Friday, February 27, 2009

San Pedro Parking $1 an Hour– Are they Crazy? The City of LA Must Be Trying to Kill Us

By Diana L. Chapman

Parking. The bane of pretty much everyone’s existence – especially if you are one of the dozens of shop keepers and eateries trying to eek out a living in San Pedro, where a business – good, bad or otherwise – always seems on the edge and struggling.

It’s been this way downtown for decades. I’ve watched many friends open shops with excitement, banners and fanfare – only to watch many of them unhappily shutter their doors year after year.

Many of our hardworking business owners are currently gasping and struggling for air, especially in this dark economy. I’d like to say downturn – but it’s more like a sliding slope that hasn’t hit the brakes and we have no idea when it will.

So when I saw that the Los Angeles City Council agreed to charge four quarters at our lovely city parking meters for one hour, I cringed. This is bad, bad, bad news.

I think our city fathers or should I say mothers in this case are simply trying to kill our town. Los Angeles reminds me of a giant vampire – slowly sucking away at all the outlying areas in its giant grasp for money – and, yes, that includes our community. Money seems to pour out of here and not to flow back in.

How else can I see it? Downtown’s life struggle continues gasping on and on as it has for decades, and just when we think there’s about to be a resurgence – the leap from the run-down shabby feeling of downtown – just never gets launched to the bright momentum we’ve been waiting for.

Los Angeles knows this. City officials can see the track record – if they took the time to look. This parking fee is just another brutal spike hammered in for the recurring death of our downtown. If they want our area to falter further, just do this where people have to run around looking for change to pay the city’s voracious parking meters and it’s not too difficult to make a prediction what’s going to happen.

Um, my forecast for downtown San Pedro are more business closures, one after another after another, thanks to Los Angeles.

All I could picture when I read the story was my friend, Susan, who runs Nosh, a scrumptious eatery on Centre Street, take another deep gasp for air. Since she threw open its doors, the place has been one financial struggle after another – pretty much like most of the places downtown.

And it’s not because it’s not a great place. It is. People love eating the spinach feta quiche and the fresh fruit coated with granola and topped with Greek yogurt. The trouble of attracting visitors is hard enough without telling them to bring at least four quarters, and probably more like eight.

I don’t know if anyone’s noticed or not, but as far as I know Los Angeles is one of the biggest cities in the world – and the least progressive. If you are going to start tapping residents for more money, wouldn’t it be nice if it could catch up with the world and let us use our ATM cards at these machines!

Doesn’t that make sense? Because it’s a lot less about the money – than it is the stress of finding the coins and running back to your car to hit up the meter.

Once, not so long ago, which now seems so far, far away, downtown’s future looked like a flashing diamond off in the distance and that gem appeared to be heading our way. New condominiums were flying up quickly, bringing a sense of freshness with the rust-orange colors or giant glass windows with views of the port.

New and young families were moving in from all over the South Bay.

But now with the tumultuous economy, the sales of some condominiums have turned sour, many turning into rentals, rather than purchases.

The business owners who trusted San Pedro was headed in the right direction, climbed on board the train, and the future looked nothing but prosperous. Then, as usual when it seems San Pedro is on the tip of revitalization, the economy sputters and gags.

During this horrendous time, charging $1 an hour is bad enough, but having to have the correct change is the biggest damage. In my future prediction—unless the city comes up with some future intelligence to this situation -- it appears our poor business owners will watch the railroad run by and not bother to stop.

They’ll be standing out in the cold because the city has sucked us dry of all our blood.

Wait, however. As the train clacks by, our poor business owners may be able to reach out and hand you a quarter – no make that four quarters, no make that eight – so you might take a moment to take a peek at their stores.Wait. Wait. Maybe they'll even give you money to come shop.