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Time Runs Out For Free Parking on Ventura Blvd.

Times Staff Writer

‘It appeared to be a good idea to have meters so people can find a place to park, but it’s turned into a nightmare.’

Elaine Vollmer, retailer

Joe Miller sees red when he looks out the front of his Woodland Hills real estate office.

Instead of the convenient customer parking space that always has been a few steps from his door, there’s now a bright red curb.

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The freshly painted Ventura Boulevard curb is a sign that Woodland Hills’ first parking meters are on their way.

Los Angeles transportation officials have ordered 650 meters to be put in between Corbin Avenue and Woodlake Avenue. When they are installed in a few months, free parking will be a thing of the past along the entire 20-mile length of Ventura Boulevard.

City officials say meters have become necessary for street-parking turnover for merchants who complain that unmetered spaces are hogged by office workers and other daylong parkers.

The new meters will be accompanied by a two-hour parking limit and a squad of traffic-control officers who will enforce that restriction.

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Began in 1955

Ventura Boulevard’s first parking meters were bolted onto sidewalks in Studio City’s main business district in 1955. They’ve been installed steadily westward since--reaching Tarzana in April when the 3,600th boulevard meter was installed.

“Now, we’re taking them out to the cows,” joked Jerry Berman, a senior parking analyst with the city Transportation Department’s office of parking management.

“When we began putting them in Tarzana, we had a lot of opposition in the beginning. People said, ‘You can’t put parking meters in sleepy little Tarzana.’ I said: ‘Look outside. It’s not Sleepy Hollow anymore. Look at Encino. It’s coming your way.’ ”

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Metered parking spaces are 19 feet long and are marked by painted stall markers on the street. Every two metered spaces are accompanied by a shorter red-curb buffer zone that allows easy access to stalls in front and back.

Parking meters are not placed in areas with less than 19 feet of curb space, such as the front of the Gribin von Dyl realty office that Joe Miller manages.

Some complain that the city’s king-size parking slots waste valuable space when more small cars can fit onto unmarked spots.

“There’s no rhyme or reason to why they’re doing it,” complained Harvey Dlugatch, president of Gribin von Dyl. “They’re wasting valuable space. There are a lot of retail stores on Ventura Boulevard that have no parking except for what’s at the curb.”

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Steve Shuken, owner of Vista Ford in Woodland Hills, received an even greater shock last week when city crews showed up at his curb with their red paint. They turned 15 boulevard parking spaces into a no-parking zone.

“I said how can you do this? You’re destroying my business,” Shuken said. “To make a long story short, it was an accident. They came back two days later and painted over the red and gave back the parking.”

Parking meters will soon be lined up in front of Shuken’s rows of new cars.

Most boulevard merchants who already have meters outside their shops agree with the city that the devices free up parking for customers.

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“Before they were installed, we used to have cars sitting parked out front forever,” said Renee Wolfe, assistant manager of the Magic Emporium in Tarzana. “But on the other hand, the meters can be a nuisance. Customers run in for one minute and go out to find they’ve gotten a ticket.”

Shoppers in Studio City say they were greeted with a flurry of citations when meters were installed a few weeks ago along a stretch of the boulevard west of the community’s main business district.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Raoul D’amantte, owner of a hair salon that bears his name. “One lady was putting money in when an officer came up and started writing a ticket.

“The other day they gave one of my clients who had money in the meter a ticket because they said she’d been parked there longer than two hours. I know that wasn’t so . . . she was just having her nails done.”

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Brenda Winchell said she also had money in her meter when she got a ticket--"for parking 6 inches over the white line.”

Federal Express delivery driver Pat Giampietro said he got three tickets in a week, including one for parking his van 1 foot into a red zone.

“It appeared to be a good idea to have meters so people can find a place to park, but it’s turned into a nightmare,” said Elaine Vollmer, co-owner of an off-the-boulevard clothing shop called the Retake Room.

Customers who run into his Studio City tennis shop for change have found an officer writing a ticket when they hurry back outside, Bill Darling said. “There should be a grace period--five minutes, two minutes, even one minute. . . .,” he said.

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There is no need for a grace period for parking meters, said Darryl Roberson, who supervises 21 traffic-control officers assigned to Ventura Boulevard to watch for meters’ red flags.

“Parking meters are pretty self-explanatory, pretty obvious,” Roberson said. “They’re standing there next to the curb park, saying ‘feed me.’ ”

50-75 Citations a Day

Traffic-control officers are expected to use their judgment about when to issue a ticket. They are also expected to check each meter within their jurisdiction four or five times per work shift, Roberson said. A typical officer writes from 50 to 75 of the $13 citations per day. Parking fines--$65 million was collected in 1987, records showed--go into the city’s general fund.

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The officers can quickly tell whether a meter is broken. The old ploy of putting a paper bag marked “out of order” on a meter doesn’t work, he added.

The average Los Angeles parking meter takes in $40 per month, said parking analyst Berman. Last year, motorists dropped $14.2 million in nickels, dimes and quarters into the city’s 36,000 meters, he said.

That money is held until it is reinvested by the city in new off-street parking facilities in the area in which it was collected, Berman said.

Studio City has $434,000 available for a new parking lot and Encino has $142,000, he said. Sherman Oaks has a deficit of about $354,000 in its parking kitty because the city borrowed against the community’s fund to construct a public parking lot, he said.

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More Parking Urged

The high cost of land along Ventura Boulevard means that the city will probably have to negotiate joint-venture parking projects with private developers to construct new lots from now on, he said.

Studio City leaders said they plan to lobby for the quick expenditure of their community’s parking meter money.

Real estate agent Mort Allen said many in Studio City are angry that profits from the meters have not already been used to relieve parking congestion on residential streets next to the business district.

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Allen points out that Los Angeles officials bragged in a 1949 “Accomplishments of the City Planning Commission” report that they had reserved property along the Los Angeles River and next to several neighborhoods to become block-long public parking lots.

Stated the map-illustrated city report: “There is still plenty of vacant land adjacent to the stores which could be acquired and converted into off-street parking lots without excessive cost.”

Not any more.


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