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Blog: West Hollywood Parking Politics

By extending the parking meter rates until 2 am and removing 60 spaces on San Vicente, the City wants you to spend $9 to use the new parking structure.

Last month, the West Hollywood City Council postponed extending the parking meters along Santa Monica until safely after next March’s election although it was obvious there were four votes to adopt the proposal of extending the meter hours west of La Cienega until at least midnight.

During the city’s budget deliberations the city manager had proposed increasing our law enforcement budget by a million dollars and fund same by extending the parking meter rates until 2 in the morning on the west end of Santa Monica Boulevard. Given that the city had already doubled the parking meter rate, there was a good deal of protest from Boy’s Town businesses and patrons.

Rather than characterizing the extension of the meter hours as a simple money grab, the city retained a high priced consultant to come up with a convoluted rationalization for why extending the meter hours was good thing for local businesses.

The study asserted that after 8 p.m. much of the parking was taken up by employees of local businesses. By extending the parking hours until midnight, there would be more turnover in the parking spaces for patrons, which ultimately would create more parking for local businesses.

Aside from this rationalization being more than a bit contrived and detached from reality, it was pretty obvious that turnover and helping local businesses was hardly the city’s actual priority.

The elephant in the room was the obvious reason the city was extending parking meter hours was to force patrons to use the city’s underutilized and expensive parking structure in West Hollywood Park.

While council members claimed there is a severe parking shortage on the west side of Santa Monica, they failed to remember that they have recently removed at least sixty parking spaces on San Vicente between Santa Monica and Melrose.  Given that Boy’s Town is one of the city’s most vital business areas, taking away street parking for any reason makes no sense.

It seemed rather cynical to blame the employees of local businesses for our parking shortage when the city is eliminating parking spaces. Given that it costs anywhere from fifty to seventy thousand dollars per space if you have to build a parking structure, removing the parking on San Vicente represents a loss of millions of dollars. But since the San Vicente parking meters were competing with our new parking structure, the city removed them to force Boy’s Town patrons to pay nine dollars for an evenings parking rather than simply a couple of bucks at a meter. 

Only Councilman John D’Amico pointed out that if West Hollywood is trying to keep Boy’s Town relevant by making it accessible to younger people, providing reasonably priced parking was essential. 

But the majority of the city council cynically blamed the area’s parking woes on the employees of local businesses. When representatives of Mickey’s and Yogurt Stop provided horror stories of being extorted due to the limited amount of parking available to provide employee parking, John Heilman was dismissive, saying it was not the city’s business to provide parking for employees.

While this is technically true, John D’Amico pointed out that by approving so many new businesses without sufficient parking that the city was responsible for creating a parking shortage that has proved costly to both patrons and employers.

Like much of West Hollywood, Boy’s Town evolved without creating sufficient parking as employees and patrons were allowed to park in residential areas. After incorporation, the city created permit parking zones to protect the tranquility of the adjoining neighbors. While this was the right thing to do, it immediately exacerbated a critical parking situation. If the city wants to keep our local commercial areas vibrant, then the city needs to invest in creating parking and then charge reasonable rates to patrons and create an affordable program for employees of local businesses. The horrific cost for providing employee parking is a drag on our municipal economy. Visionary leaders would recognize that the city needs to be a partner in finding a solution rather than simply shoving the blame for our parking problems on businesses.

As several people testified, West Hollywood has developed a bad reputation for being more interested in ticketing patrons of local businesses than encouraging visitors. The city seems far more interested in money raised via parking tickets than fostering a visitor friendly city. The attitude is "Welcome to West Hollywood, here’s your $63 parking ticket." (It also wouldn’t hurt if the City bought the ticket appeal process in house so that you could actually deal with people who understand West Hollywood).

Even the city’s revenue estimates were suspect. Transportation Commissioner Scott Schmidt pointed out the staff projected a million dollars in income when the recommendation was to extend the meters until 2 a.m. and then quoted the same figure when the hours were shortened to midnight. Obviously those estimates raise suspicions as to the competency or veracity of staff.

The under estimating of revenue is an old accounting trick that the city uses so that our finance department always looks good. The only upside to under estimating revenues is that it gives the city council fewer opportunities to squander money. 

Aside from the rather heavy handed attempt to force patrons into our new parking structure, my other issue is the way the city conditioned the much needed increase in our law enforcement budget on the meter increase.

During the budget process, the million dollar increase to the law enforcement was something of an afterthought. Ideally the council should calculate the cost of providing the level of law enforcement that we need as a priority. Instead it came after the council added $100,000 to our arts program budget and created a new Special Events Manager position that will cost the city approximately $200,000 annually. Ideally these less than priority items should have not taken precedence over providing sufficient funds for public safety. Indeed when you throw in the nearly $100,000 we paid for the rainbow cross walks at San Vicente, these "extras" total almost half the money we need to provide adequate law enforcement. This is without even looking at the nearly million dollars we spend each year on Halloween. Obviously this is not rational budgeting.

The long and short of it is that the city needed the revenue for law enforcement and it wanted to increase the use of our new parking structure. 

We could have saved the $100,000 plus we probably paid to the consultant who drafted the meter rationalization if the city council would have just been honest about our budgetary needs. Alternatively the council could have looked at alternatives to raising the meters during the budget process. Of course that might have meant making hard choices.

If the city really wants to keep Boy’s Town vibrant and relevant as a regional center of gay culture, it really needs to stop harassing businesses with various bans and limitations on parking and start treating our gay businesses as partners rather than adversaries. Parking will continue to be a source of conflict as long as the city does not do everything it can to maximize parking opportunities.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

brad January 15, 2013 at 07:08 PM
I wondered about that crosswalk at Starbucks, I'm all for it, different subject, but does anyone push the button? A much better approach would have been a real lighted on, i.e. yellow flashing, then red when pushed. But really, hiring a consultant for this issue? What a waste of money, how about polls? Literally and figuratively.
Wesley McDowell January 15, 2013 at 07:17 PM
I'm all for that crosswalk, too, but it should be a real light like the one at the Chinese Theater where you have to push a button to activate and wait until it's safe to cross rather than just walking out into oncoming traffic and expect (or dare) cars to stop. Really, are we in such a hurry that we can't wait a bit to safely cross the street and not impede traffic when doing so? Yes, this is all off the subject of parking but is related to the way we do things in Weho.
Peter B January 15, 2013 at 07:23 PM
My neighbor gets into his car to drive three blocks to the gym. Sadly, he's not atypical. So stop all the whinning about your parking dilemas. It's time to ditch polluting cars, trucks and Selfish Useless Vehicles (SUVs); instead start using public transit, bicycles and maybe even your legs. Whoever chooses to congest our roads and pollute, deserves to pay through the nose for that piviledge. On the other hand, we can continue our idiotic car dependency till we reach critical mass. Then we can impose a West Hollywood Congestion Charge such as the one London and may other enlightened cities collect. Now we're talking REAL revenue!
me January 15, 2013 at 07:49 PM
yes, lets make all of the streets and freeways into vegetable gardens too, right???.....yur absurd with yur own "whinning"......hmmm, yur first comment ever on the patch is this?....heilman, is that you??
Jeffery January 15, 2013 at 08:40 PM
If the city wants to alleviate parking on Santa Monica in the evening and create turnover for businesses then the best way to do that is to offer better rates at the garage. I for one vote every election cycle on Parking issues, the council should know that we in boystown are tired of being taking advantage of.
Jeffery January 15, 2013 at 08:45 PM
Traffic problems on Santa Monica or Sunset cannot be construed with Parking issues! The traffic and subsequent events to get around in traffic in our city are regional problems with a lot of traffic moving through the city in the morning and evenings because of shifting demographics and population and work centers in our region. The parking issues discussed here are entirely created by city hall!
CA native January 15, 2013 at 08:56 PM
Some very valid points raised. Why slam only Boystown when it is the Sunset Strip that sucks up the vast majority of law enforcement resources. The city really needs to welcome visitors and business by making it convenient to park. One way would be to create a parking assessment district. Otherwise, we are poised to go the way of once vibrant Westwood, whose notorious parking problems eventually crushed it into a ghost town. As for parking meters, some of us have often requested that enforcement times for the parking meters on San Vicente between Beverly Blvd and Ashcroft be increased, particularly on weekends. These meters do not service WeHo at all but rather service the Beverly Center and Cedars Sinai, neither of which pays one penny for WeHo services. At least the meters would help provide some revenue to offset the traffic impacts. The city's response is always a blank stare and an incoherent excuse. Why not activate these meters nights and on Sundays?
Sheila Lightfoot January 16, 2013 at 10:38 PM
As Steve points out, the root of this issue is the “why” - to pay for the added law enforcement the City needs and to herd folks into the expensive under-used new Library parking lot. The City gets a two-for and the residents and businesses get screwed… again. Riddle me this: If the City is as flush with money as Council constantly brags it is and they have no problem spending about $3 million a year on events, WHY does the City need to collect more parking money to cover the primary responsibility the Council has to its residents – protection and safety? And, if the expensive Library parking was supposed to be the solution to the westside’s parking problem, as Council proclaimed, WHY are we still discussing a parking problem? Because they live in a bubble of developers, consultants and their own distorted egos… that’s why. All Prang ever says is how great their process works and what a good steward of our money he is. Hah! Vote in Steve Martin in March and watch how the discussions change!
Sheila Lightfoot January 16, 2013 at 10:51 PM
And to Peter B: You’re right in that too many car trips are local. I worked with Lucas John to bring the idea of a “WeHo Trolley” to the Council. They didn’t like it, said people wouldn’t use it and put it where most resident initiated ideas go - into the black hole at City Hall. Our offers to staff of sharing more detailed ideas from our research to serve residents as well as visitors have gone nowhere. They’re looking for revenue, not solutions.
GoodGriefCharlieBrown January 16, 2013 at 10:59 PM
If Prang is such a good "manager", I keep wondering why he can't seem to hold down a job, even one that seems to me to be given to him as a political favor. What else as he done besides suck off the public nipple? An "assistant manager" of the city of Pico Rivera? A "special liason" for Sheriff Baca? A 'Special liason" for John Noguez? Puh-leeze! I've asked what his work background is prior to these funny, fuzzy "public service" jobs, especially his present one which seems to be nothing more than a snipe hunt,, and no one seems to know. It is my assessment that someone so ill-defined, who has such a questionable personal work history is not qualified to advise anyone else, much less "manage" the affairs of a city. What has he done besides suck up to Heilman and Land and support their positions? I'm waiting
WeHo Driver January 16, 2013 at 11:39 PM
Well off, middle aged city council members don’t mind paying $9 to park on those rare occasions when they go out for a few hours and come home and crash a little after midnight. They’d rather have another million dollars to feed the city government. That is not the reality for most people. The typical guy going to a club in Boys Town is a young guy, perhaps a student or working entry level jobs, who does not have an extra $9 to spend as a gift to city hall. If he has the $9, it’s $9 that won’t be spent in a business. Whatever money the city takes is money taken from the businesses it’s purporting to “help” by charging more for parking. And many people simply won’t show up. Clubs and bars don’t thrive only on people spending money; they thrive on the size of their crowds. Patrons attract more patrons who spend money, especially the young patrons who create the fun atmospheres. The best way to support Boys Town – both its businesses and Boys Town for what it is – is to make it accessible to everyone (what works for affordable housing apparently doesn’t work for affordable parking in this city). City council members who stand no chance with the young ones (notwithstanding their aggressive Grindr habits) don’t mind if the city turns into one East West establishment after another – bars with ten rich people dropping hundred dollar tips and no one else in sight. East West failed, and it’s a failed vision for the city to shut people out.
WeHo Driver January 16, 2013 at 11:42 PM
Then there’s the “parking lot closes at 2:30” rule. Middle aged council members who can’t stay awake past 1 AM are happy to kick everyone out. Never mind afterhours, eating with friends, sleepovers with a new buddy, or sobering up to drive – the council wants you out, and it wants the revenue from towing your car if you stay past 4 AM to make way for the daily “street sweeping” that doesn’t happen except according to the no parking sign. Beyond the personal feelings of the council, what about these “consultants” who get paid to multiply parking spaces times hours times price to calculate revenue? Who needs to pay a consultant to do basic math or point out that accessible parking is good for everyone and less is bad? Who would go into that work? Someone with an ax to grind, like “Peter B” above, who hates cars and the people who use them, who wants everyone else to stop using cars until he gets one – and to get one, becomes a “parking consultant” charging so much money that he can buy a car and pay the $9 parking regime that excludes average people and leaves plenty of empty spaces for him. Never mind that in their world, no one from out of the area would come to Boys Town (as if guys would walk there from the OC or the IE, or ride unicorns and fairy dust once the “parking consultant” found a way to ban other people’s cars). Now that they’re highly paid “parking consultants,” they’re happy with the East West vision, too.
WeHo Driver January 16, 2013 at 11:43 PM
There are many ways the city could provide cheap parking if the council cared to make parking accessible. For example, La Peer could become a one way street going south and Almont one way north, with diagonal parking along a side of each street (like the diagonal parking the city took out on San Vicente for parking structure revenue). And in the city of big government controlling everything, how about a tax on businesses that don’t allow their parking to be used at night? That’s money for the city council to play with, right? The revenues could offset parking prices or provide a nighttime shuttle down Santa Monica Blvd, and those business that don’t want to pay the tax could enter into agreements with nighttime businesses for their employees to use their lots – no liability to random strangers parking there. Nightlife employee parking problem solved. Would the city council go for a new revenue stream, or does that thought of creating accessible parking repulse them? Lastly, many people don’t know it, but there’s plenty of free street parking a couple blocks away in Beverly Hills. Like WeHo, you get a ticket if you’re parked past 2:30, but it’s a great way to avoid paying $9 to the WeHo city council.
judson greene January 17, 2013 at 02:48 AM
Enough is enough! Councilmembers elected at large don't have to represent anyone cause they don't have to care! This council needs to stop with the bull---t, the attacks on residents with their whisper campaigns and strong arming businesses. I bought my home where I did so that I could New York my life and not be in a car but I forgot the council won't give us a trolley down the blvd. For local business employees they park on my street and we have become friendly over the years. I love Koontz, our PO people, our shop and food business owners and will always try to give them our business! But I want a city council that won't give US the business and serves developers, billboard owners and out of town businesses! Vote Steve Martin! By the way he knows how to budget!!
larry gust January 17, 2013 at 05:24 AM
Excellent points made Steve ! The "Rainbow City"( really?!!, how sophomoric) is definitly going to kill it's nightlife with it's overcharged everything! including the parking rates and hours......the kids are already in the Silverlake/Echo Park area for nightlife...a Rainbow Crosswalk.....embarrassing.....and $100,00....plus the cost of the "consultant" fee !!!! and they call that good city managment??!! P.S. the Laurel Hardware employees DO park in our residential areas in the daytime....their patrons puke on the lawns and sidewalks more than any bar in the area....are noisier walking thru the streets as they park on Fountain,etc. and walk to Laurel H. Hudson a much busier establishment and larger has caused, for the most part much less neighborhood problems than Laurel Hardware.....and after someone is hit & killed using valet parking to go there, as I have witnessed on 4 or 5 occassions......they're gonna be hit with a suit that will take most of their supposed bags of money. Santa Monica Blvd. Can NOT handle valets opening car doors into traffic....and already partying customers stepping out of their cars into the One lane going East that exists, as they're talking on their cell phones and not paying attention.......trust me thats the crowd they get.......yes it's hot right now and at night It Is...not so much in the daytime, which is what they said they would focus on., not the booze bar hangout it is.............check back in 18 months.....
larry gust January 17, 2013 at 05:31 AM
Correction.....I have not witnessed 4 or 5 people being hit and killed.....I have seen 4 or 5 people Nearly HIT.......just like the argument we had as a neighborhood that they dismissed..........won't even get into the lying about.....oh we are going to be a lunch place with beer and wine.....no hard booze........It's a bar with appetizers.....and obnoxious patrons and ruder help if asked about parking on our neighboring streets.......
Stephanie January 17, 2013 at 06:39 AM
Here's a link to another article on the new Parking Plan. You can also vote. http://westhollywood.patch.com/articles/city-addresses-8-p-m-parking-meter-enforcement
Sheila Lightfoot January 17, 2013 at 08:53 AM
Steve's common sense approach to this situation is just one of the many examples of why I am doing everything I can to make sure Steve and his common sense are on the City Council after the March election.
WeHoMikey January 17, 2013 at 08:16 PM
City Council members care not about parking. They have their special hang tags that let them park anywhere in the city at no cost to them.
Wesley McDowell January 17, 2013 at 08:38 PM
John Heilman has been seen parking on several occasions in the no parking area at the library entrance while going to Jones Coffee. Why can't he park in the parking structure like everybody else rather than acting as if he is privileged. Leading by example might even encourage use of that facility. By the way, has anyone ever looked into haw all this was financed?
Riley January 17, 2013 at 11:20 PM
Hey! I have an idea! The current City Council members aka the incumbents, John Duran and Jeff Prang, are always saying "We have term limits, they are called elections. If you don't like the council people vote them out." GREAT IDEA! let's folllow their advice! Vote the incumbents out on their own suggestion! VOTE THEM OUT. Vote for STEVE MARTIN AND SAM BORELLI FOR WEST HOLLYWOOD CITY COUNCIL !
joninla January 19, 2013 at 09:36 AM
FIRST POINT - THE REVENUE THE CITY ANTICIPATES IS A WINDFALL FROM ADDITIONAL PARKING TICKET REVENUE. SINCE THERE IS (AFTER 25 YEARS) AN EVEN GREATER SHORTAGE OF PARKING IN WEHO FOR RESIDENTS, VISITORS, GUESTS, EMPLOYEES OF LOCAL BUSINESSES AND THE PATRONS OF THOSE BUSINESSES ...... I THINK IT IS OBVIOUS ..... OUR (I AM SURE OVER PAID/HIGH SALARY FOR EXPERTISE) CITY PARKING DIRECTOR HAS NOT JUST FAILED TO PERFORM THE JOB HE WAS HIRED TO DO, HE HAS SERIOUSLY JEOPARDIZED THE CURRENT AND FUTURE WELL BEING OF THE CITY, ITS RESIDENTS AND FISCAL NEEDS OF THE BUSINESSES IN THE CITY AND THE REVENUE THEY GENERATE BACK TO THE CITY IN TAXES ET AL. CLEARLY A TOTALLY INCOMPOTENT PROFEASSIONAL .... OR .... JUST MAYBE A 'YES' MAN FOR HEILMAN AND ALVAREO WHO NEED THEIR $16 MILLION DOLLAR ROBO-GARAGE THAT WILL NOT PROVIDE A SINGLE NEW SPACE FOR RESIDENTS, VISITORS OR SHOPPERS/NIGHTLIFE COMING TO THE CITY. (THEY STARTED WITH NO USE OTHER THAN CITY HALL ... HEMMED AND HAWED ... WELL MAYBE SOME AFTER CITY HALL CLOSES ..... THE ROBO GARAGE IS NOT FOR THE BENEFIT OF ANYONE BUT THE MAJOR DEVELOPERS WHO ARE REQUIRED TO BUILD NEW PARKING TO GET ZONING INCREASES ON THE NEW MEGA LA BREA PROJECTS AND HOTEL(S) .... AT CITY COST ON CITY LAND.
joninla January 19, 2013 at 09:40 AM
SECONDLY - AFTER $64 MILLION IN OUR NEW PARK/LIBRARY ... DIDN'T ANYONE THINK THAT THE WHOLE THING SHOULD HAVE BEEN BUILT IN REVERSE .... WITH THE LARGE TOWERING PARKING LOT (WITH LIBRARY ATTACHED) ON THE NORTH SIDE OF THE SITE (WHERE IT COULD AND WOULD BE ACCESSABLE TO THE GAY BARS/CLUBS AND LOCAL SHOPS THAT ARE THE HEART OF THE WEST SIDE BUSINESS IN WEHO?? (NOT TO MENTION, WHY PUT THE TALL GARAGE ON THE SOUTH SIDE, BLOCKING POTENTIAL SUNLIGHT (WHICH THE TREES THAT WOULDN'T HAVE HAD TO BE REMOVED WOULD HAVE PROVIDED NICE SHADE)
joninla January 19, 2013 at 09:43 AM
Please take pictures if you can each time Heir Heilman uses his citywide parking .... which is strictly limited to use while conducting City Business and a violation of the parking code for anyone (even the city council members) who abuses them.
joninla January 19, 2013 at 09:47 AM
@Sheila ... it's been a while ... but the more you continue to give out good advice ... the more frustrated I get with you not running for City Council. I really think you have care, concern, intelligence and ability to take all sides into consideration. grrrr .... Please run the next time. I'll vote for you! :)
joninla January 19, 2013 at 09:57 AM
@Shiela You are absolute correct in needing to understand the "why". Though the language has changed slightly, "LAW ENFORCEMENT" does not necessarily (and in this case does not) mean additional funding to our local Sheriff's Department as the only appropriate source of "Law Enforcement" for our City. As I recall, the additional "Law Enforcement" coming from the parking revenue, was to go towards staffing a full time 24/7 'professional' private security guard service for the new Robo Garage. 24/7, 365 days a year will require a full time staff of many (perhaps a dozen) at annual sararies commesserate with the bloated payscale the City doles out to it's official city employees (which is what a city hired private security guard for the robo garage will get paid ... plus benefits). The Sheriff's budget was cut serverly a few years back (I trust you know the dollars and date) and I sense a big rift between that decision and the feelings/attitude our Sheirff's Department has for the City Council, particularly Heir Heilman. So for $16 million we get no new parking, an outrageous annual cost to run the robo garage, a staff of security to watch the precious 'toy' (quoting Duran during one city council meeting) and the parking revenue (FROM TICKETS ... NOT FROM MONEY IN METERS) will come from residents and visitors with NO NEW FUNDING FOR THE SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT.
joninla January 19, 2013 at 10:03 AM
After using the new "crossing light" daily (numerous times) it really is stupid how they did it. When I cross the street, I don't mind waiting a moment if there is a good flow of traffic, which will cease when the light at westbourn changes, but pressing the dumb button light gives no clue to the drivers if/what/when it is necessary for them to stop and after years of exercising a very small amount of patients crossing that street without any care or concern ..... I now find it more difficult and the confusion of the drivers has put me (and my dog) at more risk, not less, of a rogue car speeding unaware of the odd NOT-A-TRAFFIC-SIGNAL flashing.
joninla January 19, 2013 at 10:08 AM
I agree ... It is absurd to target the employees of our local business for the city parking. BUT IT IS THE EASIEST GROUP TO VILLIFY AND POINT THE FINGER AT SINCE THEY HAVE NO REAL VOICE. SERIOUSLY - is the city saying that are local business are thriving so well, that their employees are the cause of the parking problem and not the close to 100,000 weekend cars/people who come into weho for all things (not just nightlife). Are the stores so packed with employees that there is no room left for patron to enter and shop??? The city council should be ashamed for their glaring lack of logic in making up this stupid excuse for our city's parking problems.
martel January 28, 2013 at 10:05 PM
west hollywood has a city parking director?!
David Bonfiglio August 06, 2013 at 05:21 PM
Very good blog! Heaven forbid that employees should have an affordable way to park at their low paying jobs, we can't have that now. The streets belong to everyone, not just business owners and their patrons, but to workers as well. And how about taking Amex at meters!

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