Finding your space
Why ‘No Parking’ is the newest fighting term in city-university relations.
by Robert Penalber
photography by Mitchell Aleman
After spending nearly 20 minutes every day searching for a parking spot on the University of La Verne’s main campus, Nadine Miranda, junior movement and sports science major, thought she hit the jackpot when she first found a predictable parking spot during her 2011 sophomore year. Though a block from the main campus, it was a place not many students had found, she says. Her discovery allowed her to avoid the 300 percent price increase when parking permits went from $30 a year in 2011 to $95 in fall 2012. With the spring semester 2012 start, though, Miranda met a new reality. Her parking spot was occupied one morning—a student was already parked in it. Slightly annoyed, Miranda parked farther down the street. The struggle to earn back her original spot continued throughout the semester, even though Miranda found that she was never able to get it back unless she arrived at school early in the morning. Come fall semester 2012, Miranda noticed even more students decided to take to the streets alongside her black Scion. The biggest shock, however, came upon her return from Thanksgiving break in 2012 when temporary “No Parking” signs were staked up curb side. For college students like Miranda, “A” Street was off limits. “I was late that day, and I didn’t want to park in the shuttle lot because I didn’t want to have to rely on a damn shuttle to take me to my car when I needed something, so I parked in a spot behind Warehouse Pizza,” Miranda says. Needless to say, Miranda has since surrendered to Lot S, the shuttle parking lot located at the south end of A Street.
Ah, parking. It is a situation most commuters can relate to. Whether it is students, faculty or staff, everyone has a personal rant focused toward the University of La Verne’s parking crisis. Students are no longer remaining quiet about the situation either. Posts on social networking forums continue to trend, poking at the problem that has pushed administrators to wring their hands. One meme posted on La Verne’s Facebook page reads, “Oh, La Verne needs more parking? Well here’s some grass,” referring to the area behind the Campus Center, while another displays a picture of Lot D at maximum capacity with text reading, “Buy a parking permit, they said. You’ll find parking, they said.” On Twitter, one user posted a picture of reserved spaces within Lot E by campus security, sarcastically tweeting, “At least ULV is working hard to appease the situation and not reserving 40 spots for two campus safety golf carts.” The parking issue has pitted the campus and surrounding neighborhoods into a conflict situation, with the city serving as a mediator with its signs. But this flared up parking dilemma is relatively new to the La Verne campus.
Parking leads to city struggle
Fall 2012, admissions staff members announced the historic student increase of its largest incoming class, with enrollment of 650 freshmen on the main campus. The growth pains showed up conspicuously on the streets. Commuters were on fire at the idea that the University would admit more students than it could accommodate for parking. It could have been worse. Dean of admissions Chris Krzak says that only 28 percent of those admitted actually enrolled fall 2012. The University is at an all-time high for gaining student enrollments but is suffering from lack of planning associated with growth. And with the influx of its largest incoming class to date, the University has been struggling to accommodate everyone in terms of transportation. “Right now we have too many commuters for the number of slots available on campus,” ULV President Devorah Lieberman says.
So commuters took to the neighboring streets surrounding the campus for free, local parking. Full frustration came Thanksgiving break 2012 when commuters discovered no parking signs everywhere, including in front of University buildings. To the commuters, this seemed like an overreaction from the city resulting from unresolved issues between the city and the University. An email directed from Clive Houston-Brown, chief information officer and associate vice president of facility and technology services, delivered the news to the University community that “No Parking” signs would be placed within a three-block radius of the University campus upon their return Nov. 26, 2012.
“Last summer we had meetings with city officials to litigate parking in and around campus and parking in the community,” Houston-Brown says. The meeting had established that the University would attempt to alleviate the parking problem through the purchase of a shuttle parking lot, known as Lot S, on the south end of A Street. According to Brown, the October 2012 City Council meeting reviewed the parking issue, at which point the city had promised its residents that action would take place if the University were unable to get its shuttle lot used early on in the semester. “That was agreed to in the meeting; we tried the voluntary method at first, but that didn’t work out,” Houston-Brown says. “We were not getting the participation we were hoping for. At most, one-fifth of the lot was being used.” This no parking decision was fueled by the numerous complaints from residents to the La Verne Police Department. After Thanksgiving, the city decided it was time to take action.
Complaints from residents stemmed from being unable to park in front of their homes and often having to leave orange cones curbside in an attempt to reserve street parking. Further complaints came when students would move the cones in order to park in these spots. Residents would complain about students leaving trash on their property or changing in their cars, according to LV Police Chief Scott Pickwith. Merchant complaints told of cars parked outside of their business for hours at a time, says Rafferty Wooldridge, assistant planner for the city of La Verne. “We looked at ways to alleviate the congestion, and we have been working with the University,” Wooldridge says. “The no-parking signs that went up were temporary as a direct relief while the University looked for ways to deal with the congestion. It was done more so as a temporary relief.” Yet the “temporary” paper signs stealthily morphed into sturdy steel signs cemented into the ground. The majority of the “No Parking” signs were cut down in March—the day after the first city of La Verne farmer’s market began. Wooldridge says this is because commuters began to use the shuttle lot in larger numbers. He noted caution in April: Should the problem persist, the signs may return. “Since the signs have come down, it’s been a few weeks of congestion because there are people still filtering back into the neighborhoods,” he says. “It’s about trying to find that level of respect, since parking is becoming a high demand.”
University introduces solutions
One noted change is that the University now receives all money for tickets issued on college property, says Houston-Brown. The University bought this process in-house, granting its security force the right to control traffic and parking on its properties under California Vehicle Code, in reference to CVC 21007.8. Fines for parking without display of a valid parking permit average about $48, and parking in disabled zones could be as hefty as $333. Citations in other surrounding street areas are issued by the La Verne Police Department.
Though the city and University have started to compromise on the parking issue, there is still a need for space. Even though residents are now not as significantly caught in the struggle, University commuters continue to compete even more to find campus parking places. In response, administrators have introduced immediate solutions that are generated by its Parking Committee. The primary solution is the 2011 purchase of “A” Street and Arrow Highway Lot S, which can fit up to 300 cars. It was first introduced as a free option for commuters who did not purchase a parking permit for central campus parking. “The temporary signs have helped us establish the shuttle lot as people have used it,” Houston-Brown says. “It’s very fast and very comfortable.”
Though the solution started rocky and needed further planning, its execution has progressed. Currently, the University owns three shuttles, which were purchased new and are propane powered. According to Avo Kechichian, vice president of finance and treasurer, the three shuttle purchase cost a little more than $200,000 and is paid off. Tank modification into natural liquid propane cost about $70,000, according to Houston-Brown. It costs about $750 a week to fill the shuttles up.
While commuting students worry that the University will require purchase of a parking permit for Lot S, Kechichian says, “At this point there are no plans to charge anyone for using the shuttle lot.” Along with the acquisition of Lot S, the University has introduced another option, made available at the beginning of the spring 2012 semester—the new zip cars program.
ULV partnered with ZipCar, a car sharing service that allows members to reserve and rent their own car. Rates for the service began at $7.50 per hour or $69 per day for University of La Verne members. Costs for the service cover gas, maintenance and insurance. “It’ll eliminate some vehicles on campus if students and faculty know there are other means of transportation available,” Lisa Grater, transportation and parking coordinator, says. Grater is confident that the program will stay, judging from the number of members who initially signed up on a waitlist. “It takes the pressure off the parking lots and makes the shuttle lots more viable, and, hopefully, it’ll give people confidence in the parking solutions available,” Stanley Skipworth, director of campus safety and transportation, says.
November 2012, the city decided to hire crossing guards to enforce caution on two intersections of D Street with Second and Third streets. Though a city decision, the University pays for the crossing guards’ salaries. “The crossing guards were worked out with the city and were issued based on the University’s foot traffic. They are only temporary at semester start to build a culture at the beginning of each semester and to encourage appropriate pedestrian traffic, which is to allow each other turns,” Houston-Brown says. Despite the crossing help, students continue to question why administrators and the city have not pushed for a crosswalk that would link Lot D, across from the Arts & Communications Building. The Lot D feeds pedestrians to campus east and also to the Oaks Residential Halls “It is too close to the railroad tracks and other crossings,” Houston-Brown says. “There should not be a crossing there; it’s a safety issue because cars can get backed up onto the railroad. Placing a crossing right there would encourage this.”
Commuters question decisions
One announcement, which came as a shock to residents in the form of an email mandate, told all Vista La Verne residents they would be parking their cars in the remote Lot S shuttle lot, beginning fall semester 2012. Students living in Vista La Verne will be unable to purchase parking permits, instead being given special “R” permits that will allow them entrance into a reserved section of the shuttle lot. Vista students will only be allowed to park on the main campus during holidays, spring break and every weekend from noon on Fridays until 7 a.m. on Mondays. The shuttle lot will extend its hours to 24 hours a day to enable Vista students to access their cars. According to Houston-Brown, administrators had initially considered placing all freshmen in the shuttle lot, but turned away from the idea. “So now we’re saying, OK, that’s not 100 percent solving the issue, so we had to identify which population we should have in the shuttle lot,” La Verne President Lieberman says.
“Somebody has to be there. Should it be faculty, students, staff? And, of all these groups, this is the best of all options. No option is perfect, because that does not exist. [Clive] is doing it in a way that’s the safest because it involves students coming and going to Vista La Verne,” she says. To meet the increased need, the shuttle lot will expand from 280 spaces to about 450 spaces.
While short-term parking goals are implemented, long-term goals are being proposed in a revised master plan. According to Kechichian, a master plan for the University was completed in 2007 and was approved by both the Board of Trustees and the city of La Verne. The plan shows an outline of parking lot expansion as well as the possible development of future multiple story parking structures, possibly in Lot D. “We are starting the process of updating a new master plan based on the 20/20 vision,” Houston-Brown says. “It does show a number of possible parking structures. Almost certainly we will have a parking structure in the future, which costs about $28,000 per space.” Master plans look out in three to five year periods, and the building of a parking structure could take as long as 15 years or more, he says. “We’re just not sure yet where it would go. We’re taking our time before we move forward,” Kechichian says.
The new plan must also be approved by the city, which has its own master plan. “Because we are tight on land, we are actively looking for space,” Houston-Brown says. “The city plays a strong role in where, not whether, we can expand. We are one of its constituencies along with residents, so we want to see whether our master plan fits in with the city’s master plan. There’s not a lot of space to expand; either way we expand it’s going to go into residential space or industrial space, so they have to decide what they want to keep. They are more open to us expanding to industrial areas.”
For now, the University is moving select administrative offices to the off-campus remote parking area, in hopes of creating a few more on-campus parking spaces. “We are trying to work with the University at different ways to help them find ways to accommodate parking. We’re looking at different methods to help them deal with any issues they have and we’re trying to find a way to make everyone happy,” Wooldridge says. “We have to be good neighbors to the community, and we can’t have commuters overrunning the neighborhoods,” President Lieberman says.