Editorial

L.A.'s grassy parkways should not be parking spaces

Of course people shouldn’t park their cars on the city’s parkways, the often grassy strip of land between the sidewalk and the street curb. Planting cars on the parkways is ugly, destructive to public infrastructure and, because the cars drive over or block the sidewalks as well, dangerous for pedestrians using the public walkways.

Yet for five years, L.A. leaders have allowed the practice to flourish, essentially turning much-needed green space into parking lots and forcing walkers to share the sidewalk with vehicles. It’s time to start ticketing rogue parkers again and return the sidewalks to the public.

This being Los Angeles, the reason for the parkway parking debacle is a combination of competing priorities, lawsuits and bureaucratic delays.

In 2011, the city was facing several lawsuits accusing Los Angeles of violating the Americans with Disabilities Act by failing to maintain the sidewalks in a safe condition and by allowing people to park in driveway aprons — the sloped space between the sidewalk and street — potentially impeding disabled people trying to use the walkway. In response, the city began ticketing cars parked in the aprons. Residents were furious that their longstanding practice was suddenly unlawful.

The City Council sided with the residents and directed the Department of Transportation to stop issuing tickets. But the order went further, applying to cars parked on the parkways, which the city defined as both the apron and the strip of land between the sidewalk and curb.

It was supposed to be a temporary halt in enforcement while the city drafted separate rules for parkways and driveway aprons. But five years later, parkways that once were grassy have been flattened and rutted by tires. Some building owners have even installed pylons and posts to block cars from driving up onto sidewalks and parkways in search of parking space. And city leaders still haven’t adopted new guidelines.

There’s no excuse for a delay this long. Los Angeles is supposed to be in the midst of a transformation into a more livable and walkable city. Mayor Eric Garcetti and the City Council are spending $30 million a year to repair broken sidewalks (thanks to those ADA lawsuit settlements) and millions more to turn moribund corridors into revitalized “Great Streets.” They’ve committed to ending traffic fatalities, which often means pedestrians getting hit by cars. Yet the city is still letting cars drive on the sidewalks and park on the parkways.

Yes, parking is difficult in some neighborhoods, particularly those built before car ownership became the norm and parking spots were required in new developments. Some communities have far more cars than legitimate parking spots, making the search for a space time-consuming and anxiety-producing. But that’s no reason to turn precious green space and walkways into parking lots.

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