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'Apron Parking' Crackdown: L.A. Residents Beg City Attorney to Let Them Park Between Driveway and Sidewalk

Apron parking -- one of the only ways UCLA kids can fit all their cars in front of their packed college housing -- isn't the most legit thing in the world, admittedly. Drivers squeeze their vehicles into the cement area leading up to their garages or driveways, and are left to deal with letting out their roommates, scheduling who will leave first, etc.

But for years, apron parking was considered a necessary evil in Westwood and other densely packed parts of L.A., and cars were only ticketed if they were blocking the sidewalk. That is, until this summer, when the L.A. City Attorney and Department of Transportation (LADOT) kicked off a major crackdown...

... leaving $60 tickets on the windshields of all creatively parked vehicles.

As of August 29, the apron-parking ban expanded from Westwood to the rest of L.A.'s hoods. Victims of the city's density and transportation crises, meanwhile, are panicking, left out in the cold with no place to park their commute-mobiles.

Liz McDonald, who runs a leasing agency in L.A. (and is thus greatly affected, both personally and business-wise, by a parking policy that adversely affects renters), has started a blog called STOP LADOT, where residents can sign a petition urging lawmakers to "make local ordinance and policy changes to the Los Angeles Municipal Code and California Vehicle Code that will allow residents of Los Angeles to park (in compliance with the American Disabilities Act) in their parkways."

McDonald, whose family members and neighbors have already received tickets in the short time the new policy has been in place, believes L.A. City Attorney Carmen Trutanich is feeling pressure from three class-action lawsuits currently targeting the city for handicap inaccessibility. But she says apron-parked cars don't necessarily block the sidewalk -- and a distinction between the two will be crucial for apartment-dwellers and the wheelchair-bound to exist in harmony.

Writes one Koreatown resident in the petition's comment section:

"my building has 12 apartments and only 8 garages.. i am now having to walk blocks and blocks to find parking.. especially given that the bars on sunset patrons park on silver lake blvd."

Eastsider LA reports that Silver Lake residents are feeling the sting, too. A commenter on that story is confused by the motivation behind the crackdown:

No offense to the handicapped, and I do understand why in certain areas this might be an issue -- but the parts of Silver Lake where landlords offer apron parking are usually on streets that was EXTREMELY hilly, where houses are built up onto the sides of hills (requiring stairs to access them) and the sidewalks haven't been paved in 30+ years it seems. I don't see why the city thinks apron parking is detrimental to the handicapped when uneven and crappy sidewalks aren't?

Regular biking advocate and former City Council candidate Stephen Box further stresses the need for a distinction between sidewalk-blocking and apron-parking on CityWatch:

"For as long as there has been a shortage of parking, Angelenos in densely populated neighborhoods such as those around UCLA have parked in their driveways, between the curb and the sidewalk or between the sidewalk and the building. As the number of vehicles increased, some residents started parking on the sidewalks. Eventually the fine line between parking on the apron and blocking the sidewalk got blurred and now that the City Attorney has entered the fray, he has come down on the wrong side of the line."

The L.A. City Council ordered Trutanich to look into "a program to allow apron parking that is ADA compliant" on August 24, but that hasn't stopped the rain of tickets on L.A.'s many car-dependents. McDonald believes that unless residents raise a racket louder than the handicap lawsuits, city officials will try to stall until the resistance dies down, as they've done before.

Ironically enough, the anti-apron movement started at UCLA in 2004, when urban-planning professor Donald Shoup argued for the ban, under umbrella policies that discouraged driving in L.A. on a larger scale. But McDonald argues that until public transportation in this sprawling city of freeways becomes a realistic option, Angelenos can't be punished for getting around the only way they can.

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@simone_electra

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swilson@laweekly.com

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