COMMENTARY: It’s not always first-come, first-served in parking situations

By Raul Samaniego

At Monday’s monthly meeting of the Norwalk Public Safety Commission, I attended to get an idea of what happens at one of these citizen-appointed bodies.

While they meet once a month, 20% of their five-member board was missing. That was member Bertha Chavez. This was confirmed through the City Clerk’s office by Carmen Martinez.

I knew something was amiss as soon as I asked the first of a series of questions. What information did anyone have regarding the latest shooting and had any of them heard any shots near their homes recently?

No viable information was given. 

I took my seat as a series of statements from residents and concerned individuals voiced their opinions regarding an application for a preferential parking zone for residents of 15200-15300 Graystone Avenue between Barnwall and Ferina streets.

The information compiled from research, observation and data for about a year included one statistic which stated that during the inquiry dates, 40% of the vehicles were registered outside of the area.

This information was similar to a report that the city council had heard regarding parking issues in the city a couple years back.

In the study, it cited smaller street construction, two and three car households and the elimination of parking space due to garage conversions, non-working parked autos and use of those parking areas for storage space.

Many of those homeowners who spoke cited their paying of property taxes as a validation of their right to park.

Resident Josh Forsyth was adamant about streets being, in his words, “First come, first serve.”
Other speakers cited what they believed were students from the nearby Cerritos College campus parking and walking, skateboarding or riding a bike to class.

Many seemed to be understanding for they stressed they, too, had been Cerritos Falcons once as well.

After the meeting, I asked Dora Sandoval if the owners of the apartment buildings in the area paid taxes. While she didn’t know, it was Public Safety Director Carlos Ramos who wanted to be part of any discussion taking place between commissioners and audience members.

After Tuesday’s regularly scheduled council meeting, I asked Finance Director Jana Stuard if the owners of apartment complexes paid any taxes. Stuard confirmed that “Yes, they do pay taxes.”

The Public Safety Commission unanimously approved the application for preferred parking. The vote now moves the application to a future City Council meeting where residents will again have an opportunity to voice their opinions in favor or opposition to this application.

Oh, whether it is just a matter of first come first serve, the United States Supreme Court in Arlington County Board v. Richards in 1977 cited that the use of a preferential parking zone does not violate the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

What does that mean? Residents may ask and receive preferential parking permits if it can be demonstrated that there is a need.

It is the Norwalk City Council members who approve or disapprove of the request.