CANOGA PARK : Merchants Oppose Policy on Tickets

Angry Canoga Park merchants met with city parking officials Thursday to discuss merchants' claims that the city has been driving away customers by being overly aggressive in handing out parking tickets.

"People are saying 'I'm not going to come down here,' " said Nikki Berry, who owns an antiques shop on Sherman Way. "I think this area is being harassed."

The merchants say the city of Los Angeles has stepped up its enforcement of parking meter violations in recent years, probably to make up for declining revenues.

But Department of Transportation General Manager Robert Yates said that in reality, parking tickets have declined over the years due to staffing cuts. And he pointed out that the meters were originally installed at the behest of merchants, who wanted to prevent non-customers from parking for long periods in front of their stores.

But he promised to work with the merchants to help them resolve their problems. Any merchant with complaints about parking meter enforcement is asked to call the city Department of Transportation at (213) 485-2291.

Meanwhile, the merchants say they will begin collecting signatures for petitions asking the city to extend from one to two hours the time limits on parking meters along Sherman Way and various side streets. The merchants say that will protect customers who come to their stores for quick visits and then decide to stay longer.

To extend the time limit, the city needs signatures from 51% of the merchants in any given area. There will be a meeting for merchants at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the Canoga Park/West Hills Chamber of Commerce, 7248 Owensmouth Ave.

The petition drive came at the urging of Councilwoman Laura Chick, who said she is tired of seeing merchants complaining about the parking meter problem, but doing little to solve it. She also urged the merchants to form an association to increase their clout.

"I want people to put their money where their mouth is," said Chick, who arranged Thursday's meeting. "I'm very frustrated, quite frankly. I'm hearing the same things at all these meetings, and I've yet to see" any concrete action.

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