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Feature Stories

'Put in a Parking Lot'

From Issue: Volume XXII - Number 8
4/18/2014


By Steve Propes

The key lyric of the breakthrough hit, “Big Yellow Taxi” by Joni Mitchell is “they paved paradise and put in a parking lot.” Chosen to be razed for a proposed parking lot, the two bedroom cottage at 205 LaVerne Ave. in Belmont Shore might not be paradise, but to its closest neighbors, Alan and Gail Mutke, who have resided on LaVerne Avenue for 32 years, it’s far from a teardown.

“Over the years, before the local coastal plans, 34 hou
ses have been torn down in Belmont Shore,” said Gail Mutke. “We feel residents have done their share.

“The house has been on the market for some time. It’s had a lot of owners. Because it’s on the alley, it has always sold for less than other houses on the street.” About five years ago, it was bought as a flip for $790,000.

Zillow now appraises the 959 square foot dwelling built in 1925 at $649,290. But the issue isn’t about the house; it’s about the underlying 2,370 square foot lot the Belmont Shore Parking and Business Improvement Advisory Commission intends to convert into an eight space metered parking lot.

It isn’t the first time residents of the shore have faced this dilemma. According to Gail Mutke, there was an earlier attempt at another lot, but even though the 1980 coastal plan allows for it, there is also a provision “The business district shall not encroach into the neighborhood. The neighbors raised up at that time, the council person said ‘we don’t want to do it.’”

Current Third District Councilman Gary DeLong stated, “I share the concerns of the neighbors that live on LaVerne, and will be doing some of my outreach to the Belmont Shore when the hearing finally takes place,” referring to the planning commission which must make a recommendation before the city council can take it up.

“The parking commission has done their job,” said DeLong. “They need to seek options to expand, it’s the planning commission and the city council’s job to make the decision. I assume it will be happening in May.”

“I think we should process it in a timely manner,” DeLong clarified. “We have to listen what the planning commissioner will say. There is no good solution.” As far as district problems are concerned, “It may be in the top ten, but not in the top three. I heard from those opposed to it. I’ll do some sort of survey, I’ll listen to what my constituents have to say.”

Mutke alleged it’s a “poorly designed parking lot. They don’t want to make a curb cut, they want to use the alley,” which would make it unavailable for cars going north on one-way La Verne as the alley is one-way entering La Verne. “It’s going to be metered from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. with revenue only that commission gets to keep.”

The bond money comes from the Mello Roos district created by property owners in the late 80s or 1990 to purchase parking. “They made an offer of $650,000, which was accepted by the owner. It will cost $150,000 to level and put in a parking lot for eight spaces, which means the actual cost is $80,000 to 100,000 per space. Typical is $40,000 to $50,000.” Mutke added that if the lot “Does not meet ADA standards, landscape standards or turning radius requirements, the number of parking spaces in the lot would have to be reduced from eight” to an unknown number, “making each parking space cost considerably more than $80,000 to $100,000.”

Asked about how the commission should better use the funds, Mutke stated “We think a better use would be a parking commission to work with people with private lots that are posted for their business only and tow away. There’s a huge parking lot by Bank of America, run by an agency. Fromex has four spaces, they’re pretty lenient, but none of these private lots, except for Chase bank, allows parking. There’s a building on Covina with parking just for tenants. They should spend money on making deals with these property owners.

“We can find eight spaces if we look in existing parking lots. A two story well-designed and camouflaged parking structure would be an option” as most diners at one of the 20 Shore restaurants generally walk several blocks anyway.

DeLong noted, “I have received phone calls from people who would be happy to see this parking lot on LaVerne Avenue happen. Since it’s no longer in the hands of the parking commission, residents should come forward with proposals. The parking garage proposal would be interesting to see how neighbors react as there’s a perception that neighbors would be opposed. Maybe that has changed. It will require a difficult process to find a solution to this problem.”

steve@longbeachcomber.com