Los Angeles City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky threatened Thursday to yank parking meters from the streets of Westwood and Studio City, saying that nickels, dimes and quarters from his district are being unfairly targeted to help bridge a massive city budget deficit.
Other areas, such as the Chinatown, Koreatown and Mid-Wilshire districts, would also be improperly stripped of their meter revenue under Mayor Tom Bradley’s proposed budget, Yaroslavsky charged.
“The Westside and the West Valley and downtown and Chinatown are simply not going to subsidize the rest of the city,” Yaroslavsky said during a debate on Bradley’s budget proposal. “You are not going to get those nickels and dimes and quarters out of there.”
The councilman predicted that merchants--angry that the money promised to build parking lots is being siphoned off for other uses--might even resort to small-time civil disobedience, such as jamming chewing gum in meter slots.
A council member, with the consent of district merchants, can ask city transportation officials to remove parking meters. Transportation officials said they would probably go along with such a request, although they are not required to. Yaroslavsky said he might relent if a method is found to pay for parking lots that had been planned for Westwood and Studio City.
The budget debate erupted over Bradley’s proposal to take $37.5 million from a parking meter trust fund to help close what is projected to be a $180-million deficit in the fiscal year beginning July 1. Bradley said that he did not like taking the money but that he had no choice in order to maintain city services, in particular the Police and Fire departments.
But Yaroslavsky, head of the Budget and Finance Committee, has said taking the money is unfair to merchants and their customers. He said he also objected because the money will only be available for one year and cannot sustain city services over the long term.
“The council policy and the law of the city has been that the money should be used to build parking lots,” Yaroslavsky said. “Otherwise there is no reason why the merchants of the Westwood Village should put up with parking meters in that area.”
Even if meters were yanked, street parking restrictions would remain in effect. The laws could be enforced by having parking monitors mark car tires.
Bradley’s plan to tap the city’s parking meter fund received harsh criticism from some residents and business leaders.
Tony Lucente, president of the Studio City Residents Assn., which led the effort to get funding for the parking lot, protested that Bradley’s plan is unfair to Studio City residents and business owners.
“The city’s been collecting literally thousands and thousands of dollars from Studio City for years, and we get nothing to show for it,” he said.
Lucente said the lack of parking is hurting businesses in the area and forcing customers to park in residential neighborhoods.
Sondra Frohlich, executive director of the Studio City Chamber of Commerce, agreed. “Having an off-street parking facility in Studio City is of the utmost importance to the residents and merchants of Studio City,” she said.