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:
- Increase the parking supply.
- Enhance and encourage off-site parking and shuttle bus use.
- Promote and facilitate expanded bicycle use.
- 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.