Stuff the Meters Made
A powerful source of public funding is deployed.. how exactly?
The following piece explores the structure and function of the Belmont Shore Parking Commission.
It was published originally on BSN Patch in early 2011. At some point it disappeared from the archive, denying us important background.
New Year's Resolution for Belmont Shore: Let's Do Something About Parking in 2011
by Mary Lou Fulton
There are many wonderful things about living in the Shore, but the daily struggle to find a parking space is not one of them.
I have often wondered about the lack of a strategy for addressing our parking problem. I've lived in and visited other popular communities like the Shore where cities have implemented permit parking and other approaches that support the interests of both residents and area businesses that count on spending by visitors for their survival.
So instead of just talking and complaining about it, I decided to do some research into the situation and share what I've learned in the hope of finding some kindred spirits who also might be interested in finding ways to address this problem. Here's what I found:
There is a city commission created specifically to address parking in the Shore.
The Belmont Shore Parking and Business Area Improvement Advisory Commission "recommends to the Mayor and City Council solutions to parking problems in Belmont Shore and the best utilization of funds obtained from the parking meters in Belmont Shore," according to the Commission's web pages on the City of Long Beach's web site.
There are seven members of the commission. Three positions are held by "Belmont Shore real property owners," two are held by "Belmont Shore business operators" and one is designated as the "Belmont Shore resident representative." One position is vacant.
The real property owner commissioners are William Lorbeer, owner of the property management company Lemco and chair of the commission, Ken Trossen of Equity Brokers, and Kurt Schneiter, a real estate developer/property manager and owner of Maverick Investments; the business operators are Joy Starr, owner of the Rubber Tree, and Marsha Jeffer, owner of Mailboxes Etc.; and the resident representative is Eric Forsberg.
The commission meets on the third Thursday of every month at 8 a.m. at the Bay Shore Library. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan 20.
The commission oversees a big budget -- including $687,000 in annual Shore parking meter revenue
According to a copy of the commission's budget obtained from the city auditor's office, there were three revenue sources in fiscal 2009-10 totaling $910,379:
Parking meter revenue of $687,047
Belmont Shore Improvement District revenue of $153,691. This revenue comes from annual city license fees paid by Belmont Shore businesses. For more information about the history and purpose of business improvement districts in Long Beach, see this helpful overview.
Mello-Roos Assessment District: $69,543. This revenue comes from a small portion of annual property tax revenues (12 cents per square foot) paid by Belmont Shore commercial property owners. This Grunion Gazette article provides more background on Mello-Roos and how it has been used in the Shore.
Belmont Shore Agency Special Assessment Fund: $98. I don't understand the source of this revenue, but it is very small relative to the overall budget.
In 2009-10, expenses recommended by the commission included paying the Belmont Shore Business Association $172,625; paying the Long Beach Conservation Corps $113,000; paying West Coast Power Wash $35,850; paying the city public works department $56,000 to maintain the parking meters; and spending $18,050 for landscaping, lighting and flags.
There was no detail on how the Business Association spends the $172,000, although the Association is responsible for managing the Belmont Shore Improvement District and these may be related administrative charges.
The Conservation Corp and power washing expenses appear to be related to the costs of keeping 2nd Street clean and pretty. On its web site, the Long Beach Conservation Corps mentions paying local youth to assist with steam cleaning, trash pickup and landscaping in Belmont Shore.
The really large expenses in the budget pertain to land purchases and improvement projects, such as the $1.2 million spent this year to repave the commercial alleys behind 2nd Street.
Regarding upcoming expenses, at the November parking commission meeting commissioners discussed spending $150,000 to $200,000 for "gateway" signs at the entrances to Belmont Shore, although a decision was postponed until January.
This budget is a complicated one because it combines revenue from multiple sources and also includes debt and land purchases authorized under the Mello-Roos Assessment District. However, I think it's safe to say that most, if not all, of these investments primarily benefit 2nd Street businesses. There don't seem to be any projects or expenses directed at parking problems experienced by residents.
Preferential resident parking is available in other parts of Long Beach, and in other beach communities
I didn't know this was possible until I read about how residents living near Heartwell Park successfully petitioned the city to limit non-resident parking to one hour from 3 pm to 9 pm Monday through Friday, and 8 am to 6 pm Saturday and Sunday.
These districts are created "to alleviate serious problems in certain residential areas of the city due, in part, to the misuse of available off-street parking, the parking of motor vehicles on-streets therein by nonresidents thereof for extended periods of time, and the ignoring of public transit alternatives to automobile travel available to said nonresidents, resulting in neighborhood decline in said areas by reason of traffic congestion, noise, air pollution, traffic hazards and inability of residents therein to park their motor vehicles near their residences," according to the municipal code.
To ensure that this special parking zone was needed near Heartwell Park, the city undertook a study that found that 86% of the vehicles parked in the neighborhood did not belong to area residents. All the details are in the attached city report recommending adoption of the preferential parking district.
The process for creating a preferential parking area is described in Long Beach Municipal Code 10.32, which you can find on MuniCode.com or in the attached document.
Many other beach communities offer preferential parking for residents, including Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach and Laguna Beach. Residents of downtown Huntington Beach requested a preferential parking area because of "ongoing issues with late-night bar patrons causing a disturbance in the neighborhoods," according to the Huntington Beach Independent.
So with all this in mind, I would like to make these requests of the Belmont Shore Parking Commission:
1. Make neighborhood-wide parking issues a priority in 2011. Use a portion of parking meter revenues (how about $100,000, which is just 15% of the $687,000 total?) to study the problem and recommend solutions for all of the Shore. Pay for a parking study similar to the one conducted near Heartwell Park, and take into account time of day, day of week, time of year and the south vs north sides of 2nd Street. Hire a consultant to survey and summarize how other communities like ours manage their parking for both residential areas and business districts.
2. Move the commission meeting time so that more residents can attend. Instead of Thursday morning, when most people with full-time jobs are at work, how about an evening or weekend meeting time?
3. Make more of an effort to inform and involve the Shore community. Take out ads in publications that are widely read in the Shore, such as the Grunion Gazette and now Patch.com, to promote upcoming meetings where public input is especially important. Create a quarterly newsletter delivered to Shore residents to inform them about Commission priorities and investments. Include information about how to contact commissioners on the city's web site -- currently only Mr. Lorbeer lists his email address.
I would like to close by saying that my purpose in gathering this information is in the spirit of finding parking solutions that benefit businesses, residents and visitors. Businesses need more parking, but there is little land available for new lots. The parking crunch leads residents to hoard street parking spaces, further diminishing available spots for visitors to 2nd Street and the beaches. Members of the Belmont Shore Parking Commission, please look beyond 2nd Street and take a broader approach to assessing this problem that affects all of us in the Shore every day.