Caltrans announced this week that signs will go up Monday ordering a long-awaited--and long-threatened--ban on afternoon rush-hour parking along Pacific Coast Highway in Hermosa Beach.
Karl Berger, an associate engineer for Caltrans, said Tuesday that road crews will complete preliminary restriping sometime this weekend along the city's 1.7 miles of PCH. Caltrans four months ago announced that it would ban parking from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. to add an additional travel lane for southbound commuters.
By Monday, he said, the curbside parking lane for which Hermosa Beach merchants have fought for some 20 years will have been erased in an attempt to ease congestion along the coastal thoroughfare.
The move, intended to stem the increasing number of rush-hour collisions on PCH's southbound lanes, is to be re-evaluated by Caltrans one year after it begins.
Nonetheless, business interests in the South Bay's tiniest beach city predicted that the ban will turn PCH into a speedway and cripple merchants, whose customers in many cases have nowhere to park but at the curb.
"I'm not looking forward to this policy," said Werner Kindor, sales manager for Vasek Polak Porsche/Audi, one of three Vasek Polak auto dealerships along PCH. "People do not do business where they cannot park."
Wilma Goin, manager of the 95-unit Marina Villa Apartments, concurred. Built in 1961, the Marina Villa has only one parking space per apartment in its lot, she said, and guests and roommates have traditionally parked on the street.
"Ninety percent of my tenants get home between 3 and 7," Goin said. "Where'll they park when they get home? If they have company for dinner, where'll their company park? This is going to make it very tough for me to rent apartments."
But proponents of the ban have complained for years about Hermosa Beach's stretch of California 1. Although rush-hour parking has been banned for some years on the east side of the highway, the west side merchants have clung doggedly to their curbside slots, which create a bottleneck at the city limits.
Because Manhattan Beach bans curbside parking, motorists can pass freely through that beach city, Berger said. But as soon as they reach the Hermosa Beach line, they encounter a row of parked cars and must merge from three lanes into two.
It was unclear Wednesday whether the city will immediately begin enforcing the parking ban or attempt to phase it over a two-week period. Berger said the signs erected this weekend will say "No Stopping, Tow Away, 3-7 p.m. Monday-Friday."
But City Manager Kevin Northcraft said that Caltrans initially had agreed to precede the formal signing with a series of signs warning that, in two weeks, those who park along the thoroughfare during rush hour will be towed.
Northcraft said there were a number of other details yet to be worked out with Caltrans, but he did not know whether those might delay the ban.
However, Berger noted that residents in the city have known that the ban was coming since this winter, when Caltrans met publicly with the City Council to discuss it.
In fact, the ban was to have gone into effect on Feb. 1 but was delayed because of problems transporting the signs, Berger said.
"It's been a long haul, and I'll believe it when I see it," Berger acknowledged. "In fact, I plan to go out there on Monday afternoon, just to see if what I've been told is the truth."