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Venice residents support overnight parking restrictions

February 23, 2009 |  1:23 pm


Venice residents turned out in force Saturday to affirm their support for overnight parking districts, or OPDs. This being Venice, however, the Venice Neighborhood Council election naturally sparked controversy.

By limiting overnight parking, proponents hope to curtail the number of people living in cars and recreational vehicles on the community's streets. The problem has grown in magnitude over the last few years, and many local residents say they are fed up with seeing decrepit campers and other vehicles.

They have been campaigning for years to win restricted parking in their neighborhoods. Residents stood in line for an hour or more to vote, and many left without casting a ballot because they ran out of time.

The line, according to many there, wrapped around the Venice library and stretched to the end of the parking lot on Venice Boulevard. The crowds persisted most of the day.

All told, more than 1,500 people -- a record turnout for a Venice Neighborhood Council election -- voted on two initiatives. Initiative A would have rescinded the Venice Neighborhood Council board's approval of OPDs. It failed, by a vote of 868 against to 634 in favor, with nine abstentions.

Initiative B affirmed that Venice residents have the right to establish OPDs for their blocks. That passed, with a vote of 891 in favor, 608 against and 13 abstentions.

The big problems started when volunteers unsealed the ballot boxes and began to count votes. Ivan Spiegel, the chairman of the council's election committee, decided there were too many ballots to count that night before the library's 6 p.m. closing. One polling place volunteer (who happened to be anti-OPD) and a pro-OPD activist objected to halting the counting.

But the ballots were put back into boxes and resealed, with representatives from each side signing the tape to ensure that they would not be improperly opened.

Volunteers reconvened Sunday in a community room at a public storage facility to tally the votes, and the results were issued Sunday afternoon on the neighborhood council's website.

It was a victory for pro-OPD forces, to be sure, but the battle is far from won.

Councilman Bill Rosendahl's office supports the OPDs, and the Los Angeles City Council has approved them. But a handful of residents appealed to the California Coastal Commission, which has jurisdiction over areas of Venice closest to the beach. The commission indicated it wants to take a closer look at overnight parking districts and their implications. Because the commission is charged with maintaining the public's access to the coast, it wants to be sure there is enough early morning parking to accommodate fishermen, joggers, surfers and others.

The panel is expected to take up the matter again in June.

"The first petitions for OPDs were signed in the community 12 years ago, and it's clear one can't wait to find a solution to where to put these RV dwellers," said Mark Ryavec, co-chairman of the neighborhood council's "homelessness and vehicular occupation ad hoc committee."

That panel has been scouring the region for possible sites where groups of RVs could park without disturbing neighborhoods.

"It's a difficult challenge," he added. "I'm encouraged by the vote and am cautiously optimistic that eventually the community will be able to improve their quality of life."

-- Martha Groves

Photo: Spencer Weiner / Los Angeles Times

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