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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.

Enjoy.

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.
hf2hvit February 21, 2014 at 09:41 AM
STUDY THE PROBLEM?!?! I've lived here over THIRTY YEARS with the same BS (That "BS" does NOT mean Belmont Shore) problem and now we're going to pay to STUDY it???
Sandy February 21, 2014 at 10:26 AM
The Seawall Committee in Naples now meets at 6 pm to enable more residents to attend and........ they do. The increase in restaurants and bars in the Shore and the spillover of problems resulting from that increase mandates the Commission, almost all business owners, to widen their view.
John B. Greet February 21, 2014 at 10:38 AM
It was suggested years ago that the Parking Commission be reconfigured, re-named, and re-purposed. In its current incarnation its actions heavily favor business interests in the Shore, often at the direct expense of residents. I understand *why* that is the case (because it was originally created, in part, to "improve area business") but it is long past time to make some much needed changes to a Commission that city government authorizes and controls. ------------------------------------------------------------- The suggested changes boil down to this: 1. Reduce Commission size to five (smaller quasi-legislative and advisory groups can accomplish more than larger ones and they can do so more quickly and efficiently). 2. Composition: Two business-only reps, two resident-only reps, and one rep who qualifies as both. 3. BSBA nominates the business reps, BSRA nominates the resident reps, and the fifth rep must be agreed upon by *both* special interest groups. 4. Change and simplify the name to something more inclusive of residents. Call it simply the "Belmont Shore Neighborhood Commission". Make these very simple changes then get out of the way and let them get back to work.
Sandy February 21, 2014 at 11:17 AM
John has proposed an excellent proposal to re-balance the Commission which, as he points out, is heavily weighted to business interests. Good work, John
Panglonymous February 21, 2014 at 01:49 PM
Pertinent quote at Petey's house: ___________________________________________________ "I'm actually for this," she said. "People that live the closest to Second Street have the most problems with parking. That house has been for sale thee or four times (since I started my business). Obviously it's not desirable ... I know people hate change. There's no one clear answer. There has to be a few things in motion for this to work. This is just a piece of the pie .. If you're going to come with a complaint, you'd better come with some solutions or some suggestions to make it better." ___________________________________________________ http://tinyurl.com/peteys-parking-piece ___________________________________________________ http://www.presstelegram.com/government-and-politics/20140220/controversial-belmont-shore-parking-lot-proposal-approved-for-long-beach-planning-commission-consideration
Panglonymous February 21, 2014 at 01:54 PM
At which website are readers commenting most actively on this issue? Maybe folks could cut/paste some strong ones here?
nancy February 21, 2014 at 03:24 PM
Balance is tricky, especially when human nature finds us naturally acting in our own interests. It is understandable, and why John Greet's suggestion might work. Seems commissioners should not have tenant-landlord relationships with each other, as I believe a few do. Are there not some commissioners who are rent-paying tenants of other commissioners? I'd find it tough to vote against my landlord's interests.
Panglonymous February 21, 2014 at 07:10 PM
Both the BS Business Assoc and the BS Residents Assoc are comprised largely of businesspersons: the former as commercial property landlords and business owners; the latter as residential property landlords. You need not be a BS resident to belong to either. ___________________________________________________ The majority of Belmont Shore's ~3500 residents are renters. Some long-term. Perhaps residential renters should be represented on the Parking Commission, too.
Panglonymous February 21, 2014 at 07:28 PM
Mr/Mrs Mutke: What is your opinion of the press coverage so far? (I know it's a long shot that you'll respond but what the hey. :-)
John B. Greet February 21, 2014 at 07:40 PM
If what you say about BSRA is true, Pan, then a person who merely owns residential property in the Shore but does not live there, isn't really a resident and should not qualify as such for the purpose of Commission membership. In my proposal, the two resident-only Commission members would be required to be actual residents and residents *only*. Not residents who also own businesses (including residential income properties) in the Shore. Similarly, the two business-only members should own or operate Belmont Shore businesses, only, and not also be residents. The Commission should be balanced *equally* between business and resident interests. This does not appear to be the case currently. The fifth member *should* be both a resident and a business owner and because both BSRA and BSBA would have to approve that person, the two groups would actually have to...heaven forbid...agree on that Commission member's appointment.
Panglonymous February 21, 2014 at 08:34 PM
John Greet's proposal - BS Parking Commission ___________________________________________________ http://tinyurl.com/bspc-greet-proposal-1 ___________________________________________________ (Or go to the top of this page and click on the graphic next to the parking meter pic.)
Panglonymous February 21, 2014 at 08:36 PM
Corrections?
Panglonymous February 23, 2014 at 02:40 PM
You sure know how to end a conversation, John. :-)
Panglonymous February 23, 2014 at 02:40 PM
The Misuse of Mello Roos ___________________________________________________ http://belmontshore.patch.com/groups/the-misuse-of-mello-roos/p/the-misuse-of-mello-roos_5a23fbf0
Sandy February 23, 2014 at 03:36 PM
I endorse John's proposal, it is so logical. I wonder what it would take for it to leap off the pages of PATCH and into the ears of the involved parties. I also appreciate the calm discussion on this matter by all who participated. I think the discussion has slowed down because it was polite and respectful and we all agreeing with each other. Third District council candidates forum at Naples School, April 2, 7 pm
julz.travels February 23, 2014 at 06:09 PM
Just as an FYI, the current members of the BSRA Board are all Belmont Shore residents.
John B. Greet February 23, 2014 at 08:32 PM
Sandy: I proposed this idea to a highly-placed member of City Government about five years ago. In response, it was suggested that configuring the Parking Commission in that way would be "unfair to business interests", which, as Pan so ably pointed out, contribute a notable percentage of the Parking Commissions available revenue. *My* thought was that it seemed very unfair to stack the Commission so heavily in favor of business interests, when the parking meter receipts comprised so much more of the Commissions revenue than did the BSID/Mello-Roos revenues. The parking meters belong to the city (i.e. the People) not to the businesses, yet business interests seem far more heavily represented on the Commission than those of residents (who are comprised of voters who, in turn, represent the People to government). In any case, the Commission is quasi-legislative and City-sanctioned and facilitated. As such...as an adjunct of City government...it should represent business and resident interests *equally* regardless of the sources of the revenues it manages.
Sandy February 23, 2014 at 09:46 PM
I agree, John, with the above. It is the classic "Who pays and who profits?". I think your suggestions for a re-balance of the Commission make sense. Those who own the buildings and those who lease for their shops/restaurants do not want to "kill the golden calf" by degrading the quality of life for Shore residents. If the residential areas deteriorate, not good for Long Beach and Long Beach business.
Panglonymous February 23, 2014 at 10:15 PM
Would the *full membership* of BSBA & BSRA vote to nominate or only the respective boards?
Panglonymous February 23, 2014 at 10:15 PM
How many individuals are members of *both* BSBA and BSRA?
John B. Greet February 24, 2014 at 12:19 AM
Pan, that's a detail I don't have an opinion on. The full membership or the Boards of the respective associations, makes me no nevermind. Just balance the Commission, equally, with a tie breaker of whom both Special Interest groups approve.
Panglonymous February 24, 2014 at 09:36 AM
Thanks, John. How would one structure the nominating process to make it impossible to 'game' (defeat the desired equilibrium)? Because to 'improve' something without ensuring that the improvement is genuine is worse than doing nothing at all, imo. Our system is rife with that kind of 'reform.'
Panglonymous February 24, 2014 at 09:37 AM
It may be impolitic to point it out, but genuine change *is* impolitic, imo.
John B. Greet February 24, 2014 at 10:02 AM
Details, details, Pan. That's all "committee work". The organizations should work out their own nomination processes and methodologies. People nominated should qualify according to the criteria I suggest (resident-only, business-only, and one who qualifies as both). Resident-only means "lives in the shore but does not own or manage a business in the shore". Business-only means "owns or manages a business in the shore but does not live there". Both means "someone who qualifies as both and is acceptable to both groups". I trust both BSRA and BSBA to nominate only people who will passionately, effectively, and respectfully champion their respective perspectives and I feel confident that there are a number of people who qualify as both and who both groups could agree on as a tie-breaker. The point of my suggestion is to get the BSRA and BSBA working *together* for a change, instead of in spite of one another and to start cooperating better on Shore-related challenges that impact *both* groups.
Panglonymous February 24, 2014 at 10:47 AM
Ah, something in which the Devil often resides! ;-)
Panglonymous February 24, 2014 at 10:47 AM
Other opinions? Are my concerns justified, or not? Let me have it, I'm not sensitive.

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