(Los Alamitos, 9/17/2013) A desire to make full use of Los Alamitos’ volunteer Commissioner system combined with a concern about precedent to temporarily stall a solution to parking gridlock at Laurel Park last night.
Consent Calendar Item M seemed straightforward enough: “ Consideration of 3-Hour Time Limit Parking Request at the Laurel Park Parking Lot.”
Basically, the closure of much of the Los Alamitos Medical Center’s employee parking for construction of a new Medical Office Building and parking structure has resulted in the parking lot for Laurel Park being full “at all hours during the day from area employees, making it impossible for residents to use the parking lot,” according to our City Engineer Dave Hunt.
Hunt discovered that the lot now is completely full most of the time. Worse, he observed cars regularly entering the lot searching for a parking place, then having to back out onto Bloomfield because there’s no way to turn around when the lot’s full. That would seem to take the situation from annoying to dangerous.
So Mr. Hunt did what engineers do so well, analyze a problem and come up with a reasonable solution: Limit parking in the lot to three hours. So clean and simple it was put on the Consent Calendar for routine passage without discussion.
However, to avoid things being railroaded without due consideration, any Consent Calendar Item can be “pulled” for discussion and a separate voge by any Council Member (and even by a member of the public, I’m told).
So the Laurel Park parking issue was pulled by Council Member Dean Grose, who was concerned because all other parking restrictions in the city were for two hours or less.
The need for three hours was explained by the City’s Director of Recreation and Community Services, Corey Lakin (whose LinkedIn photo doesn’t do him justice). He explained that three hours were necessary in this case, to allow teams to be able to warm up and complete a baseball game, for example.
Council Member Grose also noted that parents dropping and picking up students at Los Alamitos Elementary School also contribute to the problem. Grose, who served for several years as Chairperson of the Traffic Commission, felt that the School District needs to do a better job of helping the City deal with the traffic and parking problems it contributes to.
As a member of the Traffic Commission myself, I can say with some authority that Grose was 100% spot-on with that observation. The Commission has been trying to deal with the congestion around Los Al High for years, with rather limited help from the District.
Certainly, we want our world-class School District to focus on education, but it would be helpful for students, teachers, and parents if they could find a way to work together with the City Engineer and Traffic Commission to find solutions to ongoing congestion and parking problems that result, among other things, from the vast number of students coming from outside the District.
But the larger trigger of the immediate problem at Laurel Park was the closure of the Medical Center’s employee parking lot, and some employees resistance to riding the shuttle from Cottonwood Church’s parking lot.
When the question was called to support the three hour ban, only Mayor pro tem Gerri Graham-Mejia and Council Member Richard Murphy supported it. Mayor Kusumoto didn’t have a problem with the three hour restriction, but both he and Council Member Edgar felt the correct procedure would be to have the Traffic Commission make a recommendation to the Council.
So the issue was referred to the Traffic Commission. Due to the immediacy of the situation a special Commission Meeting will be called. City Staff is seeking to determine if next Wednesday, September 25, would work for a Special 6 pm Traffic Commission meeting to discuss the matter.
Since the Municipal Code requires the City Council approve all requests for time limited parking, so it looks like residents who want to picnic or play at Laurel Park will have to wait several more weeks before the current problem is resolved.
I’m also not sure why the Municipal Code elevates parking time restrictions to the Council level. This sort of thing is exactly why we have Commissions made up of concerned residents who volunteer their time to help with specific areas so our Council can focus on bigger items.
So I understand Mayor Kusumoto’s desire to emphasize the Commission’s role.
I’m pretty sure our Traffic Commissioners will do their best to work together find a reasonable solution to what seems like a fairly simple problem.
Stay tuned for the meeting date.
As always, your perspective, insights, and reporting is encouraged.