Friday, January 10, 2020

A Brief History of Permit Parking in Venice

Recently I have seen several social media posts calling for overnight restricted parking for residents, so I thought I would set to paper some of the history of past efforts.

Residents in Venice have lobbied for overnight restricted permit parking for over 30 years.  In city parlance, they have called for an overnight parking district or “OPD” for Venice.

The pressure for permit parking grew dramatically in the late 1990s as the number of RVs and campers in Venice grew to over 250 vehicles.  This was amplified by numerous instances of the dumping of human waste by RV and camper dwellers in street gutters and even on residents’ lawns and gardens.  Late night noise, loss of parking and use of the vehicles for drug sales and prostitution were also frequently cited by residents.

In roughly 2004, under City Councilwoman Cindi Miscikowski, who was districted into Venice late in her eight years on the City Council, the city began the process of establishing an OPD for Venice that would allow residents on each block to implement overnight restricted parking by a 2/3rds vote by petition.

Eventually, under Miscikowski’s successor Councilman Bill Rosendahl, the permit application was approved by the Venice Neighborhood Council.  Following approval, OPD opponents forced a referendum vote on the VNC’s action.  Venetians for Venice, the predecessor to Venice Stakeholders Association, filed a competing initiative that favored OPDs. 

Here’s KNBC’s February 22, 2009 story on the vote result: 

In an advisory election, Venice residents voted to allow neighborhoods to restrict overnight parking, according to the Venice Neighborhood Council.

Residents voted Saturday on two VNC initiatives recommending what to do about transients and others who have been living out of vehicles parked on city streets.

Initiative A, which recommended that neighborhoods not have the power to create so-called Overnight Parking Districts that limit overnight parking to local residents, lost by a vote of 634-868 with 9 abstentions.

Initiative B, which recommended that local residents be granted the right to establish OPDs, won by a vote of 891-608 with 13 abstentions.

More than 1,500 people voted, and some stood in line for as long as an hour at the one polling place, which was the Venice Public Library.

"The number of people voting in this election is a tribute to the grassroots groups that got out the vote for their respective initiatives, and to the interest Venice residents had in the outcome," said VNC President Mike Newhouse.

The OPDs that are in effect in many areas of Los Angeles and Santa Monica were created because residents were having a hard time finding street parking because of a shortage of driveways and garages, and because a growing number of homeless people are living in vehicles parked on the streets.

Under OPDs, only local residents would be allowed to park in front of their homes, and they would have to pay $15 a year for a parking permit, said Measure B organizer Mark Ryavec. An OPD could not be set up without the approval of two-thirds the residents of a neighborhood, he added.

Opponents said banning the homeless from overnight parking on city streets would be unfair and inhumane because they have few other options.

But Ryavec said that of 500 blocks in Venice, only 40 have sought OPDs.

The vote was advisory, and the Los Angeles City Council would have to approve such parking restrictions.

Before the vote, the city had decided that OPDs required a Coastal Development Permit so the city had processed and approved a CDP under its own requirements.  After the vote, the city filed for a CDP with the California Coastal Commission for the Venice OPD, since Venice is in a dual permit zone.

While the commission staff recommended approval of the CDP for the OPD, the commission rejected it.

Venice Stakeholders Association was formed to challenge the commission’s rejection of the CDP in court.  Funds were raised, legal counsel retained and a lawsuit was filed against both the Commission and City of Los Angeles.  The suit held that a CDP was not required for OPDs under State law, especially because a nighttime curfew was in place for the Boardwalk and beach, so no one needed parking at night to visit the beach.

Also in 2009 Carmen Trutanich was elected Los Angeles City Attorney.  After he was elected, he called me and told me that he was on the side of Venice residents and joined our lawsuit, which was a significant boost to our legal challenge. 

Twice over a four-year period the VSA and the city reached an agreement on new conditions for implementation of Venice OPDs with CCC staff, only to have the commission itself reject their own staff’s recommendations.  The leading protagonist against OPDs on the Commission was Commission president Sara Wan, a resident of Malibu where no RVs and campers are permitted at night on city streets.  

Between the first and second negotiations, Coastal Commission staff told Councilman Rosendahl that in other jurisdictions the Commission had allowed the installation of “No Oversize Vehicles 2-6 AM” (“OVO” for Oversize Vehicle Ordinance) restrictions without requiring a CDP or any approval from the Commission.  So, Venice Neighborhood Council member Stewart Oscars and I worked with Rosendahl’s staff to amend and tighten the OVO then in use in San Pedro and Brentwood to produce a Venice-specific OVO, and it was passed.  (After I collected the requisite signatures, Rosendahl had a DOT crew put up the first OVO sign on my corner.)

Of course, this led to a proliferation of people living in vans, trucks and cars that did not exceed the 7-foot OVO height limit, so many residents still wanted the option of permit parking on their block. (As bad as the problem was then, no one imagined that "the van guy" would put 15 rental vans on the street in a two block area around the Venice Post Office some years later.)

In 2013 Trutanich was defeated by Mike Feuer.  As Trutanich was leaving office, he withdrew the city from our case against the Commission (and I have never learned why).

With two unsuccessful negotiations, we prepared to go to trial on the underlying lawsuit.  Judge Chalfant, noting that the City had withdrawn from the case, asked that the VSA obtain assurances from the City that if we prevailed and removed the requirement for Coastal Commission approval residents would be allowed to apply for OPD permits for their block.  Our attorney, John Henning, reached out to the new councilman, Mike Bonin, for that assurance.  Henning called Bonin and also sent him a registered letter with the request.  Bonin refused even the courtesy of a reply.

We were forced to dismiss our case for lack of the assurance from the city that it would allow its own ordinance and permit process to go into effect, despite the fact that the Venice community had officially voted 56% in favor of OPDs.  To this day, support for OPDs remains the official position of the Venice Neighborhood Council.

With an anti-OPD councilman in office, I cannot see the possibility of success of a new effort to implement permit parking in Venice.