Study: Parking plentiful in Downtown; not so much in Alamitos Beach

Downtown Long Beach has parking, but you’re going to have to pay for it. In Alamitos Beach, parking remains at a  premium at any price.

That was the finding of a report presented to the City Council Tuesday night before the body deliberated over ways to fix the parking issues in the city’s core.

The parking study was prompted by a local parking-oriented nonprofit, Long Beach Transportation and Parking Solutions (TAPS), after it sued the city. The lawsuit ended in a settlement in October 2016.

The city commissioned KOA Corporation to carry out the roughly 18-month long study, which examined parking issues in Downtown and in neighboring Alamitos Beach.

While the report confirmed residents’ realities that there is in fact a parking shortage in Alamitos Beach, it also found that there was actually a surplus of parking in Downtown. The surplus was identified in the area’s off-street paid parking lots and structures.

“When we say there’s an excess of available parking that does not mean that on any given hour that every visitor or resident is able to find exactly the parking space they want at exactly the price they want or exactly the moment they want,” said Christopher Koontz, the city’s development services planning bureau manager. “What it does mean is that numerically there is an excess supply of parking and that is demonstrated in the counts that were done.”

The 100-plus page report identified a number of reasons why parking is scarce, or remains unused, in both parts of the city. In Downtown, the study found that of the 17,600 parking spaces, about 15,000 are off-street parking spaces located in paid lots or structures.

Parking rates range from run about $1 per hour in metered zones in the area and daily parking can cost anywhere from $5 to $24 a day.

However, in Alamitos Beach there are only 230 off-street spots and the 5,000 on-street spots are near full utilization during peak hours during the weekdays, with turnover rates being rated as fair to poor as the average stay is between 2.03 hours and 2.86 hours. This was attributed to the bulk of the spots being on residential streets or located near businesses.

Exacerbating the shortage is the fact that some people are using valuable garage space for storage rather than the housing of vehicles. About 20 percent of respondents to an outreach survey admitted to this practice according to the report.

Study calls for better parking options in Alamitos Beach and Downtown

Residents alleged that other issues stem from neighbors collecting cars which are left parked in on-street parking as a means to store them.

Kelsey Simpson said that neighbors turning school buses into “Cool Buses,” parking ambulances and other unconventional vehicles on Long Beach streets has negated the gains made in some areas by the city’s recent restructuring of parking stalls to expand capacity in Alamitos Beach.

“What that did was allow the guy on my street who collects hearses, he currently has six of them, and he’s just added a seventh I counted on a bike ride the other day,” Simpson said. “It continues to allow him to add to this on-street parking problem. I’m guessing that he doesn’t drive a hearse and his normal car so that would add an eighth car that a [single] resident is storing in our neighborhood. The more you circle around the angrier you get at the hearses.”

The report showed that nearly half of both Downtown and Alamitos Beach residents reported spending 20 minutes or more searching for a parking space with one-third of Alamitos Beach residents reporting that they spend 30 minutes or more looking for a spot.

It also identified a number of ways the city could help limit the impact of the parking shortage in the two areas in the near and long term.

Adding parking spaces in both areas is a possibility as the report identified possible parking additions in Downtown (39) and Alamitos Beach (58) if certain streets received diagonal parking modification upgrades. The report also suggested that a partial solution could be found in providing shuttle service to residents forced to park in remote locations.

In the Downtown area, additional signage guiding residents to paid parking lots was recommended as were a number of price adjustments for off-street and metered parking areas.

For Alamitos Beach “garage clean up days,” where residents would be encouraged to clear out stored items to make room for vehicles was identified as one option as was the potential for preferential parking districts to be created within individual neighborhoods.

The report also identified the construction of traditional and robotic parking structures as a possible solution to the area’s parking woes. These options would cost tens of millions of dollars but could add hundreds of spots to the area.

Debbie Dobias, president of Long Beach TAPS, was critical of the report and its findings, alleging that it did not follow the spirit of the agreement between the city and her group. She asked the council to take serious steps toward addressing parking in Downtown and called for a moratorium on new developments in the area until data on parking impacts could be better analyzed.

“For $250,000 [the cost of the study] you got something that looks more like a staff report, stating little more than what the city was already willing to do,” Dobias said. “History tells us that very little will change regarding parking if you turn over further action to staff now unless you decide to really work with your residents to help us find solutions.”

Second District Councilwoman Jeannine Pearce threw out a number of ideas including the potential of working with businesses who don’t utilize their parking lots after closing and whether the city could look into not ticketing red painted curbs during certain hours. Pearce promised to bring forward unspecified official parking related requests in January.

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