Parking Perplexes Neighborhoods Across the OC

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.

In a growing number of Orange County neighborhoods, public street parking has become a daily battle between residents over who has the right to park in front of their home, and who should spend their evening patrolling the neighborhood for an open curb.

The shortage of parking spaces and what to do about it has sparked community debates from La Habra to Lake Forest with cities including Anaheim, Fullerton, Stanton and Orange trying to find a solution.

Many cities have turned to permit-only parking, which while solving problems with trash, commuters and sedentary cars for homeowners, has often generated more problems for apartment dwellers.

But the realities created by permit parking programs could get some cities in trouble if they don’t ensure their programs are fair for all residents, no matter what their home looks like.

An opinion published last April by former state Attorney General Kamala Harris concludes that residential permit parking programs can’t discriminate against residents based on the type of dwelling they live in.

Ray Maggi, a board member of the Apartment Association of Orange County, believes many cities have regulations that favor homeowners and don’t protect the rights of apartment residents to their share of the public streets.

“They [city officials] have a political problem,” Maggi said. “They don’t want to tell the homeowners that it’s not their street, but public parking.”

The Parking Conundrum

The state vehicle code allows local authorities to restrict parking in order to reduce traffic and litter from nonresidents, and to ensure convenient parking is available for residents.

Permit parking is largely a reaction to complaints heard across the county about litter, spillover from nearby schools and events, strangers parking their mobile homes and work trucks on public streets, and even dealers who use residential street curbs as a free display for used cars.

That’s due in part to the fact that much of the apartment and multifamily housing stock countywide was built prior to the 1970s, when households had fewer cars and working adults. Many provide just one or two dedicated parking spots. The result is apartment residents tend to rely on street parking more than those living in single-family homes.

For example, on Juno Avenue in Anaheim, homeowners have petitioned for a permit-only zone on their side of the street, taking half of the street’s curb space despite the fact that the apartment residents on the other side of Juno outnumber them.

Over the last few years, one-by-one, nearby streets have all converted to resident-only permit parking, squeezing apartment residents into a smaller and smaller place. Many now rely on parking illegally along alleyways.

Anaheim spokesman Mike Lyster said the city provides all residents “the same opportunity, steps and criteria” for processing permit parking requests, and that “the program is fair to everyone who lives in Anaheim.”

But Maggi and other members of the Apartment Association don’t see it that way.

Nicholas Dunlap, also a board member for the Apartment Association, said the organization has been trying for months to get cities like Anaheim to make changes that better serve apartment residents.

Although they have yet to sue any cities, Dunlap said that appears to be “the next step.”

“It’s gotten to a point now where…we continue to work with these cities and can’t effectuate needed changes, and they aren’t following the law,” said Dunlap. “We try to be friendly and proactive with different cities…[but] we aren’t getting much of a choice.”

A Variety of Approaches

Cities vary widely in how they enforce permit parking programs.

Anaheim allots up to five permits per single family household and two permits for multi-family housing. Santa Ana gives single-family households up to three permits, and one permit per unit for multifamily housing, although the city doesn’t allow permits for complexes with more than four units.

Large new apartment complexes are supposed to provide parking for tenants, another hot issue when multiple drivers live in units with just one or sometimes two parking spaces.

Cities like Brea, Fullerton and La Habra have across-the-board overnight parking bans, but allow residents to purchase permits based on their need for curbside parking.

Lake Forest has a policy that requires multifamily developments to address parking issues through management practices before the city will consider a permit petition.

In Orange, permits are only available for single-family and duplex units, and apartment residents are not eligible at all, according to a survey of permit parking programs across Southern California conducted for the city of Laguna Niguel. 

Although the Attorney General’s office does not offer commentary on their written opinions, some of the definitions provided within the state vehicle code call into question the legality of certain parking regulations.

For example, the vehicle code defines a resident of a given street to include not only those living on a street, but also people who live on adjacent streets.

Maggi argues that drawing parking districts down the middle of a block or to exclude residents based on what kind of home they live in – for example, the parking district on Juno Ave. that separates homeowners and apartment residents – would violate the law.

The opinion also notes that state law calls for permit parking programs to take into account people with disabilities and residents of high-density housing who don’t have enough off-street parking.

In Stanton, city officials recently proposed turning a vacant lot at Cerritos and Flower Avenues into a public lot to help deal with spillover parking. They have also agreed to remove red striping on curbs and overnight parking restrictions where it is not absolutely necessary.

Still, solutions are not as easy as giving everyone the same number of permits.

Stanton city staff noted in a recent staff report that simply giving apartment residents and homeowners the same number of permits would not solve the problem if there isn’t enough parking to accommodate all those new permits.

For example, homeowners in permit-only zones in Stanton can receive up to four parking permits. If that same guideline were applied to a 20-unit apartment, the city would have to issue 80 permits.

Dunlap also argues drawing larger permit zones would be more effective to maximize streets where homeowners don’t use all the available curb space.

At a study session last month, Anaheim Public Works Director Rudy Emami noted that, while apartment residents rely heavily on street parking, homeowners also face similar problems with finding curb space.

Ultimately, Emami said, the owners of apartments and properties that generate spillover parking will also need to be a 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. “Eventually there will be this tipping point that it will fall on generators to help solve the problem.”

Maggi, on the other hand, said there’s an even cheaper solution to the problem.

“I think the attorney general was very specific: renters are to be treated the same as homeowners,” Maggi said. “Tell the homeowners that the streets aren’t theirs.”

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

  • tmare1

    Oftentimes, it is an issue of people coming from out of the neighborhood to park. They walk blocks to get to their apartments. A family with a few cars (a family of four could feasibly have four cars) and only space for two in the driveway, comes home and can’t park near their home because people from other neighborhoods are parking there. I agree that apartment dwellers are not less important than homeowners in residential neighborhoods but the parking permits in neighborhoods near me are only issued to those who actually live in the neighborhood. I suppose defining what the actual perimeters are of a neighborhood is also an issue. What a mess. I don’t know that there is an equitable solution but I do know I would be very careful examining the parking situation before buying a house.

  • Robert G

    As an ex Santa Ana resident I know the struggle of parking, I lived there for 25 years. Year by year I would see how bad parking got, just across my home an individual — 1 person– had 4 cars, and he would always park them on the street because he had nowhere else to park them this guy lived in a room that he was renting out. Anyways , I was one of those Santa Ana residents who had a street parking permit not because I needed it but it was because in a way it created more of a crowd control. You go to other streets in Santa Ana and you clearly see how not having a parking permit really affects the street. You have cars blocking fire hydrants, crosswalks and what not. I think the biggest issue with all of OC is how many apartment complexes are being built nowadays, and not sure how they are getting approved since they need to show sufficient parking for all tenants.

    • LFOldTimer

      Gee Robert. I wonder why? Maybe 10 people living to a household has something to do with it. Do you think Santa Ana’s sanctuary city policy will help remedy the problem or make it worse?

      Instead of dealing with the REAL ISSUES causing the problem – the SA City Council only piles on.

      But that still does not justify giving a homeowner exclusive access to a parking spot on a public street by issuing a permit. That only MASKS the real problem.

      But I’m sure you’re smart enough to figure that out.

      • Robert G

        I think 10 people to a home is the norm now, regardless of what city you are in. I don’t know if you have heard but the millennial generation is known to live with their parents for quite a while. My opinion on illegal immigration is a hard one, I lived in the city for 25 years so I saw a good number of hard working folks in the city but I also saw my share of terrible individuals who should not be in this country. And I definitely agree that the city council is horrible, from spending money on horrible programs to appointing an inexperienced chief of police, the problems are just there. I liked the parking permit program they have, it’s a good solution to keep your neighborhood under control. I was the individual who implemented in the street I lived in, I hated the fact that people I didn’t know or had never seen would park in front of my home. Even though I didn’t need it, I did it so there was some sort of deterrent and feeling of safety in the neighborhood. I was tired of waiting for the city council to come up with a solution so I acted out on my own and came up with my own solution. I’m long gone now, I haven’t been to Santa Ana in a whIle but every now and then I like to read about what’s happening with the city and all of OC.

        • LFOldTimer

          “I think 10 people to a home is the norm now, regardless of what city you are in.”

          The US Census Bureau reported that in 2015 the OC population was 3.2 million and OC had 1.1 million housing units. That averages out to about 3 occupants per household. Perhaps you lived in SA for so long you thought 10 was the norm.

          A hard-working illegal is still illegal and came to America the wrong way if we are to remain a civilized nation. There are lots of lawful prospective immigrants who are hard-working too. But they’re blocked from coming to America because illegals jumped ahead of them in line. That’s not very fair, is it Robert?

          People park in front of my residence all the time. I don’t own the street and they have as much a right to that parking spot as I do.

          Thanks for the response, Robert.

          • Robert G

            Don’t believe those statistics, they’re never right. A person with half a brain would’ve known that. Not trying to be rude but you seem like a smart guy to of known that. We have bigger issues in our country then some illegal alien working the crop field. I’ve never been threatened , never did I want to be a cook, janitor or crop vegetables or fruits. You see , illegal aliens don’t bother me, never was I threatened by them or was it scared they would take my job away. Growing up the smartest thing someone ever told me was that if I ever felt threatened about someone taking my job away it was because maybe I wasn’t very good at it. If you knew a little bit about history you would also know that illegal immigration has always been around, Polish, Germans, and even Italians did it. Life is not fair , who am I to judge a man who wants to better his life and give a better life to his family. I put myself in their shoes and I would do the same. I’m not going to waste 15 to 20 years of my life until “my time comes”. Fortunately I was born here and I don’t have to deal with any of that. I have more of a right to park in front of my home then any other person, now I don’t deal with NY parking issues , I actually never dealt with them to be quite honest. I’m living the good life on a 2 acre property in the beautiful city of Temecula. Now you have a great night in OC, make sure you leave enough room so someone can park behind you.

          • LFOldTimer

            Obviously you haven’t taken a stats class or studied the way population estimates are calculated. It’s not just done every 10 years by an army of bureaucratic bean counters with clip boards in hand walking the neighborhoods. It’s through tax records, DMV data, credit card info, school enrollments, phone data, etc.. etc… etc…

            Housing unit estimates are easy. Utility records tell that story.

            So the State and Federal research on population and housing unit estimates are actually quite accurate, contrary to your claim.

            Illegals don’t just work in the fields picking fruits. That accounts for maybe 3% of illegals living in the US. Most illegals work in construction, transportation, manufacturing, hospitality, food service, maintenance, etc,,, and take jobs that Americans would work for a living wage, so they could afford a living space they wouldn’t have to share with 9 other people.

            Illegal aliens don’t bother me either. But they damage the social and financial health of US citizens and lawful immigrants. No country ever achieved prosperity in the modern world by importing poverty and indigent people who are unwanted by their own countries. If importing poverty was the answer to national prosperity all nations would send cargo ships to the poorest parts of the world and invite indigents to board the ships and relocate to the host nation. But not one country does that. Duh?

            How would you like it if you worked a job at a living wage and an illegal foreigner moved in and stole your job by agreeing to work at a quarter of your wage with no workplace rights? I bet you’d scream like a banshee.

            It’s not about life being unfair. It’s about rules and laws that make a civilization work. Most of us want to live in a 1st world as opposed to a 3rd world country.

            If someone broke into your home and you found him in your Lazy Boy watching TV and eating your food – would you allow him to stay since he only wants to better his life?

            Do you own the street in front of your home, Robert? Did you buy it from all the other taxpayers? How much did you pay for it?

          • Robert G

            Lets agree to disagree, obviously we are both going to be ranting back and forth about who is right. I think permits are a great idea, obviously I know for a fact that they are. My street went from getting strangers parking around the neighborhood to only the homeowners, my neighbors were happy with it. I don’t see what the big deal is, maybe you live in an apt and it’s hectic for you to get parking or have guests over because their is no parking. In addition to your response about illegal immigration, you can rant all you want but the reality of all of it is that it’s always going to exist, such as crime, murder, homelessness, theft…how many laws don’t we have against all these crimes and still happening? Since the begrinning of time. All we can do is create deterrents but nothing is going to fully stop illegal immigration, so like they say if you cant defeat it, find a way to live with it.

          • LFOldTimer

            Of course the parking permits would be a great idea for you, Robert. You benefit from it at the expense of all the other taxpayers who pay for the public street yet are banned from the parking spot.

            How would you like it if your city decided to require a permit to visit your local public park and refused to give you one, thereby banning you from use of the public park? Put the shoe on the other foot.

            I don’t live in an apartment. I simply believe that public streets are owned by everyone and that home occupants shouldn’t have exclusive rights to a parking spot on a taxpayer funded street.

            Murder laws are enforced. There are no laws against homelessness. What’s your point? Why shouldn’t immigration laws get enforced like all other criminal statutes? If someone broke into your home would you call the police? They’d enforce breaking and entering laws, right? They why shouldn’t they enforce breaking and entering into our country?

            Sure, nothing will completely stop illegal immigration. That’s not the point. The point is the immigration laws need to be enforced, just like in any civilized country. And it appears that Trump is going to start. It’s about time.

  • LFOldTimer

    I don’t own the street in front of my residence. The guy who lives 4 blocks away has as much ownership to that street parking spot as I do. Who am I (or the city) to say he can’t park his car there?

    Again, Ms. Vo failed to disclose that many homeowners use their garages as storage areas or as a living spaces which preclude the occupants from using their garages as intended – to park their vehicles. That should be a very important part of this discussion. I see this everywhere in my town. I can only imagine how prevalent it is in Santa Ana and Anaheim. Most, if not all, cities have ordinances that forbid homeowners from using their garages as a living space. Yet it’s another one of those laws that goes unenforced. But they don’t repeal the law. The city officials turn a blind eye and allow people to willfully violate the law. So the cities are complicit in these illegal activities. Why don’t they ever turn a blind eye to harmless rolling stops that fine motorists $450?

    IMO there should be no parking permits on residential city streets. But if they are going to show preference to homeowners and furnish this privilege at the very least the cities should check the home garage for potential vehicle access before the homeowner is issued a permit. Why should someone who packs their garage full of garbage get a street parking permit? This is basic fairness.

    And those homeowners who are issued parking permits should have to pay a permit tax since they are provided permanent access to a parking place on a public street which precludes another taxpayer from using the same space.

    Why don’t you eliminate ALL the causes of overcrowded street parking before you throw your weight around and provide the privileged few special considerations at the expense of others who also pay taxes for the public streets?

    • dvdbrtsh

      …And those homeowners who are issued parking permits should have to pay a permit tax since they are provided permanent access to a parking place on a public street which precludes another taxpayer from using the same space. …

      From what I understand, in Anaheim, neighbors that apply for Permitted Parking in front of their homes must provide a $500 application fee. They also must pay $30 a year for each permit sticker. One day guest permits are $1 each.

      • LFOldTimer

        They got it backwards. It should be a $30 application fee and $500 a year for each permit sticker.

        They already have a garage and a driveway. That should accommodate 4 cars. If a household has 5 cars or more they should pay through the nose for a parking spot on a public street that is solely reserved for their home – which other taxpayers pay to maintain but can’t use.

        Make sense?

        • David Zenger

          The problem wasn’t lack of space for our car on the street. The problem was strangers coming and going all night long; car alarms going off with the owner a quarter mile away; beer bottles, condoms, fast food trash in my front yard every morning. It was a public nuisance and safety issue.’

          That’s the real issue Ms. Vo left out.

          I challenge the Apartment Owners Association to fix the problem they have created and quit the phony bleating about their tenants’ rights.

          • LFOldTimer

            That’s not the way the cities or most of the residents who ask for permits explain it. They complain about the lack of parking spaces for the resident homeowners. And that’s what prompts the permits – not people throwing trash on the streets which is a very different matter with separate remedies.

            Many residents don’t like people who walk their dogs past their homes and allow the dogs to defecate on their lawns without picking it up. So should that give the resident homeowners the right to get exclusive permits to walk on the sidewalks in front of their homes? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. So are parking permits. Same difference.

            Homeowners do not own the streets. If people are throwing trash on your property call the police. But don’t take away parking spaces from other citizens and thereby violate their rights as taxpayers.

            This is another ridiculous slippery slope where some are given more rights than others.

          • David Zenger

            The cops are not going to patrol for litterbugs. And who knows where the trash came from six hours later.

            All I know is our street is cleaner and safer than it was. And clean, safe streets are the responsibility of government.

          • LFOldTimer

            Of course in a society that claims equality for all those who are more equal and have more rights than the other guy will be the happiest.

            The end always justifies the means, unless you happen to be the guy who is less equal and has fewer rights.

            Maybe there is a remedy for homeowners who find dog defecation on their lawn after all. Exclusive sidewalk permits.

  • David Zenger

    “I think the attorney general was very specific: renters are to be treated the same as homeowners,” Maggi said. “Tell the homeowners that the streets aren’t theirs.”

    Hey, Ray, why don’t you get your members to quit packing residents in their places, make them clean out their garages and put cars in them.

    Also please tell your wealthy members to hire some clean-up crews to keep your tenants’ trash out of the gutters. Somehow they magically fill up with garbage, old furniture, empty beer bottles and fast food detritus within hours of being swept.