Enforcing parking meters until midnight came a step closer to becoming reality as the West Hollywood Transportation Commission approved the controversial plan at its Wednesday night meeting.
City staff is proposing longer enforcement of meters as a way of creating greater turnover of street parking after 6 p.m., when enforcement for most meters in the city ends. Staff is basing the idea on the experience with Sunset Boulevard, where meters have been enforced until 2 a.m. for years.
The proposal would see meters on major thoroughfares on the Westside of town (Doheny Drive to La Cienega Boulevard) enforced until midnight Monday-Saturday; in the mid-city area (La Cienega to Fairfax Avenue) until 10 p.m. Monday-Saturday; and on the Eastside (Fairfax Avenue to La Brea Avenue) until 8 p.m. Monday-Saturday.
Additionally, the proposal calls for meters throughout the city to be enforced on Sundays from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Currently, most meters in town are not enforced on Sundays.
Meters on side streets would not be affected; enforcement would continue to end at 6 p.m. Meters on Sunset Boulevard would continue to be enforced until 2 a.m.
The intent behind the proposals is to push people intending to stay for several hours into long-term parking lots, like the library parking deck, thereby freeing street parking for people wanting to make shorter stops.
Parking consultant Mott Smith cited studies saying that when more than 85 percent of metered spaces are being used, the public perceives the area as being full. In those situations, some go to long-term lots, but others give up and don’t stop, thereby depriving area businesses of potential customers. Greater turnover of metered spaces is needed to create the impression that parking is easier to find, Smith said.
Of the 15 people who spoke during public comment, about a third were in favor of the proposal. The rest thought the idea had merit but needed tweaking.
Of particular concern was where restaurant/bar employees would park after dark. City staff plans to create special parking permits for business employees to use meters that are under-utilized after 6 p.m. Those under-utilized meters are on side streets and on San Vicente Boulevard between Beverly Boulevard and Melrose Avenue.
Public commenters and commissioners both worried about the safety of employees walking to their cars in the early morning hours with their pockets full of tips. Public Works Director Oscar Delgado suggested safety patrols and/or private security could escort groups of employees to their cars. Delgado also said the city could likely arrange for employees to park in the Pacific Design Center and Pavilions parking decks.
Another concern was what the city would do with the estimated $1 million annual revenue generated by longer enforcement. City staff suggested earmarking it for increased sheriff’s patrols. Commissioner Scott Schmidt argued that the money should be put into the city’s parking trust fund. Commissioner Lindsey Horvath reminded him that the City Council would ultimately decide where the money goes.
Commissioners also urged staff to do greater outreach to educate residents and businesses about the meter changes. Horvath said better signage was needed to direct people to off-street parking.
In the end, the commission voted 4-1 to approve the proposal. Schmidt voted against it. Commissioners David Eichman and Leon Shparaga were absent.
The proposal now moves to the City Council for final approval.