CityWatch, Sept 13, 2011
Vol 9 Issue 73
RETHINKING LA - Man’s search for parking, Nuch’s search for revenue
The City of LA’s recent enthusiasm for citing Angelenos who park in front of their driveways, in their driveways, and on the apron approach to their property has stirred a citywide debate on blocked sidewalks, limited parking, and uneven application of the law.
It was the abundance of blocked sidewalks in Westwood that originally drew the ire of mobility advocates who invoked the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and took the City of Los Angeles to court.
However, rather than simply direct the City of LA to enforce the California State prohibition against parking vehicles so that they block the sidewalk (CVC 22500), the City Attorney instructed the LADOT to enforce a municipal ban on “Parkway Parking” (LAMC 81.53) which applies to some vehicles that aren’t blocking sidewalks and excludes some vehicles that are blocking sidewalks.
There are two plausible explanations for the City Attorney Carmen “Nuch” Trutanich’s decision to pursue the more complicated and less effective solution to the problem of blocked sidewalks, three if you count simple incompetence.
Last week’s City Watch article on this issue drew significant feedback, from the Palisades to East Hollywood to San Pedro, and the comments tended to be split between those who thought the City Attorney was fearful of losing another ADA case and those who thought the City Attorney was positioning another revenue scheme.
The revenue scheme theory has two parts, the immediate and the long-term.
A source within the City Attorney’s office explained that tickets written on CVC violations resulted in less revenue to the City of LA than tickets written on LAMC violations. Anyone who has been following Nuch’s ACE program knows that the City Attorney considers the LA Municipal Code as a checkbook that can be used by his office to balance the budget.
A property owner in Westwood who has been involved in this battle over “apron parking” for decades revealed that one of the working “solutions” to the ADA battle is a permitting process that, by her calculations, would generate more revenue from her tenants than the property taxes on the apartment building.
In either case, the focus is on revenue, not results, resulting in a long drawn out journey that does little to keep the sidewalks clear for the mobility challenged but does lots to generate revenue for the City of LA.
The ADA lawsuit theory also has two parts, the City’s track record with ADA lawsuits (not good) and Nuch’s solution to the blocked sidewalk dilemma (also not good).
Earlier this year, a Federal Judge agreed with ADA advocates who contended that the City of LA had failed in its ADA obligations to provide the disabled residents of LA with 1) an emergency evacuation and transportation plan, 2) an emergency notification plan, 3) an emergency shelter plan. In all three cases, the City of LA’s key failure was “accessibility.”
More recently, a different Federal Judge agreed with ADA advocates who charged that the City of LA had allowed the sidewalks to deteriorate to such a degree that they presented an access and mobility crisis for the disabled.
The City of LA agreed to 1) install curb cuts or access ramps at 1,000 intersections within the year, 2) spend $4 million per year to improve pedestrian crossing in high-risk areas, 3) bring the entire city into compliance within 25 years, 4) complete a citywide survey of ADA needs, 5) form an ADA compliance advisory committee.
It’s against this backdrop of ADA issues and resolutions that the City Attorney finds himself negotiating for a settlement to the current lawsuit filed against the City of LA, one that addresses Apron Parking as the problem, not blocked sidewalks.
Nuch has rolled over, allowing the plaintiff to frame the debate in such a way that “Apron Parking” is defined as "the practice of vehicles parking in driveways so they protrude onto the pedestrians rights of way, leaving insufficient space for persons with mobility aids to pass."
An outraged recipient of an LADOT citation argues “This is like defining "Street Parking" as "the practice of parking on the street parallel to the curb so the car protrudes onto a driveway opening, leaving insufficient space for persons with cars to pass into their driveways," Or, "metered parking" as"the practice of parking in a metered space without paying the meter." It is a fallacious definition.
Nuch continues with the smoke screen by pointing toward Sacramento and asserting that LA’s problem requires State legislation to solve, ignoring the simple fact that the State of CA already expressly authorizes municipal authorities to implement a process that would allow owners or lessees to park in front of their driveways. (CVC 22500 and CVC 22507.2)
As for the concerns brought up by Councilman Koretz on the State’s silence on “Apron Parking,” the legal standard of “silence is consent” has been around since the 14th century. In other words, that which is not forbidden is permitted.
Based on the actions of Koretz in City Council, it is apparent that he believes that there can be and should be ADA compliant “Apron Parking” in the City of Los Angeles.
Why then is the City Attorney insisting we need state legislation before we can implement a program?
At the Magic Castle, this would be referred to as misdirection, an integral element of sleight-of-hand. Of course, at the Magic Castle, the audience knows that it’s simply the illusion of reality.
At City Hall, the misdirection keeps the LADOT citing vehicles that have nothing to do with blocked sidewalks, using a municipal code that has long been up for revision, demonstrating that the behavior isn’t wrong, it’s just citable.
The City Attorney’s misdirection also keeps the City Council pontificating on the false dichotomy between an apron parking system which fully protects the rights of the disabled and the legitimate parking needs of neighborhood residents. The irony here is that in some cases, it is the disabled who are negatively impacted by the current apron parking restrictions.
Whether Nuch’s misguided instructions to the LADOT are part of a simple scheme for increased revenue to the City of LA or a poorly executed response to pending ADA litigation, the result is the same, the sidewalks are still blocked but the aprons are clear.
The issue has resonated through the Palisades, resulting in a community action that addresses the LADOT’s inability to apply the law in the context of the environment. When the issue is blocked sidewalks and there are no sidewalks, why is the LADOT citing people for parking in their driveways or in front of their driveways?
The LADOT’s citations for LAMC 81.53 violations carry a first time penalty of $58, a late fee of $116, and cost $141 for the second offense.
In times such as these, it is absolutely arrogant and cavalier of the City Attorney to avoid the real ADA issue of blocked sidewalks in favor of a revenue scheme that has significant negative impact to the residents of Los Angeles.
Watching Nuch fumble the “Apron Parking” issue brings the words of former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Ruth Galanter to mind, “I used to believe in conspiracies, until I discovered incompetence."
(Stephen Box is a grassroots advocate and writes for CityWatch. He can be reached at: Stephen@thirdeyecreative.net.)