The City Council this week voted 3-2 to have staff come back to the council to officially form an ad hoc citizen/council parking committee. The matter is scheduled to return to the council on July 24, when the council will officially create the parking committee.
District One Councilman Joe Kalmick and District Five Councilman Nathan Steele cast the dissenting votes.
Although he cast opposing votes, Kalmick and District Two Councilman/Mayor Tom Moore will serve on the proposed parking committee.
The committee was proposed by Moore, who argued that there was a need for public input and discussion.
The original proposal had been for a council committee.
However, the proposal came back last week as a citizens ad hoc committee composed of two council members and residents representing each of the five council districts.
“The purpose and goal of the Committee would be to engage in focused discussion, and to review, analyze and recommend options for improvements to the parking program,” according to the staff report by City Clerk Gloria Harper.
A handout made available at the meeting described the composition of the proposed committee: two council members (Moore and Kalmick), the city manager or her designees, a representative of the Seal Beach Chamber of Commerce, and a resident from each council district.
Applications would be submitted to the city clerk.
According to the handout, the goals for the committee three months after its formation would be to:
• Recommend how two townhall meetings on parking would be conducted.
• Look at parking on Main Street and offer an opinion to the council.
• Provide any other ideas for improving parking in Seal Beach.
However, the question of whether Main Street area parking should be free or for a paid fee was a major issue for the council members.
Moore started the discussion by going over the composition and goals of the committee. Moore recommended himself and Kalmick as the council representatives on the committee, as Main Street is in Kalmick’s district.
For the Chamber representative, Moore wanted “someone who owns a business on Main Street and would be selected by the Chamber before Aug. 1st.”
The residents for each district would be chosen for the council member for their district.
Moore said the Brown Act would be applicable to these meetings. He said members of the public could attend the parking committee meetings and other council members could sit in and listen.
Moore then asked for comments.
“Two meetings ago, you tossed out the idea of a two-year moratorium on parking on Main Street,” Steele said.
(Moore had proposed a moratorium on paid parking on Main Street.)
Steele said at the previous meeting Moore had the first iteration of a parking committee.
“I think that the City Council is the proper organ to discuss this and talk about it and have the hearings and invite the public and get the comments,” Steele said.
“I can’t imagine what it would be like for me to be locked out of the discussion just because I’m not on the ad hoc committee,” he said.
“You would not be locked out; you can listen in as a Brown Act meeting,” Moore said.
“Right, I wouldn’t be able to go, correct?” Steele asked.
“No, you can go, you can listen,” Moore said. Moore cited the Brown Act.
“But I just can’t participate,” Steele said.
“You can get up and speak for 5 minutes,” Moore said.
“We were elected for a reason,” Steele said.
“We have a duty as electeds in this city to make tough and difficult decisions, and it has more to do with than just parking on Main Street,” Steele said.
“It has to do with the financial condition of the city and we have financial challenges coming at us,” Steele said.
“We’ve all seen the forecast and so it’s kind of like anything we do to delay what is legitimately a potential source of revenue—I’m not saying it is or is not—but anything we do to delay the implementation of a source of revenue in this city is almost irresponsible in my view,” Steele said.
He was apparently referring to a recent recommendation from the city’s parking consultant to consider paid parking.
(The consultant, Julie Dixon, recently gave a virtual presentation to the Seal Beach Chamber that was for Chamber members only.)
“We are the council; it’s our voices, we will have our public hearings, we will listen to people, we will consider all points of view and have a full public hearing, but I think that as a City Council function and not a separate three-month process to, you know, I’m not sure what,” Steele said.
He said that even after a three-month process, the council is not bound to whatever the committee decides.
“Or maybe we would be publicly shamed if we don’t accept the committee’s decisions,” Steele said.
“I’m adamantly opposed to this,” Steele said.
“I want to be a part of the dialogue and a part of the discussion,” Steele said.
“I want to hear from the public directly myself and I want to be a participant in that dialogue,” Steele said.
According to Moore, that would happen after the ad hoc committee had done its work in three months.
Moore argued Seal Beach had had free parking on Main Street for 108 years.
Steele asked how many coastal cities had free parking on their main street?
“Do you think it’s bad for business?” Steele asked.
“I do,” Moore said.
“Main Street’s empty in the winter,” Moore said.
“We were elected for a reason,” Steele said.
“Seventy percent of your residents do not want paid parking,” Moore said.
“They don’t have all of the facts,” Steele said.
“They don’t see the financial challenge facing the city,” Steele said.
“They’re not making a holistic decision,” Steele said.
“That’s why we need to get them involved,” Moore said.
“That’s why we have public hearings,” Steele said.
“The public hearings are run by the parking consultant,” Moore said. [Video 1:04:55.]
“The parking consultant has a certain presentation that’s her view,” Moore said. “I want to get the public’s view.”
“I think we will get the public’s view,” Steele said.
“I don’t see the value in waiting three months having a separate—”
Moore argued that if the city waited a hundred years, they could wait three months.
Councilwoman Lisa Landau said the fact they were not at 85% yet, she didn’t think was a pressing issue.
“I have constituents that would like to see this committee and three months in the scheme of things is not that long,” Landau said.
“I think that having their participation is important because this is a big issue,” Landau said.
“I think three months is irresponsible,” Steele said.
Moore asked if anyone else wanted to speak up.
District Four Councilwoman Schelly Sustarsic agreed it was an important decision. Sustarsic argued that the committee would give more chances for public to research the subject.
Sustarsic said she spoke with parking consultant Dixon at the safety awards breakfast. “She said it’s not a rush,” Sustarsic said.
Sustarsic said she wanted to review the ramifications and make sure the council doesn’t cause more problems. Sustarsic said she wanted to move forward in a way that won’t have a bad effect on someone else.
“So I don’t think there’s a problem with taking three months to consider it in more detail,” Sustarsic said.
She said she thought that was being a good steward of the city, informing the public and listening to them.
Moore asked for a comment from District One Councilman Kalmick.
“I think for the most part I have to be in agreement with Councilman Steele,” Kalmick said.
“Yeah, it’s been 108 years but I think that could be said for virtually every city in Southern California,” Kalmick said.
“Especially the beach cities that have been in existence for that long,” he said.
Kalmick argued that the next meeting was on July 24th and the council was kicking the can down the road even further.
“I still have trouble getting it through my head what input, other than their concerns other than their having to pay for parking, our residents are going to bring to us,” Kalmick said.
Kalmick argued that if the city doesn’t have the committee, there will be a public outreach.
“I have a question,” Moore said.
He said they last time the council talked about parking, the council said the public might have the opportunity to spend three or four hours.
“But if we think about that, it’s going to be worse for the businesses because there’s not going to be as much turnover,” Moore said.
“I’m just saying there’s other things to be discussed that need to be thought through,” Moore said.
He said the council couldn’t do it there. “We’re not experts on parking. We’ll bring in a few experts and we’ll listen,” Moore said.
“We have an expert,” Steele said.
“We’re only listening to one person instead of our businesses and residents,” Moore said.
“No, no, no, no, they have a voice,” Steele said.
“Sure, absolutely, we’ll have a whole hearing process to go through,” Steele said.
“We’ll have whole public hearings,” Steele said.
“Two townhalls run by one parking consultant,” Moore said.
Kalmick asked what that means.
“We’re not involved?” Steele asked.
Moore argued that they would not be able to talk during a town hall. “No, you’re not,” Moore said.
“Well, I won’t be able to speak at the ad hocs either,” Steele said.
“They’re Brown Act meetings, so you will be [able],” Moore said.
“I’m a little concerned about your antipathy toward our parking consultant,” Kalmick said.
“I don’t have an antipathy towards her,” Moore said.
“My concern is once we cross this red line on Main Street, it’s not going to stop there,” Moore said.
“It’s going to go to the side streets,” Moore said.
“It’s already on the side streets,” Steele said.
“So we’re going to charge [for] parking on side streets, is that what you’re saying?” Moore said.
“There’s paid parking on Ocean and the side streets?” Moore said.
Steele said there was already 1 hour parking on the side streets and then the public faces a fine. “They have to move the car or they have to have a permit,” Steele said.
Moore argued that the council had to start talking about paid parking on Ocean and the side streets.
“Because they’re going to get impacted because no one’s going to park on Main Street,” Moore said.
“There is a holistic solution to this thing,” Steele said.
He then referred to a “Parking 101” presentation he attended.
“I learned a lot more in those two hours about parking,” Steele said.
“For example, when you put and when the city of Paso Robles, and other cities, have implemented paid parking on their main streets, the revenues of the merchants go up,” Steele said.
(The Sun has emailed the city manager of Paso Robles to request information about the city’s parking revenue and parking impacts.)
Moore said that had nothing to do with Seal Beach.
Moore asked for a motion to create the ad hoc citizens parking committee.
“I’d like a motion to proceed with the normal process,” Steele said.
Steele said he was not making a motion on Moore’s proposal. He said he was making a motion to proceed as City Council in the normal process that the council would follow in these types of situations.
“Just to confirm, that’s to move forward with the townhall meetings and not form the ad hoc committee,” said City Attorney Nicholas Ghirelli.
“Yes, that is correct,” Steele said.
Kalmick seconded his motion.
Initially, the vote was reported as 3-2 in favor of Steele’s motion.
However, following an exchange between Landau and Ghirelli that could not be heard, Councilwoman Landau said she was in favor of the citizens committee. “Gloria, Council Member Landau is changing her vote to no,” Ghirelli said.
“Council Member Steele’s motion did not pass,” said City Clerk Harper.
The vote was recorded as 2-3 in favor of going forward with the regular procedure.
Moore asked for a motion to form the committee.
Sustarsic made a motion to approve a citizen parking committee.
City Manager Jill Ingram said, “Just to make the motion clear, it’s basically giving direction to staff to come back with an item that would officially establish the committee, you’re not forming it tonight.”
Moore seconded Sustarsic’s motion.
Harper took a roll call vote.
Ghirelli asked Mayor Moore if he wanted to appoint the two council members to the committee that night or wait until July 24.
“Well, my proposal had myself and Joe Kalmick,” Moore said.
“I will happily serve on the committee,” Kalmick said.
Ghirelli asked if that was included in her motion.
Sustarsic said that was part of her motion if that was OK with everyone.
“OK, I just wanted to confirm,” Ghirelli said.
Ingram said she heard the concerns about the delays in moving the parking program forward, the city would have the City Clerk’s Office move forward with the outreach so there would be an opportunity to establish the committee so the city did not lose any more time.