Parking in her neighborhood was arduous — at best — until Leah McCallaugh went before the Fullerton City Council, delivered an emotional plea to end overnight parking restrictions and tearfully waved at least a half dozen parking tickets.
“All these are tickets from where I live. I work hard. I’m a taxpayer. I have every right to park on the streets I live on,” McCallaugh told the council through her tears. “I find it very disrespectful that no one will take consideration and look at our situation.”
McCallaugh and her parking tickets highlighted an issue faced by many in apartment neighborhoods across the southern half of Fullerton.
The city council has been addressing the problem in a series of patchwork fixes since Oct. 18 when McCallaugh and her Citrus Avenue neighbors raised the issue.
But Tuesday the council will kick off a citywide discussion on how to best tackle the city’s shortage of overnight parking spaces.
It’s an issue that bedevils cities from La Habra to Lake Forest, with Anaheim, Stanton, Orange and others also wrestling to find a solution.
Fullerton’s current ordinance forbids parking on all streets from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. The restriction has forced many apartment residents either to wake up and move their cars in the early hours or face parking citations.
Shortly after the October meeting, the Public Works Department and the Police Department worked together to give the Citrus neighborhood temporary exemptions from the parking ordinance, Director of Public Works Don Hoppe said Friday.
The city council voted unanimously March 7 to exempt the apartments on Citrus Avenue and portions of two intersecting streets from the parking restrictions. The affected area of Citrus Avenue is south of Orangethorpe Avenue and west of Euclid Avenue.
“I think we do need to look at this … on a much larger scale … this really is a band-aid,” Councilman Greg Sebourn said at the meeting.
While the council is considering a citywide solution, it’s scheduled to create more piecework exemptions.
On Tuesday, after the citywide parking discussion, the council will decide whether to exempt a Valencia Drive apartment neighborhood from the rule.
Like the Anaheim parking battle that recently flared, Fullerton’s parking situation is also pitting homeowners and home renters against apartment residents.
Chairwoman Elizabeth Hansburg of the Transportation and Circulation Committee (TCC) told the council at the March 7 meeting the majority of the homeowners surveyed in the Citrus area were opposed to removing the overnight parking restriction.
“It’s two compelling groups of people with compelling stories,” Hansburg said. “People have it in their head, that if it’s in front of their house, that they own that space …(but) it’s a public street — anybody can park there.”
According to the Transportation Committee’s Jan. 16 minutes, 36 questionnaires were sent to homeowners in the Citrus neighborhood and a majority of them are against ending the parking restriction.
At their January special meeting, the Transportation Committee wanted to investigate garages at the apartments to make sure they weren’t being used for storage.
But Hoppe advised them the city needed to move as quickly as possible to provide 82 additional parking spaces for apartment residents and an inspection of apartment garages may yield just a minimal number not in compliance, according to the minutes.
The city enacted a law in 2005 that prohibits the use of apartment garages for storage, according to the March 21 agenda packet.
When the apartments were built during the height of residential construction in Fullerton in the 1960s and ‘70s, parking requirements were typically one space per one-bedroom unit and two spaces for two bedrooms and more.
There wasn’t strong opposition to changing the parking rule at the March 7 meeting. One homeowner expressed concerns about ending the overnight restriction. Apartment residents told the council how the parking rule was burdensome.
Citrus resident Janet Barreto said shortly before the Thanksgiving holiday, apartment residents were allowed to park in local businesses’ parking lots, but it abruptly changed after many people failed to move their cars by morning.
“Many people had travel plans to go see their families,” Barreto said. “They didn’t have the money to take out their cars (out of impound).”
While Barreto said she understands the homeowner’s concerns, “I think, as a community, we should be able to work together … we can come together and meet halfway.”
Homeowner Lucy Methot said she also understands the apartment residents’ problems and explained how a nearby car dealership took advantage of the parking exemption.
Methot said the dealership parked its cars in lines along the streets after signs were posted said the neighborhood was exempt from the overnight parking rules.
“It is a problem for the city. I understand that people need a place to live and park their cars,” Methot said. “I know it’s not our property, but it is kind of nice to come home and pull up to your place.”
Another apartment resident said he too understands the homeowners concerns, but at the same time contended it isn’t fair that apartment residents are without parking spaces.
“I want you guys to understand our position. We work hard every single day,” Alfonso Covarrabias told the council, adding he and his neighbors barely had money to take care of their families, let alone pay impound fees.
“For me to stand here is very emotional,” Covarrabias said through tears. “I think it’s not fair to have no parking space to park your car.”
Spencer Custodio is a Voice of OC intern. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.