Traffic & Parking OKs Crescent Q-Zone Restrictions

South Crescent Drive homeowners this month petitioned the Traffic & Parking Commission to restrict visitor parking on their block. A split commission agreed with their key arguments: that through-traffic makes life unpleasant and that residents compete with Beverly Drive patrons and other visitors for parking in front of their own homes. The test for the commission was to balance the petitioners’ interests against impacts to residents on nearby blocks. In our view the commission failed. Here is what happened and why it matters.

The Issue

South Crescent homeowners want to modify parking restrictions on the 200 block to prohibit anyone who does not display a ‘Q’ zone hang tag from parking on their street. Currently the block allows 1-Hour parking and holders of ‘Q’ permits can park for an unlimited time (until 2:30 a.m.).

The requested change would send visitors looking to parking to nearby multifamily blocks. Today Gregory and Charleville both allow daytime 1-hour or 2-hour parking. Many multifamily households park on those streets because they do not have off-street parking with the lease.

Also, single-family blocks (like Crescent) provide additional hourly parking capacity during daytime and evenings. Shoppers and restaurant patrons use it. Multifamily residents rely on it when we can’t find parking near our homes. That’s especially true later in the evening when parking availability in an overnight zone is tight.

Restricting visitor parking on Crescent would actually doubly harm multifamily households because last year south Canon Drive petitioners were able to prohibit visitor parking on the 200 and 300 blocks at all times of day. That hourly parking demand simply spilled over into our multifamily blocks. Ironically Crescent was affected too, and Crescent petitioners cited that impact in their petition to push the problem onto multifamily blocks!

Preferential Parking: The ‘Q’ Zone

A bit of background on preferential parking. The city is divided into parking zones. According to the Municipal Code (7–3–201), the objective is to “alleviate the severe lack of on street parking on certain residential streets in the city caused primarily by commuter vehicle traffic and to provide reasonably available and convenient parking for the adjacent residents.”

The zones are intended to mitigate effects of auto use such as noise, hazards, and pollution, says the code. And that’s the reasoning behind this petition. From the Crescent homeowners’ petition:

The traffic is becoming unbearable on this street and we ask that you send a representative to study the street and make the necessary adjustment for residents who live here and pay very high property taxes… The traffic needs to start flowing better and not become so frustrating for the residents. This is a residential street which is now being treated like a commercial street for car travelers.

Multifamily residents will find much to agree upon. Traffic and congestion in our neighborhood sucks. However pushing their problem with congestion onto our blocks is not the answer.

The ‘Q’ preferential parking zone regulates street parking in an area bounded by Beverly, Elm, Wilshire and Olympic. That includes the multifamily 100 blocks of Reeves, Canon, Crescent and Elm where hourly parking is available until 2:30 a.m. Likewise Gregory and Charleville (which do not directly face residences) offer hourly parking until 2:30 a.m. The 200 block of Reeves is an outlier and prohibits hourly parking after 6.pm.

The single-family blocks are more restrictive. The 200 and 300 blocks of south Crescent permit hourly parking until 6 p.m. But the 200 and 300 blocks of south Canon prohibit hourly parking entirely. Thus the burden for providing visitor parking falls disproportionately on blocks where multifamily residents already don’t have enough off-street parking.

South Crescent provides much-needed short-term permit parking for multifamily ‘Q’ households because we can park there until 2:30 a.m. with our hang tag. That is essential because multifamily residents can’t always find a space on a block designated for overnight parking.

Petition to Modify One Block of the ‘Q’ Zone

The Crescent Drive petitioners want to modify restrictions on the 200 block of the ‘Q’ zone in order to prohibit hourly parking. The effect of prohibiting visitor parking on Crescent will be felt by all multifamily households that park on the street but most acutely by those residents who arrive later in the evening. They will be less able to find an available parking space for the night.

In fact it is not uncommon to see multifamily residents parked late on Crescent waiting until a parking space on an overnight block opens up. But circling the block for an available space is contrary to the intent of the preferential parking zone, which is to limit congestion and pollution.

The petition comes with context. Some years back homeowners west of Beverly Drive banned visitor parking. Today there is essentially no non-permit daytime or evening parking on El Camino, Rodeo or Camden. All of that hourly parking demand has pushed into our neighborhood.

Then last year petitioners on the 200 and 300 blocks of south Canon Drive were able to restrict visitor parking. Then that demand also went to our multifamily blocks (and to south Crescent).

Now the homeowners on the 200 block of Crescent want to do the same: push visitors to park on multifamily blocks (and the 300 block of Crescent). Next 300 block petitioners will look to ban visitor parking too. At every step, multifamily residents are even more squeezed between the limited supply of street parking for us and the more concentrated demand for parking by visitors.

Traffic & Parking Commission Says OK

On Thursday, February 5th the Traffic & Parking Commission heard the Crescent homeowners’ petition to make the 200 block permit-only. (Watch the video.) The staff report came with a recommendation:

Based on 65% support from the block residents requesting the [preferential parking permit] modification, impacts from Beverly Vista School activity, the recent regulation changes in the adjacent 200 and 300 single- family blocks of South Canon Drive to “No Parking,” the goal to create consistent parking regulations, and previous concerns by the residents on the 200 block of South Crescent Drive, staff recommends modifying the PPP regulation…

The commission’s task was to hear petitioner concerns; weigh the claims and support for those claims; and then assess the potential benefit of the zone modification against the expected impact(s) to residents on neighboring streets.

The commission can recommend to modify or not modify the preferential parking zone. However city council has the final decision according to the Municipal Code (7–3–207).

Commissioners succeeded in the first task — listening. The commissioners heard petitioners say that “traffic is overwhelming” on their street and that drivers “get stuck and just honk for several minutes.” But traffic impacts are not evaluated in this process; the emphasis is instead on parking occupancy and availability. The commission heard from at least a dozen block residents that the situation was untenable.

Commissioners were split on the substance of the petition. The petitioners’ argument was that too many visitors are parking on the block and, as a consequence, those who live there can’t conveniently park in front of their home. The data presented by the staff report wasn’t persuasive, though: the city parking survey indicated that 30% of available parking spaces (on average) were occupied. Looked at another way, 70% of spaces, on average, were available. That suggested to commissioners that parking was not as inconvenient as was presented.

The staff report also showed that visitors (called ‘commuters’ in the language of the staff report) took only 18% of available parking spaces on average. Commissioners didn’t see visitor occupancy as a significant problem. Moreover, the commuter parking rate did not really support petitioners’ claims that a recent school reorganization has unduly increased parking on their street.

Staff also pointed to “previous concerns by the residents on the 200 block” as a justification for the zone modification. But the staff report only noted that an earlier petition had failed to garner the threshold signatures. As to the city’s “goal” to create consistent parking regulations, which was another justification from staff, there is no such goal in the section of the Municipal Code that addresses preferential parking.

One of the petitioners’ claims does have merit. Crescent Drive has shouldered the hourly parking burden since a similar ‘Q’ zone modification was made for petitioners on neighboring Canon Drive. The commission OK’d that change. But commissioners knew at the time it would cause a ripple effect and, as expected, these petitioners now argue for exactly the same modification for that reason. Whack-a-mole!

Commissioners did not really evaluate the potential impact of the proposed zone modification. The commissioners couldn’t really assess the impact of the potential modification because transportation staff did not conduct a survey of parking occupancy on multifamily streets like Charleville, Gregory, and the 100 blocks of Canon, Crescent, and Elm — streets that already do the heavy lifting when it comes to accommodating both multifamily demand and visitor parking demand. Those streets approach full occupancy for much of the day and especially the evening. But there was no survey to provide the figures.

Second, the commissioners did not really evaluate the effect on school commuters. Staff provided no analysis. Speaking in opposition to the zone modification was a PTA president and also the principal of the nearby Beverly Vista middle school. Both cautioned commissioners against recommending the zone modification in haste.

Most unfortunately there was no discussion about the extent to which multifamily households have been affected by past modifications of the ‘Q’ zone (like the 200 and 300 blocks of south Canon).

In the end, Traffic & Parking commissioners split (3–1–1) on forwarding the petition to city council with a recommendation to modify the zone. Three commissioners felt an obligation to petitioners simply because the petition ‘qualified’ because 60% or more households supported it. One commissioner voted not to recommend the modification. And one commissioner abstained because he found fault with the supporting data and the process in general.

The Take-Away: Problems in Substance and Process

The question that hovered throughout the commission discussion was, What obligation, if any, did the commissioners have to recommend the preferential parking zone modification if the data do not clearly support the case?

It is worth noting that the code actually establishes a higher threshold for resident support — 60% — when it comes to modifying a zone than the 50% of households necessary to qualify a petition to create a new preferential parking zone. That suggests a high threshold indeed for the commission’s recommendation.

Traffic & Parking commissioners questioned the arguments behind the petition to modify the zone and suggested unintended consequences if the modification is approved by city council. In fact, commissioners noted that residents add to parking congestion by parking on the street when there was space available on their own property.

One commissioner observed that he sees cars moved from driveways to the street in the morning seemingly to reserve that space for the homeowner. And we can confirm that kind of activity on Crescent too: at 261 south Crescent, at all times some of the five sedans parked at the property are kept on the street.

261 S Crescent street parking
These folks like their black sedans. Instead of parking them on their property there are always a few parking on the street.

What commissioners did not discuss was the potential impact of the proposed Crescent zone modification on multifamily residents who already bear the burden of existing visitor parking prohibitions around Crescent (and indeed around south Beverly Drive). Our multifamily blocks are already parked over capacity (as we told commissioners) but there was no talk about that kind of inconvenience. After all we’re just tenants!

However a simple map might have illustrated for commissioners the extent to which multifamily residents bear the parking burden. We took the ‘Q’ zone map from the staff report and highlighted the blocks where hourly visitor parking would not allowed during the day should the Crescent Crescent zone modification be approved.

Q Zone hourly parking regulations Renters Alliance map

So many single-family blocks have successfully petitioned to keep visitors from parking that it’s up to multifamily blocks (colored green) to provide parking for them. The map illustrates the cumulative effect of the single-family parking restrictions — exactly the proverbial ‘ripple effect’ that concerns commissioners.

As for the petition process, the south Crescent parking zone modification highlighted shortcomings. Not only that there was no mention of multifamily impacts; there was also no clear guidelines for commissioners as to when they should support a staff recommendation to modify a zone. Where was the language from the Municipal Code? Were formal findings necessary as in other proceedings? Our city’s transportation official, Aaron Kunz, was mostly silent as commissioners grappled for a way forward in yet another preferential parking zone modification process.

Why This Matters

When a parking zone petition notice is received it is tempting to toss it in the trash. It hardly seems relevant what may happen on an adjacent single-family block, after all, and it all seems so bureaucratic. Few multifamily residents show up for parking zone modification hearings. But multifamily residents should care because parking is a quality-of-life issue when we don’t get off-street parking with a lease. Today it’s visitor parking; tomorrow it could be losing all parking privileges for multifamily (as Canon petitioners tried last year).

Why such low levels of engagement from multifamily residents? Look at the notice that went out for the Crescent parking zone modification. It is clinical in its description: “Modify the existing ‘1-Hour Parking, 8 a.m. to 2:30 a.m., Daily, Permit ‘Q’ Exempt’ regulation on the 200 block of South Crescent Drive to ‘No Parking Anytime, Permit ‘Q’ Exempt.’”

That’s all it said on substance; the rest of the notice is boilerplate. Where is the explanation of what the parking zone modification would mean for multifamily residents? Where is the explanation of the ‘Q’ zone or the link to information online about the modification process? Even the thumbnail map on the notice shows only the Crescent block. Where is the larger context?

We are posting this deep-dive into one parking zone modification petition because we have to take a critical look at these parking petitions because transportation staff will not look out for multifamily residents. This Crescent petition arguably should have failed because the case for the modification wasn’t supported by the data. But also the percentage of households qualifying the petition is questionable too. The staff report indicates that 25 of 38 households (66%) qualified the petition but at least one of the signatory households was definitely vacant. Another moved in a family this past weekend. Can an empty house help to qualify the petition?

What sticks in our craw is that petitioners themselves add to the problem. They park their cars on the street when they have driveways. Some have unlawfully paved front yards for additional off-street parking too. Probably many hold multiple daytime parking permits when they have available parking on their private property.

In contrast, rental housing generally does not provide enough parking. The large majority of apartment buildings were built in an era before builders were required to provide it. Two examples on Charleville near Reeves illustrate this situation.

200 South Reeves parking
200 South Reeves is a 12-unit building but it provides parking for only 6 cars. The building next door is 204 South Reeves and it provides ZERO parking for 20 efficiency units.
156 South Reeves parking
156 South Reeves is a 4-unit building that provides parking for four vehicles. Current code requirements would dictate at least twelve off-street parking spaces. The building next door is 152 South Reeves and it provides ZERO parking for the twelve households there.

Despite the impact to multifamily residents, our Traffic & Parking Commission approved a zone modification on Crescent that surely will push even more visitor parking on to our streets. We should say enough is enough when the matter comes to city council for approval in April.

Do you find parking on multifamily blocks to be a problem? We want to hear from you. Drop Renters Alliance a line.