Amy Bartoloth says she has received more than 50 parking tickets and has paid more than $1,500 in fines in nine years because a shortage of street parking in her Playa del Rey neighborhood forces her to park illegally some nights just to be near her apartment.
Such parking problems are common in many Westside areas where, over the years, single-family houses have been converted to duplexes and triplexes, with no provision for additional off-street parking.
Bartoloth is trying to remedy her problem, and after three years of letter-writing to several city officials, she finally learned of a possible solution.
Jim Fuller, a city transportation engineer, visited Bartoloth's Trolley Way neighborhood last month and he came up with an idea.
"We are thinking that we might be able to put angle parking on the east side of the street and convert it to one-way," he said in a telephone interview last week. "But the only way we would do that, and it's still very iffy, is if everyone there went along with it."
Bartoloth, a moving consultant, said Fuller's words, cautious and preliminary as they were, are encouraging.
"He's been the only one who has called me back," she said.
Fuller, who said his department gets about 500 complaints a month, said he investigated Bartoloth's complaints because of her persistance.
"Normally, we don't go out on complaints, but she was insistent," he said. "I couldn't get rid of her."
Bartoloth said she began her one-woman campaign to solve the parking problem in her beachfront neighborhood because she kept getting parking tickets.
Her triplex has two single-car garages and a driveway with barely enough room for a car to park in front of each garage. She and her roommate share a single space that was squeezed in front of the walkway to the building.
On some nights, when all the street parking is taken and she has been afraid to park far away from her apartment, she has pulled up behind her roommate's car and parked with the back wheels of her car hanging over the sidewalk. Other nights she has parked on the street with part of the car alongside a red curb.
Greeted By Ticket
The next morning, she has usually found a parking ticket on her windshield.
"I have received over 50 parking tickets in the nine years that I have lived here, and they have all been for either parking in the red or tandem parking in my driveway," she said. "The point is that it's not out of any other reason but necessity that I park there. I have nowhere else to park."
Bartoloth said she began writing letters explaining her plight to Mayor Tom Bradley, county Supervisor Deane Dana, Los Angeles Councilwoman Ruth Galanter, Police Chief Daryl Gates and the city transportation and parking enforcement departments.
She said Gates has been the only one to write back to her, saying that a preliminary investigation by police concluded that if people on her street used their garages for their cars rather than for storage, there would be ample street parking.
"There may be some people using their garages for storage, but even if everyone parked in their garage, that still would not solve the problem," Bartoloth said.
(Rick Ruiz, a spokesman for Galanter, said last week he was still trying to track down Bartoloth's letter. In general, however, he said it has been difficult to get permit parking for neighborhoods near the beach because of state laws requiring public access to beaches.)
Bartoloth said that because most of the duplexes and triplexes on the street have two or three bedrooms, often with two or three single people living in each, a minimum of six parking spaces per complex would be needed. Most offer only two single-car garages and space on the driveway for two cars.
Bartoloth said she is excited about the prospect of angle parking along the 1,000-foot-long stretch of the east side of Trolley Way because it would create about 10 additional parking spaces. That, combined with permit parking for residents, might solve the problem.
Although a possible solution may have been devised, it could still be a long way from happening, Bartoloth said.
Residents have to agree to the solution, and with a somewhat transient rental population, it could be difficult to get residents involved.
Julie Inouye, a board member of the Playa del Rey Network, a community group, said that in the past, renters have been hesitant to get involved in community issues.
Inouye said other neighborhoods groups in Playa del Rey have been unsuccessful in getting the city to establish permit parking because it has been difficult to get volunteers to circulate petitions, write letters and call city officials.
"It takes a lot of work," she said.
Inouye said her group has not been asked to get involved in solving the parking problem on Trolley Way, but she said that if it were asked, much of the burden of lobbying would have to come from the renters.
Bartoloth has taken that first step by circulating a petition on her street asking the city transportation department to formally look into relieving the parking problem on Trolley Way.
She has about half the 500 signatures she estimates she needs.
"It's been hard," she said. "But if we are going to get something done, we're going to have to write more letters."
She has enlisted the help of another resident, Gene Cuthbertson, an importer-exporter who has lived on Trolley Way for 10 years.
"I'm one of the more fortunate in that I have a parking space," he said. "But my problem is with my guests who are forced to park their cars behind mine with their rear wheels hanging over the sidewalk. They are usually ticketed."
Bartoloth said she hopes parking enforcement officers will stop ticketing cars on her street while they try to resolve the problem.
But Jimmie Morgan, an area supervisor for the city Department of Transportation's Parking Enforcement Division, said his officers had been showing some discretion in citing cars until a few months ago when he received a complaint from a resident that cars parked on the sidewalk were blocking his morning walk.
"We try to use some discretion when we are aware of a parking shortage in a given area, but when we receive a complaint from a resident, then we have to respond to that," Morgan said.
He said if he is formally notified that city officials are looking into the matter, officers may resume showing discretion in issuing tickets.
But, he cautioned, "I can't turn the law around because someone made an error in judgment in moving into an area knowing there was a shortage of parking. People know that they have to make certain sacrifices if they want to live by the beach."