Op-Ed – Why the Downtown and Alamitos Beach Parking Study Needs a Careful Rollout

By Eric Gray (LBLN Contributor)

A section of the Long Beach community is getting an opportunity to weigh in on one of the most important issues many residents face, parking.

For years, conversations around this issue have been pervasive in the community, leading to numerous lengthy discussions at association meetings, neighborhood forums, social media websites, and up on the dais at City Hall.

In neighborhoods such as Alamitos Beach, the real world implications as a result of a lack of parking have led many residents, time and time again, to drive around the neighborhood for 45 minutes before finding a parking space after a hard day’s work.

Parking Study Offers A Glimmer of Hope

In 2016, a deal was struck between parking advocates and the City of Long Beach as a result of a lawsuit.  Residents who live in the Downtown and Alamitos Beach study areas now have an opportunity to help shape Long Beach’s future when it comes to parking.  KOA, a private consulting firm hired by the city, is tasked with leading data driven parking studies through the community and to also come up with a project management plan to ease parking woes in their two study areas.  Their budget, according to a city press release, is at a maximum cost of $250,000.

The budgeted money for the parking studies come from both developer contributions and City of Long Beach net proceeds as a result of the sale from three contested properties related to the lawsuit.  The study boundary area in Downtown Long Beach includes Seaside Way to 5th Street & Golden Avenue to Alamitos Avenue.  In Alamitos Beach, the study boundary area includes the Beach to 5th Street and Alamitos Avenue to Junipero Avenue.

The Parking Study Process

KOA, the private consulting firm facilitating the parking study, has attended multiple neighborhood association meetings.  They have handed out intercept surveys at these public meetings to show what data they are collecting in the field.  They have also informed the community that the intercept surveys are being given out from 9am to 11am in the morning and 4pm to 6pm at night.  KOA is close to releasing an online survey directly for residents in the two study areas in four languages.  The online survey will be up for a little more than 30 days.

Suggestions For An Efficient Parking Study Rollout

While I do believe we are off to a good start with KOA, I want to share some suggestions to better engage the community and obtain more accurate data related to parking.  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Intercept surveys should be given out at all hours of the day, most importantly between 7am to 9am when residents are leaving for work and 5pm to 8pm when residents are coming home to park.  Consideration should also be given to understanding the parking experience of visitors to the Downtown and Alamitos areas during weekend day and evening hours.
  • The online survey should not just be available online.  This decreases the access to many in our community who do not use the internet or cannot afford to.  According to the statistics portal, only 64% of people aged 65 and older use the Internet.  Many of these people drive well into their 80’s and must be given a better chance to offer their feedback on the parking experience here in Long Beach.
  • Utilize the $250,000 budget wisely and transpose the online survey into a paper document.  From there, mail out the survey to all registered voters in the study areas.  This will allow for a much larger sample to offer valuable feedback to the city on this important issue.
  • Don’t rush the process.  The data responses in the surveys are incredibly important and must be given an appropriate amount of time and due diligence in order to come up with solutions to improve the quality of life in the community.

Patience is a Virtue

No one can deny the fact that City Officials have their work cut out for them in relation to parking.  Many buildings were built decades ago with little or no parking, and many homes in the area have carriage garages that are too small to hold modern day cars.  An earnest desire is needed to improve parking carried out by both sound public policy and block by block sweat equity.