A consulting firm hired by West Hollywood to evaluate parking congestion in the area south of Santa Monica Blvd. and west of La Cienega Blvd. has discovered apparent abuses of the city’s parking permit program.
A report from Spencer Consulting Services (SCS) says that commercial establishments are using visitor permits and guest parking permits for their workers. Currently, the city allows any resident with a residential parking permit to obtain up to 50 visitor permits a day, with a maximum of 400 a month. The permits are free and are good for one to 10 days. Residents with their own parking permits can obtain up to two guest permits for an annual fee of $33 each. Guest permits allow parking for one year at all times except during street sweeping periods in the residential districts to which they are assigned.
The SCS study found that occupancy of street parking spaces in the area, labeled District 1, was generally significantly lower than the 85 percent threshold considered “healthy.” For example, in the portion of District 1 east of San Vicente Boulevard, the weekday occupancy average was 51 percent. In the area west of San Vicente, the weekday average was 56 percent.
But on Rangeley Avenue between Almont Drive and Robertson Boulevard, SCS surveys found occupancy rates greater than 85 percent on several visits. Rangeley between Robertson and San Vicente was also more congested.
SCS said its surveyors and city parking enforcement officers discovered local restaurant employees using 10-day visitor permits to park on Rangeley. “SCS believes that such permit abuse contributes as much as 10% to the occupancy rates recording on the two blocks of Rangeley (from Almont to San Vicente),” the report said.
SCS said Parking Enforcement has confiscated five 10-day visitor permits used by restaurant employees parking on Rangeley and five guest permits in District 2 used by employees of two restaurants to park north of Melrose Avenue.
Another indicator of apparent abuse of the visitor permit system, SCS said, is the fact that permits issued in West Hollywood grew from 106,000 in 2006 to 194,000 in 2013. “Most of that 83 percent increase has been in multiple-day visitor permits,” the SCS report said. “They now constitute 61 percent of visitor permits issued, up from 26 percent in 2006.”
“Looked at another way, in 2013 Parking Services issued 1.1 million days of free visitor permits, up 275 percent over 2006.
The city’s Department of Public Works, in a report to the Transportation Commission, said the SCS report “raises concerns on the subject of permit abuse in the district and potentially citywide. The primary issue is related to ‘visitor’ parking passes which are temporary paper hang-tags valid for the date(s) stamped.”
SCS said business owners and their employees may have been driven to acquire guest and visitor permits from District 1 residents because of improved enforcement of commercial parking restrictions in the area. While some “C” or commercial permit parking is possible, the city has been sending commercial vehicles to either off-street lots or underused metered areas with 1M and 1E permits.
“In other instances, residents simply avoid the cost of guest (and maybe even resident) permits by serially obtaining free, multiple-day visitor permits,” the SCS report said. Resident permits, limited to one per licensed driver per household, cost $22 a year for one permit and $179 a year for four permits per household.
The Public Works Department recommends the Parking Subcommittee of the city’s Transportation Commission consider SCS recommendations to reduce the number of visitor permits that residents can receive each month and to increase the penalty for violating the permit restrictions.
Currently, someone improperly using a permit receives a citation from Parking Enforcement and the resident who owns the permit is warned that his permit privileges may be revoked if the infraction is repeated. SCS suggests the city consider a one-year revocation of parking permits on the second instance of abuse of the permit process.
The SCS report will be presented to the Transportation Commission at its meeting Wednesday at 7 p.m. at Plummer Park Community Center at 7377 Santa Monica Blvd. The meeting is open to the public.