Anaheim Neighborhoods Have Become Parking Battlegrounds

Thy Vo/Voice of OC

An alley behind Juno Avenue in Southwest Anaheim, where apartment dwellers illegally park because of lack of parking in the neighborhood.

When Clint Breads walks out the front door of his Anaheim home each morning, he’s more often than not confronted with discarded bottles, soda cans, plastic bags, condoms and even syringes strewn along the sidewalk.

The garbage, he says, comes from people who might live blocks away but park their vehicles in front of his home because they can’t find parking in their own neighborhood.

“Right now we have a 25 to 30-foot party van, windows blacked out, satellite dishes on top, it hasn’t moved in a week. A truck with a trailer behind it is full of trash,” Breads said at an Anaheim City Council study session last week.

The study session is part of an effort by council members to find a solution to parking battlegrounds that have popped up all over Anaheim, as the city over the past decade has, without much forethought or discussion, approved scores of requests by homeowners to turn neighborhood streets into permit-only parking.   

A Daily Fight

Homeowners, especially in areas where single-family homes brush up against dense apartment housing, say it’s the only way they can keep apartment dwellers from taking up all the curb space in front of their property.

However, while permit parking may alleviate problems for homeowners, it exacerbates an already difficult situation for apartment renters who have limited parking to begin with, and complain about walking long distances every day to get to their cars, especially when returning from work late at night. In some neighborhoods nearly all the streets are now permit-only parking, which leaves renters with few options.

That’s the case for the residents of Juno Avenue, a street in southwest Anaheim shared by single-family homes on one side and single-story apartments on the other. At any given time of day, cars are parked bumper-to-bumper against the curb, including vehicles owned by people from apartment communities nearly a half mile away.

Despite red lanes meant to ensure fire trucks can access the neighborhood, desperate apartment residents now park on both sides of the alleys, blocking garages, irritating neighbors and requiring drivers to carefully shimmy their vehicles to avoid hitting other cars.

It’s gotten to the point where parking permits on are scalped like tickets to big events. Fernando Viera, a homeowner who has lived on Juno for five years, said his family buys guest parking permits from neighbors on permitted streets so they can host family during Christmas and for special events.

“But mostly we try not to have anything here,” Viera said.

The city recently approved a petition by homeowners to make the curb on one side of Juno permit-only, which will make the parking even more scarce.

Robert Rizzie, the owner of two triplexes on Juno, sees the council’s actions as fueling inequality and resentment among neighbors.

“We have 66 residents on Juno, only 17 of them are in houses,” Rizzie said. “The city is going to give 50 percent of the parking to 25 percent of the residents, [those] who have the most parking.”

Rizzie’s son, Geoff Rizzie, has lived in an apartment on Juno for 13 years. On a recent Monday just after 5 p.m., he backed out of his garage in the crowded alley to give a reporter a brief tour of the surrounding neighborhood. Five minutes later, he returned to find his garage blocked by a parked car.

“There’s been days when we’re late for work because we can’t get out of our garage,” said Geoff Rizzie.

Currently there are 38 permit parking districts in Anaheim that prohibit parking 24 hours a day. Five districts allow parking any time except from midnight to 6 a.m. Code enforcement issued 4,341 parking tickets in 2016, according to city staff.

Part of the problem is that much of the city’s housing stock was built in the 1950’s, when families had fewer cars and the city required less parking per unit, according to Public Works Director Rudy Emami. Some of the apartments on Juno have just one dedicated parking spot, while in nearby apartments there might be families doubling up in a single unit to save money.

The situation could also be worsened by the state’s density bonus law, which allows housing developers to include less parking in their project if they agree to add a certain number of affordable housing units.

City spokesman Mike Lyster said the city has tried in recent years to canvas entire neighborhoods or hold neighborhood meetings, but found most ended in a “stand-off” between two sides with very strong opinions.

“[Staff have] had conversations in the past where they bring everybody together and try to discuss it, but they find that those tend not to be all that productive,” Lyster said.

A 'Lopsided System'

Last week, at the council’s regular meeting following the study session, council members acknowledged the problem and floated the possibility of a moratorium on new permit requests, but didn’t take any action.

“What I worry about is folks walking eight, nine, ten blocks,” said Councilman Jose Moreno. “To resolve a parking situation for a property owner, we end up making folks who work late into the night walk several blocks.”

Councilman James Vanderbilt said by adding permit districts, the city doesn’t create any new parking but makes it harder for some people and easier for others.

“The city can’t create more parking spaces on its streets, but it can lower the supply by creating these restrictions,” said Vanderbilt. “We seem to have this lopsided system that has only amplified as time goes on.”

Emami said that apartment and property owners will need to be part of the solution. “We need help from apartment owners to require more on-site [parking], or not to overcrowd the apartments with drivers,” he said.

Councilman Steve Faessel said the problem would not be solved without pressure from the city on apartment complexes that don’t provide adequate parking.

“I believe some of these apartment owners are happy with the status quo and unless the city is able to use additional pressure, the status quo will remain,” Faessel said.

Robert Rizzie, the landlord, believes permit parking should be done away with altogether, although he is open to other solutions that would allow apartment residents to share space in the neighborhood without overcrowding streets. And, he said, homeowners should also do their part by using their garages and driveways.

“We’re not asking for special treatment, we just want it to be fair,” said Rizzie.

Contact Thy Vo at tvo@voiceofoc.org or follow her on Twitter @thyanhvo.