Parking Crunch to Be Studied : L. B. Council Rejects Building Moratorium

Times Staff Writer

Under pressure from developers, the City Council has rejected a proposed 90-day moratorium on construction of apartment buildings with less than two parking stalls for each unit.

The council voted unanimously Tuesday to have the Planning Commission study the city’s troubled parking situation but refused to go ahead with the building moratorium while the issue is reviewed.

That decision represents a dramatic turnaround because the council had been within a whisker of approving the moratorium just one week before.

During the April 15 meeting, a majority of the council favored the moratorium, but the issue failed to garner the five votes required for approval of an ordinance because three council members were absent.

Prophetic Argument

Councilman Thomas Clark, the principal backer of the building ban, argued during that meeting that the moratorium was necessary to keep developers from flooding City Hall with building permits before the council has a chance to toughen parking requirements.

Clark’s argument proved prophetic. During the week since the council debate, builders have stormed the front desk of the city Planning Department to get their construction plans approved before the council had a chance to adopt the freeze.

Robert Paternoster, Planning Department director, said 131 building applications were submitted to his staff during the week following the April 15 council meeting. During all of 1985, builders submitted only 142 applications, he said.

Developers and real estate agents told the council that the moratorium would represent a step backward for the city, prompting a reduction in Long Beach’s housing stock.

Greg Berkemer, president of the Long Beach District Board of Realtors, said, “All of us want improvement in the quality and quantity of housing,” but cautioned that a building moratorium would “send out the wrong message” to developers.

Some Areas Not as Troubled

Noting that the moratorium would apply uniformly throughout Long Beach, Berkemer argued that some residential sections of the city are not as troubled by parking problems as downtown neighborhoods.

Besides hurting builders, the moratorium would affect people who rent apartment buildings in the city, developers argued. By raising the parking requirement, builders will be forced to construct fewer units on a parcel, meaning that each apartment will have a higher per-unit cost and, hence, rents will be higher.

Other developers said a moratorium would hurt builders who have spent money on architectural drawings and engineering plans for apartment units based on the city’s existing parking standards.

Currently, the city requires developers to supply 1.25 parking stalls for each one-bedroom apartment unit and 1.5 stalls for a two-bedroom unit. In a report to the council, Paternoster called those standards “insufficient.”

The problem is made worse, he said, because about 58% of the dwelling units in Long Beach were built before 1954, when the city first instituted parking requirements.

Among the solutions being proposed by the Planning Department is an increase in parking standards to two spaces for both one- and two-bedroom units. Another proposal calls for widening streets to allow diagonal parking. Others include increased enforcement of ordinances prohibiting the rental of garages for purposes other than parking, the use of preferential-parking districts for residents and construction of new parking lots.

The Planning Commission is to report to the council on possible solutions to the parking problem within 30 days.