Friday, March 24, 2017

Fullerton to Reconsider Overnight Parking Ban

The following will be printed in my "City Council Notes" in the upcoming issue of the Fullerton Observer Newspaper, the city's only independent newspaper since 1978.

For the past several Fullerton City Council meetings, much discussion and pubic comment has been made over the city’s historic overnight parking ban, which forbids parking on most city streets between the hours of 2-5am.  The conversation boils down to a conflict between homeowners and renters in certain neighborhoods.  Homeowners have complained that allowing overnight parking disrupts the character of the neighborhood.  Renters have complained that there is not adequate parking and that they are being unfairly ticketed.  

The city’s solution thus far has been to treat the problem on a neighborhood-by-neighborhood basis, rescinding the overnight parking ban on certain streets, in response to resident feedback and complaints.  Last meeting, Council voted to rescind the ban in the neighborhood around Citrus and Porter Avenues.  In response, many angry homeowners denounced the decision, arguing that allowing overnight parking has created (or will create) an increase in trash, cars blocking driveways, vandalism, loud music, property damage, safety concerns, public urination, sprinkler theft, homelessness, and a decrease in property values.

On the other hand, renters and other residents spoke in favor of lifting the ban, arguing that it unfairly impacts renters.  “We’re not criminals,” said one renter, “We’re just talking about parking.”  Local resident Stone Peterson said, “A lot of people who live in the city are being forced to live more and more compactly, so more families are living in smaller homes and that means more cars and they need more space to park those cars.  I feel like the law that tickets them for parking on the street is, in a way, criminalizing poverty.”

Resident Joshua Ferguson pointed out that homeowners do not own the streets in front of their houses: “Nobody but the public in general owns these roads.  These parking spaces are not owned by the property owners or the apartments; they are a public right-of-way.  They belong to everybody.”  

Some apartment complex owners also spoke in favor of lifting the ban, citing the simple fact that increasing population density creates the need for more parking.  Donna Anderson, an apartment building owner, said, “In 1925 [when the ban was first put into effect] we had 4,415 people; in 2015, we had 140,847 people.”  Some apartment owners and renters suggested permitted parking as a potential solution, and the creation of a Neighborhood Watch to address safety concerns.

Council Member Chaffee spoke in favor of lifting the ban, saying “I’ve very surprised the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hasn’t sued the city over this.  It clearly discriminates against tenants…it needs to be repealed…I feel we’re out of step.”

Council voted 5-0 to appoint a committee from the Transportation and Circulation Commission to conduct a study, including an extensive community engagement process, of the City’s existing overnight parking policies and develop recommendations for revisions.  They also voted 3-2 (Fitzgerald and Sebourn “no”) to direct staff to prepare an ordinance establishing a moratorium on overnight parking during the study period.

Additionally, Council voted 5-0 to rescind the overnight parking ban in another neighborhood on the north side of Valencia Drive between Euclid Street and flood control channel east of Basque, adjacent to the Rancho Fullerton senior living trailer park.  A representative of Rancho Fullerton spoke against rescinding the ban, while renters and apartment owners spoke in favor of it.  

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