City to hire more parking enforcement officers

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Car relocation rule for residents deleted from proposed code

Seal Beach will hire more parking enforcement officers, according to the city’s parking consultant Julie Dixon. She also said parking enforcement would take place seven days a week. She made the announcement at the Tuesday, Feb. 12, parking town hall meeting in the council chambers.

Most of the seats were occupied at the two-hour parking forum. Mayor Tom Moore, Councilwoman Sandra Massa-Lavitt, and Councilman Mike Varipapa were present. So was Councilman-elect Joe Kalmick.

In other parking news, according to Dixon a proposal to require residents to move their cars at least 30 feet has been removed from planned changes to the Seal Beach Municipal Code. Seal Beach Police Commander Steve Bowles said the public will get notice when the city starts enforcing parking rules 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.

The controversy over the requirement that cars have to be moved a specific number of feet had caused the council to return proposed changes to the city’s parking laws to staff for further revision.

Tuesday night, Dixon and Seal Commander Bowles continue to say that the requirement that cars be moved every 72 hours is state law.

However, Patty Campbell, a former councilwoman, argued that as a charter city, Seal Beach did not have to abide by the rule that cars have to be moved every 72 hours.

Dixon said that after hearing feedback from the public, they had removed the distance rule for moving cars in residential neighborhoods.

Dixon said the city wants to have the parking code completed before the spring break. She said the city would transition into virtual parking permits over the next season. Later in the meeting, she said that the parking code changes would, optimistically, probably go to the council the first week of March.

“We’re not done yet,” Dixon said, apparently referring to the public outreach on the parking program.

She said the next parking meeting would be held in April.

She also said the city would distribute a citywide survey.

As for the issue of parking in the alley, Dixon said there was no change in the requirement. She said the key question was “Can a fire truck get through?”

A man in the audience proposed putting a white stripe in the alleys as the simplest way to clarify where a car could or could not be parked.

“You’re 100 percent right,” Bowles said. “We do that in Surfside.”

A second man in the audience asked how parking enforcement could tell if an electric car parked at a charging station is plugged in.

Dixon believed that charging stations indicate when a car is being charged. She said some jurisdictions create time limits for parking at charging stations.

The same man said some people are putting permits on a car and sharing them with friends.

Dixon said “a handful of people” are taking advantage of the process.

Kalmick asked how the city would handle guest passes.

Dixon said guest passes will be part of the virtual permitting, but she added that the guest passes will probably be physical passes.

Campbell said that when the city tries to implement a “one size fits all” rule, the city runs into trouble.

According to Dixon, the requirement that residents move their cars at least 30 feet had been removed from proposed code changes because the city wanted to avoid a one-size fits all approach.

Commander Bowles seemed to agree that a one-size fits all wouldn’t work.

“I can’t get everybody to agree on anything even in Old Town,” Bowles said.

According to Dixon, street sweeping was apparently a factor in the state requirement that cars be moved every 72 hours.

Bowles said he has had people call him screaming because the city cleans the streets too often.

A third man in the audience suggested putting signage in the city’s alleys, but a fourth man said that wouldn’t work.

A woman in the audience said Dixon was “scaring us” by taking about hiring more enforcement. “Tell me exactly what I need to do,” she said.

(Later in the meeting, Dixon said that if you haven’t received a ticket in years, keep doing what you’re doing.)

Dixon said that when you start enforcing parking laws, people will move on to areas where they can get away with whatever they are doing.

Another woman in the audience asked about data collection.

Dixon said they had to finalize the data collection plan.

Nina Vafaie said that when she was on vacation in the fall for four days, a neighbor called the police to complain about her parked car.

A neighbor called Vafaie and agreed to move her car, so she wasn’t ticketed.

Seal Beach residents who attended the meetings expressed concern about the discretion that parking officers have to decide if a car has moved enough.

Dixon said parking officers are trained. If they are not sure a car has moved enough, they will call a watch commander or a sergeant for guidance.

A man who lives on Electric Avenue raised the issue of informing visitors about the rules. “Maybe our signage needs to change,” he said.

Bowles said the city has had complaints about too many signs on a post.

Resident Marc Loopesko praised the city’s current parking enforcement staff.

Bowles said his parking enforcement staff know exactly which cars are not moving.

“They know everybody that plays the game,” he said.

Campbell asked if the 72-hour parking rule could be suspended for a car that is parked in front of the homeowner’s house.

Dixon said that it’s a public street.

“I think the keyword is ‘homeowner,’ not ‘street owner,’ Bowles said.

He said you don’t have priority over the street in front of your house.

Another man said that residents who don’t live on a one-hour parking street shouldn’t be allowed to buy a permit in a one-hour area.

Joyce Parque asked how many people in Leisure World, College Park East and College Park West have permits to park in Old Town.

Dixon said they would have that information at the next meeting.

Earlier in the meeting, Dixon said that residential parking permitting was based on DMV car registration.

Bowles began the meeting with some examples of the challenges parking enforcement faces in Seal Beach.

He said he had one contractor removing license plates to avoid license plate reading technology.

He also said some members of the community had painted their own curbs red.

“You can’t do that,” he said.

Near the beginning of the meeting, Bowles said that he was given responsibility for parking enforcement about two years ago.

What ideas to you have for improving Seal Beach parking? Email editor@sunnews.org.

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