Downtown group pushes for permit parking

"Permit parking is coming to downtown. Like it. Hate it. It is happening."

Huntington Beach Downtown Residents Assn. President Kim Kramer uttered these words and versions of them repeatedly as he told residents in the downtown area of his organization's plan to bring residential permit parking in their neighborhoods.

More than 100 residents filled the multipurpose room at the Rodgers Seniors' Center on Wednesday evening as Kramer tried to convince them that having such a system would help address unwanted behavior downtown.

He and supporters of permit parking believe it's a way to keep rowdy, often inebriated, bar patrons from bothering residents. Currently, downtown visitors often park on residential areas to avoid paying for a spot.

Numerous residents have told stories of people getting into fights, relieving themselves on private property and drinking in vehicles before heading to downtown.

"Many of us are tired of the late-night bar crowd parking in our neighborhoods and coming back to their cars at 2 o'clock in the morning causing all sorts of trouble," Kramer said.

Many residents in attendance, however, spoke in opposition to the idea, calling permits an extra tax on the people and saying the process would add another tentacle of government.

"It came off as a threat," resident Elaine Rosen said. "[Kramer] said it was going to happen and if you don't vote for it, it's still going to happen on Seventh Street, then go to Eighth and Ninth. Who says it is?"

The downtown residents association, a private citizens group, aims to enact permit parking for a portion of the downtown residential neighborhood, focusing solely on the streets between Sixth and 12th and from Palm to Walnut avenues.

According to Kramer's proposal, enforcement would be from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily. He is requesting that residents pay the city $23 for one permit and two guest passes, which would all be good for five years. Additional permits for a household, up to four, could be purchased for $6 each. Additionally, Kramer said, residents should have the ability to print out 24-hour guest passes.

"We're going to get a gated community without the gates," Kramer said. "We're going to get all the late-night people out of our neighborhoods."

Huntington Beach has a mechanism in place to allow residents to ask the city for permit parking on their block. According to city staff during a recent Downtown Task Force meeting, 67% of residents on a street would need to agree to such a parking system before it could be put in place.

Kramer said the city's method would create an inconsistent parking layout if some blocks chose to opt out of using permits. He said his plan would make the situation more uniform and easier to enforce.

Mayor Pro Tem Joe Shaw said the City Council has been working to address the alcohol-fueled problems that plague the downtown area. He mentioned the stricter entertainment permits and the moratorium on new liquor stores in the area. He sees the permit parking as another tool to improve downtown.

"Permit parking is a really good third piece of stuff that we can do," he said. "It's going to keep people from parking in your neighborhoods and doing these things you say they're going to do."

Rosen, 76, and her husband, Art, 78, have lived in the area since 1986 and said the late-night ruckus isn't as bad as Kramer says it is.

"I think just penalizing people and making them have to buy parking permits to park in front of their own house or to have guests come over isn't going to change what's going on downtown," Art Rosen said.

He said he believes Kramer's solution would actually cause more problems for the residents living outside of the proposed zone.

"If you [have permit parking] here, it'll just push [unwanted guests] farther out and into the other neighborhoods," Art said. "It's got to be a solution that works for everybody, not just a couple blocks at a time. I don't think it's a practical way to do it."

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