West End Car Wars

By Mary Ellen of the West End Beautification Association

If you ask a West End resident what scenario would impel him to abandon his parking spot on a summer weekend, you’re likely to get a looooong pause, a guffaw, or an answer akin to “A funeral. Maybe. If it was a very close relative.”

In 2007, the City of Long Beach commissioned a Comprehensive Plan to create a blueprint for the next 15 years.

One of the proposals in the Plan was to “Design and implement a Residential Permit Parking Program to address the parking problems in the West End”.

In 2008, the City of Long Beach and Level G Associates (an independent consulting group specializing in parking studies) conducted an evaluation of the West End parking situation, “to develop new parking management strategies designed to improve the Long Beach parking experience by changing current parking patterns that often leave residents, shoppers, visitors and workplace employees with limited or undesirable parking alternatives.”

Only a West End resident can truly understand how dramatically parking impacts the tapestry of living in our community. To hear us talk about it, you’d think we were discussing the political ramifications of social ecosystems…and not the frustrations of finding a parking spot.

Only true sports fans know that it’s never “just a game,” and only true West Enders know that it’s never “just a parking spot.” It’s 50 square feet that are worth their weight in gold.

And the battle for and protection of these spots, at best, is a spirited show of neighborly cooperation, jockeying cars and leaving keys so that there will be a spot available when someone has to, well, go to a funeral. At worst, it can cause simmering frustration that leads to hard feelings among long time neighbors.

So four years ago, when the parking study was conducted, residents anxiously awaited the executive summary.

Surely this market analysis would find a solution to what sometimes seems to be the biggest pitfall to living in the West End.

The output was a Four-Point Strategy:

  1. Increase the parking supply.
  2. Enhance and encourage off-site parking and shuttle bus use.
  3. Promote and facilitate expanded bicycle use.
  4. Change parking regulations.(Establish Residential Parking Zones and fee-based general parking along Beech Street)

But like many well-intentioned plans, the devil was in the details. Muni-meters will hurt commercial business. What about guest parking? What about the home health aid, the housekeeper, the plumber? The plan simply said, “Special situations will be considered on a case by case basis.” Residents demurred from the idea and the study was shelved.

Which means I am still holding on to my parking spot with the Jaws of Life, not unlike the way an environmentalist zealot might chain herself to a tree in protest. Meanwhile, parking is getting worse and worse.

To date, the only implementation of the 2008 Plan has been in private parking lot sharing and coordinating bus stop-fire hydrant placement to increase parking supply on Beech St. I give credit for the efforts put forth, but unfortunately, it’s not enough.

Residents are still held hostage in their homes during the busy weekends, and I don’t think I’m alone when I say that it’s time for something to be done. It’s time for a meeting of minds to solve this problem.

It’s time for a committee of residents, business owners, the City Manager and City Council to develop a pilot parking plan for 2013. If all the stakeholders in this problem have a forum in which to assert their concerns and needs, then I’m confident that we’ll be able to find the elusive space in between all of them, where the parking solution exists.

Let’s not wait until another summer season is upon us and the parking madness once again chains us to our homes. Let’s spend this fall and winter ironing out the details of a peace treaty to once and for all end the notorious West End Car Wars.

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60 thoughts on “West End Car Wars”

  1. On wisconsin street….narrow street….people move one car up from the corner to save a spot so that they can pull it up and put there car back……hogging 2 spots so to speak to save……Have driveways but park in front of them….Oh it is truly a nightmare…..as you apparently know…..and does cause aggravation with the neighbors that do this…..Oh boy….wish there was something to do just about that alone….

  2. I can’t imagine a solution. How about fining people who take cars out of their drive ways and garages to take a parking spot in front of their house $10,000 and prison time?

  3. Unless it is a lot of spots, I don’t see the difference that would make. Also, Unless you live near NY Ave- it won’t really solve any problems.

    What we need is a ban on block parties.

  4. My suggestion would be along the lines of the recommendations, except that each family get four scanable placards to use in their windows. This would allow residents to park their own cars and, if they only have two cars, use the other two for guests. All others would have to park on Beech St.

    To those complaining about driveways, I am sorry you don’t have one but no need to penalize those who do.

  5. I think the problem would be made a lot easier if there were only season passes accepted at the West end beaches. This would keep the people who are down for the down by the boardwalk where there is more parking. If someone was top have guests come down they could get their passes during the week

  6. No one is looking to penalize those that have driveways, but many of us would like to see those that do actually use them. My neighbor has a driveway and full garage. They also have 3 cars. 95% of the time, their driveway remains completely empty while there 3 cars take up spots in the street. They use the space in front of their driveway as a placeholder in the event they can’t find a spot somewhere else on the street.

    I realize there’s little to no recourse available for this, but there’s little to no doubt that the practice is contributing to the problem. Clearly, it’s not just my neighbor. Drive up and down the streets in the west end and look how many driveways/garages are not being utilized.

  7. Well I would think that’s the exception not the norm. My neighbors that have a parking space in front of their garage use them when they can fit (if the other cars have left enough space for them. They do not use their garage (because they have stuff in it).

  8. You “How about fining people who take cars out of their drive ways and garages to take a parking spot in front of their house $10,000 and prison time? “. Do you mean if they move their car to the spot in front of their driveway ? Because that’s what most of my neighbors do..

  9. My experience says it’s the norm, not exception, but don’t think either of us could prove the other wrong. I started documenting the issue over the summer, but got sidetracked by another issue and never finished (something about a boardwalk falling apart).

    Another option at the city’s disposal would be to actually paint lines for parking spots throughout the west end. While that wouldn’t likely add spots, it would keep things in good order to ensure that people don’t intentionally or inadvertently take up multiple spots due to how other cars have situated themselves.

  10. No John- it is the norm. Unless we live on the same block- but I’m guessing we don’t because if we did you wouldn’t have named one house- you’d name 4 houses out of 6 that do this.

  11. There is an online petition being distributed today calling on the City Manager and City Council to meet with business owners and residents to try to come up with a pilot plan. I believe you can access the petition on the SeabytheCity Facebook page.

  12. Good question. I have neighbors who have cars that they drive just for fun and they have often told me that they would be happy to have an indoor spot where they could keep it protected and off the street. Others may just want to put their cars indoor for the winter so they wouldn’t have to worry about getting snowed in. Even to store their bicycles.

    And I agree with John, it would be a great spot for visitors, and for the Overlook customers and Beech Street patrons

  13. Totally agree Drew. There are no adequate bathroom facilities and no parking.

    There are many options to the question of the guest passes. Some places offer single day guest permits, up to five per day, up to a total of 50 per year per address at $1 each.

  14. parking issues are not unique to the west end of Long Beach, just ask anyone who lives in Manhattan and has a car. the reality of the situation is that the parking issues contribute to whole experience of living in the west end…there is clearly a community vibe which is different from westholme and the east end. perhaps it is a direct result of the dreaded parking issues themselves? for instance, if resisdents are unwilling to drive in fear of losing a spot; maybe they eat out locally more often and socialize with neighbors instead of people from say oceanside. for those that NEED to drive elsewhere there are other options, including using the buses and train station parking. my wife and i used to live on lincoln and shore, i paid $100 per month to park in the building across the street. since we only had 1 car, i took the bus to the lirr and biked when i needed to get around town. when i bought my house, i made sure there was ample parking in the form of a driveway. not saying that dealing with lack of parking isnt a pain. however, to stunt the economic development of the city over nothing but parking is short-sighted and destine to send us back to the 70s. we are not entitled to have street parking and that will never change. instead of complaining, adapt to the situation by utilizing public transportation, bikes or move out. btw, i am not against parking permits either but the subtle nuances do present a challenge and would need to be addressed in the form of creating parking permit zones as opposed to a blanket restriction.

  15. I could be wrong, but don’t think they have. I drive up and down that block every day and have never noticed lines. then again, i’m not always the sharpest tool in the shed, so I guess it’s possible.

    not a bad idea to try one or two streets and see how it goes.

  16. I live on the West End and generally do pause before deciding to move the car. I have no problem with people who park in front of their own driveways. That is there space to do what they wish. I do have a problem with people who intentionally turn 3 spots into 2, or 2 into 1, by positioning their cars without consideration for their neighbors – whether it be by ignorance or intentional to save a spot. Bad etiquette. Or people who leave their cars in one spot for a long period of time (but we have laws about that).

    The worst is when people paint lines that extend several feet to each side of the driveway and think that is their property. There is even a house with 2 driveways! Not sure how you can pull that off.

  17. totally with you about people being able to use the spot in front of their driveways as they choose. Heck, I encourage them to park there. That said, do you have a problem with those that have driveways and opt not to use them while their neighbors circle the block looking for a spot (see my comment above)? While I know there’s not much to be done about it, I think it falls into your “positioning cars without consideration for their neighbor” sentiment.

  18. Cause it’s the summer and you live near the beach. When you live in the West End you park 3 blocks from the Allegria on Saturday nights if you’re parking.

  19. Is there any way of finding out what driveways are actually legal?
    I believe that most of the modern or newer type constructions actually have illegal driveways, were the contractor has just cut the curb and never actually applied for the correct city permit.
    When we first moved to Long Beach 20+ years ago, there were many many fewer driveways.

  20. Maryellen I appreciate your existence, I think you know that by now (and if you haven’t looked into Jane Jacobs yet I’d be delighted to lend you some reading) however I have a slight disagreement with the passive tone about parking, as if its a protected right or has no economic implications.

    “1.Increase the parking supply.”

    Please supply quantitative data that backs up this statement because I have yet to discover any logical argument for increased parking in an urban setting. Maryellen please don’t incentivize driving by proving yet more “free” parking. Increased parking = driving incentive. Fact. Who were these morons writing up this study?? How do they even suggest supplying more parking and then a couple slides later have the balls to quote Shoup? I mean, really??? Fucking morons they don’t even mention in-lieu fees meanwhile everyone and their mother gets their parking requirements WAIVED. Oh, and the study completely ignores spillover parking. Novices!

    I’d also like to discourage you from suggesting that people who can’t move their vehicles are hostages. Driving is not a right, it is a revokable privilege.
    The city is 2 miles long, there are several buses and the LIRR…in addition to 2 feet or 2 wheels.

    When you say hostage you completely undermine alternative transportation, Maryellen. I haven’t the time to even address impervious surfaces, carbon imprint and our environment.

    Statistically, meters do not hurt business. Infact meters alleviate parking “problems”.

    My question for Maryellen and everyone else is this : How do you define a parking problem?
    Further, at what capacity would you consider any alleged parking problem to be alleviated?

    Parking infrastructure is essential however it’s really fucking complex to get right. I have very little confidence in our city gov’t handling this inhouse.

  21. parking is bad. great, we live in a city, not a suburban sprawl town. get over it. if you lived in queens or brooklyn would you bitch like this or do you have this preconcieved notion that just because this is long island it should be your birthright not to have to park a few blocks away and god forbid….walk

  22. The West End isn’t the only area with parking problems and as more multifamily buildings are erected more parking issues arise. Try finding a parking space anytime of year after 6 pm if you live on Shore Road or Broadway. It is a little better since the resident lots were created, but they are but a drop in the bucket.

    But we knew this when we decided to move here 25 years ago and I am sure you noticed the West End parking issues before you bought your home. We all chose to live here and deal with the parking. Beach communities always have parking issues. Some communities go the Neponsit route and ban all street parking, Hampton communities do also and people manage to make do. Having resident only parking only works if there is enforcement, something sadly lacking in the ostensible resident only lot across from me.

    You are perfectly placed with WEBA to educate your neighbors and have them make better use of the space they have, utilize driveways and garages and stop their piggy habits. I use the buses and leave the car parked over weekends and actually find it works out well.

  23. It’s definitely gotten worse and will only get worse. As far as the new buildings being erected, most, if not all, have parking. I think the fact that nothing is being done to address the issues is the problem. Compound this with the fact that the taxes are going up, must everything just get worse around here?

  24. The only solution to the West End Parking Nightmare is to move out of the West End, otherwise learn to accept it as part of living there.

    There are too many houses built on zero property, many without driveways, too many residents, and too many cars packed tightly together on narrow streets, in a cramped space that was never intended to be a year-round residential community when most of it was constructed over a century ago.

    This is the nature of the neighborhood due to the way that it was built, there is little that can be done to mitigate it, and when you choose to live there its something that you just have to accept.

  25. Sadly, I don’t think going after illegal renters would mitigate the problem in any noticeable or measurable way. Summer/Weekend parking issues are caused by visitors coming into the community to patronize our bars, shops, restaurants and beaches. Not to mention an increased population from returning seasonal residents.

    There might be a few more available spots during the off-season, but thats about it.

    And any new parking regulations that might be issued to ease the lives of residents, are going to hinder neighborhood businesses.

  26. Basically, without a cost effective way to increase the parking supply (no available land to build new municipal lots or a parking garage) on, this is how life in the West End of Long Beach is going to be for the forseable future.

  27. Pete, There are several factors contributing to the parking problem in the West End in addition to illegal rentals: group rentals, folks with driveways not parking in front of their own driveways, the increasing number of new homes with driveways, and the increasing number of businesses that attract out of town patrons. The parking consultant proposed a plan that in some form has been successfully implemented in other seasonal, beach communities in New Jersey and Connecticut.

    If some form of resident parking were TRIED next summer, some, if not all of the existing Resident lots could be opened up to business patrons. More Beech Street spots would be open to business patrons because residents would not have to park there. The city needs to start looking at the future of Long Beach with a much broader, far-reaching perspective. There needs to be an overhaul of zoning laws with an eye toward the future. This lack of foresight has enabled buildings to block sight lines to the ocean on narrow streets, has replaced our only marina with new housing, etc. etc. With respect to the parking, if nothing is done soon, this is not how life in the West End of Long Beach is going to be for the foreseeable future, it will be a lot worse..

  28. Bingo – you just stated a significant chunk of the problem here. people trying to figure out how to increase parking supply (or at least juggle around the current supply) as if increasing it would magically make it disappear.

    Long Beach will always have parking dilemma’s as it should. Its a dense city with summer tourism. The painful the parking, the better.

  29. Maryellen I’d like to hear you incorporate the 4 bus systems, increased pedestrian and bike ways and anything other than increasing the parking supply. Don’t undermine alternative transportation because it has thus far been the only proven solution to parking problems in dense urban areas.
    Playing with parking permits in one area will have a spillover effect in the next…and it will fall like dominoes.

  30. Allison, you’ll see that the consultant’s 4-pronged proposal includes “promote and facilitate enhanced bicycle use” as well as “enhance and encourage off-site parking and shuttle bus use”(a regular jitney service from the train station to West Beech street). So the proposal is not all about cars and does not undermine alternative transportation, but rather encourages it for out of town beach goers and restaurant/bar patrons.

  31. Allison needs to get over her irrational hatred of cars.

    She must either stay captive in Long Beach and never venture out into the surrounding towns for any reason. Or she commutes back and forth to the city and is one of those recent arrivals who would like to pretend that Long Beach is an extension of Manhattan.

    Long Beach for all of its population density is still profoundly suburban and deeply integrated into the surrounding communities. Most people have places to go that aren’t on bus routes and are too far to walk or bike.

    Long Beach is a part of Long Island, Deal with it.

  32. I guess you’re supposed to teleport yourself to (insert random town name) when you have people to see at a specific time or something important to do, or something to transport.

    Cars are essential for life on Long Island, including for most people in Long Beach.

    Since most people don’t live their lives entirely within Long Beach.

    Deal with it.

  33. “Martin”

    While I am irrational on some levels (only the fun ones) I do not have a hatred of cars.
    I am more pro-alternative than anti-car. It’s common sense. It’s balance. Of course people need access to places where they can’t skip or skate. I would never deny anyone transportation choice. I’d like to keep the choice open and accessible.

    I like your Manhattan theory however I’d prefer a different borough. Thanks for caring!

  34. The smart thing to do with block parties is to move them to another block, instead of banning them. It’s not necessary to ban them. Moving the party a block or two away has been done elsewhere on Long Island when safety issues were a concern, e.g., fire truck access to facilities.

  35. What would that do? It seems like there’s a different block party on a different block every weekend in LB. I don’t think you’re suggesting that the residents of Minnesota have their block party on Alabama are you?

  36. It seems like you think the way to solve the parking issues is to make life as difficult as possible for people who use cars. Public transportation on LI is a joke and your suggestion to use it for day-to-day life ’round here is moot.

    I work about 15 miles from LB and if I were to use the bus system it would take 2 hours (as opposed to 40 minutes) and be more expensive. I’m sure I’m not alone.

    They don’t dub the LIRR the Late Inefficient Rail Road for nothin’.

  37. Parking near the hotel sucks all year round. I was working till 8pm on Fridays for awhile in the winter/spring, and could never come home and find a spot by my apt – almost all the spots were taken up because of the hotel.
    I also constantly see people who are attending parties or conferences at the hotel taking up spots. One party or conference can easily fill up all the parking and leave residents with nothing.

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