I am writing this to clear up much misinformation that I have seen recently in print and heard in discussions, regarding the proposed purchase by the city of the house at 205 La Verne Ave., and to have it converted into a parking lot.
I am in a unique position in that I am a Parking Commissioner, a director on the board of the Belmont Shore Business Association, a long-time resident, a business owner for 20 years, and a commercial property owner. I don’t think there is anyone else who can look at this from as many angles as I do. It also affords me the opportunity to become well informed because I attend all of the various meetings that pertain to this issue. I take my responsibilities in all these positions very seriously. (I was out of town for the Feb. 20, 2014 Parking Commission meeting, but listened to the audio recording in its entirety).
First, I would like to state that the Parking Commission, actually formally called the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Area Advisory Commission, is an advisory body. The members have no governing power. We meet once a month and advise the City on ways to improve the parking situation and business community. We also monitor the condition of the street, the medians, and the alleys. Our recommendations are sent on to the city council and other parts of city government. In the last year we have implemented an employee bus pass program to encourage employees of Belmont Shore businesses to ride the bus – it has been very effective. We also studied and identified many outdated “green” 24 minute parking spaces and “yellow” loading zone spaces and then turned them into regular parking spots.
The commission is made up of 3 business owners, 3 commercial property owners, and one resident. Actually, at the present time, 3 of the 7 commissioners are Belmont Shore residents. We are all volunteers.
It has been very disheartening to me to hear some of the comments made about the various parking commissioners. We are all hard-working people who donate our time to this task of analyzing parking. We are not doing it because we are a bunch of money-hungry individuals who only care about ourselves. I know of many, MANY, instances of individual commissioners spending copious amounts of their own time and money assisting the community in various ways, many times not publicly.
Because I moved to Belmont Shore in 1969, I have witnessed many changes in the landscape of the Shore, and I have seen the resistance of residents to these changes. I grew up down the street from Howie’s Market on Covina Ave. I remember when they removed 2 houses next to the alley where the parking lot behind Peet’s Coffee now stands. My mother told me that people did not like the change, but that more parking was needed. In the present day, I do not think anyone walks by that parking lot and thinks that it being there affects the quality of life in the Shore.
I was also here when my sister Julie, along with 4 other families, came up with the idea of creating the “tot lot” at Park and Livingston. Residents fought that like crazy saying they didn’t want their home values lowered by “screaming kids,” and they demanded that no bright colors be used on the equipment. In the original tot lot everything was painted beige because of these residents. It was a huge effort fighting so many residents, and now today, so many families have enjoyed it over the years.
205 La Verne
The very simple history behind how this situation came about is this: one commissioner noticed the house on the alley had been for sale for many months. He knew that approximately 25 years ago, the commercial property owners had voted to tax themselves to raise money for just this possibility – buying one of the many homes adjacent to the alley that were zoned for parking long ago. He checked to see if the owner would be willing to sell it to the city and the answer was yes, and then the city confirmed that they would be willing to bid on it. There was enough money accumulated in that designated fund to cover the purchase. This transpired in December of 2013; there was no parking commission meeting that month so it was not discussed. Rather than bring it to the January Parking Commission meeting, it was decided to hold an informal meeting with the residents on La Verne Ave. first.
Here are some of the erroneous things that I have heard:
1. The Parking Commission is looking for homes “to take”
Answer: No, it is not. This one home happened to be in the right place at a time when we have accumulated the funds. The home is not being “taken”, it would be voluntarily sold by the homeowner, and there is no list of futures homes to be bought. There is no list. In fact there would be no money left in the fund to buy any other homes after this purchase.
2. After they take this home, what’s to stop them from knocking down another and another?
Answer: there is no more money and we are not going out and looking for homes to tear down.
3. It’s only 8 spaces, that won’t help anything.
Answer: It is actually a net gain of 10 spaces because conceivably 2 spaces would be used by that home. But in any case, I personally believe that even 8 spaces would be helpful.
4. The businesses only care about themselves.
Answer: I do not agree with this. I am a business owner and know many business owners in the Shore. If we had this attitude, no one would patronize us anyway.
Here is a list of parking suggestions that we have considered time and time again:
1. Use the beach parking lots.
Answer: We can’t. The Coastal Commission controls them and they are designated for beach use. They would never reassign those lots to us. Also, if a business owner insisted that his or her employees park there and anything at all happened to them or their property, the employee could sue them. We can’t force our employees to park there.
2. Use the bank lots.
Answer: we have no control over the bank lots – they are private property. Many of them allow residents to park there after hours but it is solely up to them.
3. Put in a multi-level parking structure
Answer: Various sites have been proposed over the years, but every time there is an objection by residents. No one wants the parking structure near their home, and putting it at one end or the other favors businesses at that end.
I have empathy for the owners next door at 207 La Verne Ave. I requested that they be taken into consideration, and the Parking Commission filed a motion to have the city look into compensating them in some way. I believe that having those extra spaces will actually help the people on La Verne Ave. because it will take that many more cars off their block. Many of them could park there for free from 7PM to 10 AM the next morning.
Let’s be honest here folks about the parking problem. I believe that much of it is due to the residents, not because of visitors to the area. We have growing families where every family member now has his or her own car. And many residents use their garages for storage and park all their cars on the street.
I personally do not feel that taking 1 home out of approximately 2, 000 is going to destroy the Shore. I do not think anyone visiting the Shore is going to walk down 2nd St., look to the north when crossing La Verne Ave., see a parking lot, and say, “Oh my! How horrible! I will not be returning to this community.”
Someone said to me “YOU, Lisa, made this happen?” No, I did not. I do not have that kind of power. It is up to the city council to make the decision. I just voted yes to a proposal, as part of an advisory board because I believe it will help the Belmont Shore community.