Parkway Parking Really Bugs Me — Let’s Fix It

Parkway parking in Koreatown. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.
Parkway parking in Koreatown. Photo by Joe Linton/Streetsblog L.A.

A couple weeks ago, I was bicycling in a hurry to get somewhere, and caught a few seconds of a conflict between a driver and a pedestrian. The location was the corner of First Street and New Hampshire Avenue in Koreatown, right across the street from Frank Del Olmo Elementary School. The time was early afternoon; school had just let out.

The conflict was a little different than most driver-pedestrian conflicts in that both the car and the pedestrian were on the sidewalk.

The driver had been parked in the parkway and seemed to be in a hurry to drive away—using the sidewalk to get to the street. There were actually three pedestrians: a mother with two children holding her hands.

The driver’s car was blocking the sidewalk. His window was rolled down and he was yelling. The pedestrian was on the sidewalk yelling at the driver. Other parents were walking their kids around the sidewalk-hogging car. I was tempted to yell at the driver myself, but I was in a rush.

This kind of crystallized some of the issues with parkway parking as recently profiled in a very good article by Laura Nelson in the L.A. Times. Nelson clarified something I hadn’t been aware of when I raised the issue of increasing sidewalk and parkway parking in my neighborhood, and the proliferation of posts to prevent such parking. According to the Times:

For more than five years, the Los Angeles City Council has told parking officers not to ticket cars parked on parkways — an umbrella term that includes the public land between the sidewalk and the curb, as well as the sloping aprons that connect driveways to the street.

The council’s 2011 decision to suspend parkway enforcement came in response to an outcry from residents who had been cited for parking on driveway aprons. A lull in enforcement, officials said, would give drivers some relief and give the city time to craft new policies.

But the five-year gap in enforcement has also encouraged a wave of renegade parkers in dense neighborhoods, who know that hopping the curb to park on the grass won’t lead to a ticket.

Further:

The [L.A. City] council vote to suspend parkway enforcement followed a series of civil rights lawsuits that claimed the city’s broken, sometimes impassable sidewalks violated the Americans with Disabilities Act. One of the cases, which will be settled pending court approval, alleged that apron parking also violated the act.

I don’t doubt that the L.A. Times is right, but to me this sounds like pretty car-centric back-ass-ward anti-logic. When people in wheelchairs said they couldn’t get around cars parked across sidewalks, the city council responded by telling police to take it easy on drivers. The council suspended enforcement of parking laws, because disabled people sued to get cars out of the way. Groan. Perhaps livability advocates could generate a lawsuit that appeared to be from downtown drivers, and a similarly illogical response could suspend LAPD “jaywalking” stings!

There are two types of parking violations here:

  • Apron Parking: Cars parked in driveways, sometimes blocking sidewalks
  • Parkway Parking: Cars parked in the parkway (the area between the sidewalk and the street) sometimes accessed via driving on the sidewalk

When issues arose with apron parking, the city suspended enforcement of both apron and parkway parking restrictions. The reason given, again according to the Times:

[O]fficials pointed out that the city’s municipal code contained conflicting definitions of “parkway,” which could make the law unenforceable.

I come at these parking problems as a person of privilege. As an able-bodied person who walks and bikes in my neighborhood, the cars in my way are a nuisance, but I can make my way around them, even when pushing my daughter in a stroller. I understand that many of these car owners don’t have a lot of resources, and the drivers are doing the best they can. Paying for off-street parking would be a burden on them (though many people on my street rent off-street parking from a church.) Paying for parkway parking tickets could be a serious burden, if the city resumes enforcement.

But, as the shouting match I came across shows, there are consequences for ceding our sidewalks to cars.

Non-enforcement of parking laws effectively gives over our sidewalk public spaces to cars. Drivers are favored over pedestrians. And this has another class aspect to it: the poorest in my neighborhood don’t have cars. So allowing drivers to take over public spaces means shifting space from the have-nots to the haves.

Koreatown is the most population-dense neighborhood in the city of Los Angeles. So much of our space already goes to streets, parking lots, drive-throughs, gas stations—with very little space for walking or bicycling. Ceding sidewalks and parkways to cars feels like one more blow against making my neighborhood more walkable. This is, first and foremost, a safety issue. The more we privilege drivers and disadvantage pedestrians, the more cars we get, the more lives traffic violence claims, the worse it gets for people on foot.

I urge the city council to resolve these thorny parking issues, and to make sure our sidewalks are accessible and safe for everyone.

24 thoughts on Parkway Parking Really Bugs Me — Let’s Fix It

  1. Your personal anecdotes are really helpful in this report, but changing the headline (“really bugs me”) and some of the focus to be entirely about the outrageous policy and issue here (“allowing drivers to take over public spaces means shifting space from the have-nots to the haves”) would hopefully better show our esteemed City Council how much they’re punishing families with strollers, people in wheelchairs, senior citizens, the mobility challenged, the car-free, and basically anyone not encased in a ton of metal and plastic. But I don’t know if they’re listening anyways.

  2. Your personal anecdotes are really helpful in this report, but changing the headline (“really bugs me”) and some of the focus to be entirely about the outrageous policy and issue here (“allowing drivers to take over public spaces means shifting space from the have-nots to the haves”) would hopefully better show our esteemed City Council how much they’re punishing families with strollers, people in wheelchairs, senior citizens, the mobility challenged, the car-free, and basically anyone not encased in a ton of metal and plastic. But I don’t know if they’re listening anyways.

  3. Thank you for writing this Joe. The practice of parkway parking really bothers me as well, and your post encouraged me to write an email to my councilmember.

  4. You say that the car was blocking the sidewalk but the photograph clearly shows that car parked on a grass verge separate from the sidewalk, which isn’t blocked

    Sidewalk parking is generally a problem when it is actually on the sidewalk and where the sidewalk is not wide enough to easily pass

  5. But isn’t the bigger problem a lack of available parking? And isn’t that the Council’s fault?

  6. The author never claimed the photo was of the car in question.

    Either way, it looks junky and kills the grass on the parkway.

  7. Why would it be the Council’s fault? Streets only have so much available space to park and like most neighborhoods in the country, the majority of parking is private.

  8. The Council presumably controls and can encourage the provision of adequate off-street parking. Some towns even prohibit on-street parking because they provide enough off-street parking.

    So why hasn’t this Council?

  9. One obvious solution is to get rid of that scrubby verge, widen the parking lane and allow “front in” parking that has greater capacity

  10. Why not just pave over the entire county into one huge parking lot? Clearly, government’s highest priority is the provision of a maximal amount of parking.

  11. Or, we enforce the law and keep our neighborhoods beautiful, with a buffer between the curb and the sidewalk, making a pleasant place to walk.

  12. But is it cost effective to tear up and re-curb streets to do this? Would any of the people who would end up using the new parking want to pay for it (almost certainly no). Much easier to discourage the illegal parking and let everyone adjust to the reality of too few parking spots in these neighborhoods.

  13. So turn our streets into parking lots? Would you want to live on that street?

    The verge is only “scrubby” because people are allowed to drive and sit their cars on it.

  14. LA already has parking minimums. In places where demand for housing is high (like LA), people > cars.

  15. Thank you so much for this. Would love to bring this fight to the front pages. It’s a terrible issue…

  16. LA may have minima but that doesn’t mean it has enough. If people are parking illegally then by definition LA either does not have enough parking or it put the parking in the wrong places

  17. Lots of cities don’t have verges. If I want to roll around in the grass, I don’t do it on a narrow verge next to cars. I go to a park.

  18. As a gradual process as cities renew their roads and highways anyway, it shouldn’t be that expensive.

  19. So what, we take cops off investigating rapes and child abuse, and transfer them to verge control? You think the voters would be OK with that?

  20. Yah, that’s wrong. Put in more spaces and then you’ll have even more cars who need spaces that aren’t there. It’s called induced demand and yes, it applies to parking the same way it does with road capacity.

  21. Except they don’t “renew their roads” anyway. Just occasional sealing of pavement. The road funds are spent on transit & bike paths, don’t you know.

  22. If there are capacity constraints then it can make sense to make better utilization of vital resources, I’d agree

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