Parking Changes on the Horizon, If the California Coastal Commission Gives Its Blessing

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Second Street in Alamitos Beach. Photos by Asia Morris.

If you live in Long Beach’s First, Second or Third Districts you discover a lot of things in your first few months of living there. You’re walking distance from a humble amount of dining and nightlife options, the beach is moments away—and during the summer you benefit from that coveted onshore breeze.

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You also discover that, depending on which particular part of those districts you live in, your car has a curfew.

No, it won’t turn into a pumpkin if you don’t get it home before midnight, but if you happen to work past 6:00PM or, gasp, want to go out for the night, you could be circling blocks for an undefined amount of time as you search for a spot to park your vehicle.

City council members know this, and if they don’t they haven’t been checking their Twitter notifications. Last week, Councilwoman Suzie Price (Third District) and Jeannine Pearce (Second District), leaders of the two most parking-impacted districts in the city, jointly requested a study from the city manager’s office on ways to address the growing issue of parking in their respective districts.

That study will look at potential solutions to residential parking issues that have plagued those that live in those coastal districts and downtown, but could face obstacles once the report comes back.

Price said that above all, she’s seeking clarification as to what next steps are permissible under state law under the California Coastal Act.

“At the very least I want to give my residents answers on why Seal Beach can do some things and we can’t,” Price said. “Because I’ve never been really satisfied with the answer. I would really like staff to work with the coastal commission to get us answers on that.”

The Coastal Act, which protects the public’s right to access the coast, is enforced by the California Coastal Commission which must give the thumbs up or thumbs down on any project inside the coastal zone. For Long Beach, that zone stretches to about Broadway.

The Coastal Act states that access and recreational opportunities “shall be provided for all the people consistent with public safety needs and the need to protect public rights, rights of private property owners, and natural resource areas from overuse,” and that “lower cost visitor and recreational facilities shall be protected, encouraged, and, where feasible, provided. Developments providing public recreational opportunities are preferred.”


 

A request to the commission for comment on this issue went unanswered.

The city has existing agreements in place for permit parking inside the coastal zone, including the parking structures at the Pike, Shoreline Village and the Aquarium of the Pacific. However, none of those apply to residential parking permit programs like the study will look into.

Price pointed out in her agenda item last Tuesday that cities like Seal Beach, Santa Monica and Santa Cruz have secured such permit programs, however, the commission has shut down similar efforts in cities like Venice and Palos Verdes.

The city has very few residential parking permit zones, and nearly all of them are located outside the most highly impacted areas.

Both council women stated that they’ve started discussions around instituting more metered parking in the business corridors in their districts, with the possibility of meters being extended further north and south into residential streets in Belmont Shore. It could also include meters being installed on 4th Street’s Retro Row.

“It is a way to help circulate some traffic for the businesses where as right now you might have people who work on 4th Street park in front of the shop that they work at,” Pearce said. “There’s nothing that the business owner can really do so it’s a question of how do we make sure that we’re preserving parking for those that are trying to come to business corridors, but also provide parking for residents?”

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A car is parked on a yard in Alamitos Beach. 

It could also include instituting permit-only parking in certain parts of town like Belmont Shore. The study will look at the use of permits during nighttime hours to allow for residents to be able to park closer to their homes.

Not included in this particular requested study, but a possible solution to that question, lies in Pearce’s pursuit of potentially extending the one-way traffic of Third Street and Broadway farther eastward. Broadway is one of the first streets to receive the benefits of Measure A and Pearce said that it could include this reimagining.

If approved, the one-way segments of both streets could be extended from Alamitos to Redondo Avenue, creating a bike lane as well as over 100 head-in parking spaces on each street.

While that may not sound like much, people living in those surrounding neighborhoods could tell you the value of a single space, let alone hundreds of new ones.

In Belmont Shore, the study could look at opening up beach parking lots to residents for overnight parking with permits if the Coastal Commission allows it. The commission has a mixed history of approving or denying requests for preferential parking districts.

If the city were to get approval from the coastal commission to move forward on one or all of the ideas that have been previously proposed or come out of this new study the public outreach effort would begin.

Price says that she’ll push for the report to conform to the 60-day timeframe that was originally requested and then, depending on feedback it gets from staff, options can be implemented based on the amount of red tape attached to them.

For instance, if the coastal commission allows for permitted residential parking zones and it only requires signatures for a petition, that can begin immediately. Something with a more broad or expensive undertaking—purchasing and installing parking meters—could take several months.

Both Pearce and Price are determined to come up with real-life solutions for their constituents, ones that don’t involve pie-in-the-sky promises of parking structures. However, both are realistic that parking improvements will most likely require some form of concession on the part of residents and employees.

Workers might have to relinquish their curbside parking spot in front of the shop they work. A trolley service that has been introduced as a solution to the parking logjam at Ballast Point Brewing could be extended to serve the 2nd Street shops.

However, Pearce said that while parking solutions are important for day-to-day quality of life improvements, policies should not discourage alternate modes of transportation. Visitors have no other choice, but for residents, perhaps riding a bike or taking a cab are better ways to access some of the city’s hotter and parking-impacted spots.

“We still have to be really careful and make sure we’re incentivizing people to ride their bikes, to walk, to take transit because the people that live here are the ones that can have the most impact on changing the mobility priorities in our city,” Pearce said. “Because when you have guests come, they’re going to drive here.”



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