unnamed author says that this has been “an issue of long standing and its time for a decision to be made.” The reason given in favor of preferential parking sounds most contemporary. “The purpose…is to discourage significant intrusion of commercial and institutional parking into residential areas.” It goes on to say that parking restrictions could be any time, to daylight hours, or for nighttime restrictions.
The early 80s were the time of the first Yuppie migration to Venice, but apparently there were not enough supporters to push this through, since Rialto residents and their neighbors have been happily enjoying free street parking for the past 25 years.
But on June 2, 1994 the then L.A. City Councilmember, Ruth Galanter, informed us by letter that she was “pleased to announce that the Los Angeles City Council unanimously passed my mostion to establish a preferential parking district in (our) neighborhood. It would have turned most of Venice into a permit parking zone.
The scheme this time was that non-residents (beachgoers) could park for two hours, then they would have to move their cars. It also prohibited overnight parking without a permit.
By the time the plan reached the Coastal Commission several years later, the only Venetians to show up were against it. The Commission unanimously turned their thumbs down.
This time around we have a coalition of city officials including our rapidly shrinking councilmember Bill Rosendahl, homeless haters and gentrifiers. They believe that if they restrict parking in the dead of night they can slip it past the Coastal Commission.
If passed, the permits would bring in nearly $1 million to the city coffers (not the Venice coffers, alas).
It would force the RV dwellers out of Venice since they are ineligible for permits, and it might get rid of cars that are not new, cool and hip, if their owners can’t afford the permits.
On the face of it, denying street parking to visitors to the coastal zone at any time of day or night seems to violate the Coastal Access Act. If the Commission doesn’t toss it out, a court likely will.
Like nearly every plan that Los Angeles imposes on Venice, there are several myths underlying it.
Myth #1: It will be easier to park. According to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles, there are 21,422 vehicles in zipcode 90291, which includes most of Venice. No wonder we have a tough time parking! That part of Venice, south of Washington shares zipcode 90292 with Marina del Rey, but it’s a safe bet that there are thousands more cars in that part of Venice. The best estimate of RV dwellers in Venice is between 150 and 200. It may seem like more, but many RVs, vans, camper trucks and inhabitable vehicles are owned by Venetians who live in a house. Those vehicles will be eligible for permits. In addition, the other 150 RVs can return to Venice streets any time after 6 a.m. It makes no sense to think that even if 150 RVs were removed from the streets, that it would be easier for the remaining 21,422 cars to find parking places. In addition, this will have no effect on the thousands who come to the beach during the day and need a place to park.
Myth #2: It is a small price to pay to get rid of the RVs. Let’s suppose permit parking becomes a reality. Within a month, most of the RVs might disappear from the streets. A huge victory for the homeless haters and gentrifiers! But wait. Now all of us who want to park our cars on Venice streets must pay to park for the rest of our lives (or at least the rest of our lives in Venice). Some victory!
Myth #3: My property value will increase if we get rid of the undesirable element. Our property values have been inflated beyond reason for the last several years. Now they are sinking to more reasonable levels. Let’s face it. Most of us live in funky, old houses that are much older than we are. The days when winners in the stock market casino can buy old houses, tear them down, and build big, sterile boxes may be at an end. We may be stuck with the housing stock we have for a long time to come.
But why do people who can afford to buy a home at the beach want to move to Venice of all places? I believe we attract a particular group of more affluent people, those who are some sensitivity to the community and to the arts (although a few seem to have no sensitivity or compassion at all).
If we drive all the writers, poets, painters, sculptors and other creative people out of the community because they are not high wage earners, then what do we have to offer? The Art Walk and the Garden Tour will have to shut down. Many of those living in RVs are artists who were unable to afford their high rent in a Venice apartment. They are hanging on by their fingernails and their four tires. Let’s help them continue to be a part of Venice, until we can have more housing that they can afford.