Bell Gardens

The City Council has asked the Redevelopment Agency to look into acquiring land for a city parking lot to ease a parking crunch at the Bicycle Club that has hurt nearby merchants.

"Maybe we could restore a little harmony in this area," City Manager Claude Booker told about 100 angry merchants and residents who crowded the council chambers Monday. Merchants whose stores are near the card club's entrance on Eastern Avenue complained that the parking overflow from the casino onto Eastern and nearby side streets has chased their customers away.

Residents who live on side streets near the club said that since the casino opened in November, they often cannot park their cars at home or leave their driveways because of the overflow.

City efforts to cite motorists who violate two-hour parking restrictions on Eastern have not been successful, Booker conceded. The city plans to invite affected merchants to a meeting to discuss changes in parking restrictions on Eastern, he said, and curbs at driveways on side streets will be painted red to help prevent vehicle obstruction.

In the meantime, Booker said, an area to the south of the club that has been designated for conversion from residential to commercial development may be acquired by the Redevelopment Agency for a city parking lot for up to 400 cars. If it is approved, the parking lot could be finished in four to six months, he said.

In interviews, area merchants said they have lost customers because casino patrons and employees park for eight hours at a time along Eastern, even filling private lots behind the stores.

When merchants posted hand-crafted signs on Eastern reading "No Casino Parking," the police ordered them removed, the store owners complained.

The City Council has approved an urgency ordinance prohibiting the establishment or expansion of massage parlors and acupressure clinics in the city for 45 days while the Planning Commission prepares a study on zoning regulations for such businesses.

Massage parlors and acupressure clinics, the ordinance says, are often a center for illegal activities such as prostitution. The city recently has received many inquiries concerning the establishment of such parlors and has no ordinance regulating their licensing and zoning, said City Atty. Peter Wallin.

The urgency ordinance, effective immediately, may be extended by the council for up to two years, Wallin said.

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