Residents and merchants will have a chance to propose ways to improve the parking situation in Old Town during a special workshop tonight at City Hall.
The unusual forum is designed to begin a dialogue on solving one of the most divisive issues in the city.
Members of both the City Council and the Planning Commission plan to attend the event, which was organized in response to complaints from Old Town residents about the lack of parking for customers of Main Street businesses.
Residents contend that as a result of the parking shortage, customers park in the adjacent residential neighborhood, taking spaces away from people who live in the area.
Certain to be a hot topic at the workshop is Seal Beach's disputed "in-lieu parking program," in which businesses that cannot provide enough parking for patrons pay the city an annual fee of $100 per space.
Residents have criticized the program as ineffective because the city has not used the collected funds to build a new parking lot.
Merchants, on the other hand, are fearful that tougher parking rules will prevent businesses from expanding. They said it's not their fault that many of the buildings that line Main Street are more than 40 years old and were built at a time when adequate off-street parking was not important.
City Manager Jerry L. Bankston described the 7 p.m. workshop as informal and designed to permit the public a chance to express views and ideas. The council is not expected to take any action at the meeting.