A local parking commission has voted to support a controversial city effort to tear down a home and turn it into a parking lot in Long Beach’s upscale Belmont Shore neighborhood, over the protests of residents.
Parking has been a contentious issue for decades in the community, where residents vie for space with visitors who come for the shops and nightspots along a densely-packed 14-block stretch of 2nd Street.
"I don't think there's a single solution to our parking problem," said Bill Lorbeer, a commissioner who also owns commercial and residential property in the neighborhood.
"But I believe there are a number of potential improvements...and this very well may be one of them."
In November, the city began closed-door negotiations with the seller of the home, a small two-bedroom house behind Simmzy’s, a popular burger and beer bar on 2nd Street.
The city made an undisclosed offer, which has been accepted and will ultimately require the City Council’s approval. The home was initially listed at $669,000, according to real estate website Redfin.
Dozens of neighbors packed into a tiny community room at the local library Thursday morning to discuss the possible purchase of the home.
The debate over the lot – which would yield eight parking spaces – stretched on for nearly two hours, with most neighbors fiercely opposed to what they deem an intrusion into their narrow, palm-lined residential streets.
“I’ve had many good neighbors and I would love to see neighbors there again,” said Gail Mutke, who lives next door to the house.
“I just don’t think that $80,000 a space is using your money wisely.”
Don Dame, a resident of 50 years, agreed.
“What you’re doing is you’re changing the lives of people for the worse, and you’re not going to gain anything.”
Dame, who also owns a business along 2nd Street, added that the idea won’t make a difference unless the city revises zoning and business codes to stem the flow of traffic.
But other locals insisted that residents are far from blameless, complaining about neighbors who exacerbate the problem by leaving multiple cars parked on the streets.
“As a business owner, I pay per employee for parking that doesn’t exist,” said Tula Trigonis, who has owned a salon on the commercial strip for more than two decades. “I know people hate change. But I was born and raised here…and I plan on being in business for another 20 years.”
Halfway through hearing, the discussion was interrupted – fittingly – so audience members could replenish their parking meters.
The advisory commission, which is composed of three commercial property owners, three business operators, and one resident, voted 4 to 1 to support the city’s plan to purchase the home.
“If most people don’t like the idea, I would think we’re jamming it down somebody’s throat,” said Eric Forsberg, the resident’s representative and lone dissenting vote.
While the panel has no final decision-making power, the City Council has rarely opposed one of its recommendations.
“There’s plenty of great partial solutions. There is no cure,” to the parking crunch said Kurt Schneiter, a commissioner and commercial property owner. “We’ve had opposition on so many great ideas, and unfortunately a vocal few sometimes stop great potential projects.”
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