BLUE-CURB AP­PEAL

City stud­ies re­sum­ing cre­ation of dis­abled park­ing spots

Los Angeles Times - - CALIFORNIA - By Ben­jamin Oreskes

Be­set with phys­i­cal strug­gles that make it hard for her to get around, Del Hunter-White reached out a year ago to the Depart­ment of Dis­abil­ity about get­ting a curb painted blue and des­ig­nated dis­abled park­ing in her Venice neigh­bor­hood.

Af­ter sev­eral weeks and daily calls, the 60-year-old, who has nabbed small roles in TV shows and com­mer­cials, got an em­ployee on the phone who told her the park­ing pro­gram re­spon­si­ble for cre­at­ing dis­abled park­ing in res­i­den­tial neigh­bor­hoods has not been ac­tive in seven years.

It was dispir­it­ing news to Hunter-White, who said that in her densely pop­u­lated, rapidly chang­ing Ab­bot­tKin­ney neigh­bor­hood it can be hard even for the able­bod­ied to find reg­u­lar park­ing.

“I don’t want to be doom and gloom, but I am some­times,” Hunter-White said. “Ev­ery­thing is a fight right now.… I don’t want to have to walk on bad knees and go search­ing for spots for four or five blocks.”

Although busi­nesses and new apart­ments are re­quired to pro­vide a cer­tain amount of dis­abled park­ing, of­fi­cials from the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and Depart­ment of Dis­abil­ity said that the pro­gram that han­dled re­quests by res­i­dents was sus­pended in 2010 in the wake of the eco­nomic re­ces­sion and bud­getary prob­lems.

Two years later, in 2012, changes in state and fed­eral guide­lines made it so that even if new park­ing spots were to be cre­ated, it would now be far more com­pli­cated to do so.

“Those guide­lines, that ap­ply to all cities, not just Los An­ge­les, stip­u­late that sim­ply paint­ing a blue curb and post­ing a sign on a street is no longer suf­fi­cient,” Paul Back­strom, a pol­icy ad­vi­sor to Coun­cil­man Mike Bonin, wrote in an email to Hunter-White. “The city must pro­vide an ac­cess ramp, a con­crete land­ing pad in the park­way and en­sure that the side­walk path on the block is in good con­di­tion (no up­lifts and/or cracks).”

There are 2.4 mil­lion per­ma­nent dis­abled park­ing plac­ards in cir­cu­la­tion in

Cal­i­for­nia. In L.A. County there were 785,438 per­ma­nent plac­ards dis­trib­uted as of Dec. 31, 2016, which is up from 596,430 plac­ards in 2011.

But de­spite this in­crease, the num­ber of spots on res­i­den­tial streets in that time has re­mained un­changed.

Mis­use of these plac­ards has sparked out­rage among driv­ers in the state.

A re­cent au­dit found that Cal­i­for­nia’s Depart­ment of Mo­tor Ve­hi­cles isn’t do­ing enough to ver­ify that ap­pli­cants for dis­abled spots ac­tu­ally de­serve them. The au­dit also re­vealed that nearly 26,000 plac­ard hold­ers were listed as be­ing 100 years old or older — prob­a­bly indicating that the DMV had failed to can­cel the plac­ards of peo­ple who had died.

On top of the is­sues re­volv­ing around the plac­ards them­selves, there’s the prob­lem of where some­one with a le­git­i­mate plac­ard can find dis­abled park­ing.

“Non-dis­abled peo­ple don’t have an un­der­stand­ing or ap­pre­ci­a­tion of the time and en­ergy it takes for a dis­abled per­son with mo­bil­ity is­sues to get through their day,” said Anas­ta­sia Baci­galupo, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor at West­side Cen­ter for In­de­pen­dent Liv­ing, a com­mu­nity-based or­ga­ni­za­tion sup­port­ing dis­abled adults.

In Jan­uary, the L.A. City Coun­cil ap­proved a six­month pro­gram to study how to once again cre­ate blue curb park­ing. Res­i­dents can now ap­ply through the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, with the Depart­ment of Dis­abil­ity then as­sess­ing the va­lid­ity of the re­quest.

Ge­of­frey Straniere, a se­nior project co­or­di­na­tor for the Depart­ment of Dis­abil­ity, is tasked with vet­ting re­quests for new res­i­den­tial dis­abled park­ing spots.

He said that new re­quire­ments have made the cre­ation of any new spots trick­ier and more ex­pen­sive.

“You were just paint­ing in the past, and now you’re lit­er­ally de­mol­ish­ing, pour­ing, re­form­ing and tak­ing away park­ways and me­di­ans and green­ery to cre­ate a park­ing spot,” Straniere said. “This is where some of the dif­fi­culty comes in. So now I just can’t put paint, I have to put some­thing down that might cost $70,000.”

Straniere is help­ing to put to­gether a re­port that will ex­am­ine costs and lo­gis­tics and that could be pre­sented to the City Coun­cil over the sum­mer.

In the first five months of this year, the Depart­ment of Dis­abil­ity had re­ceived 382 re­quests for new blue curb park­ing, of which 349 were deemed valid. The agency de­clined to pro­vide in­for­ma­tion about where ex­actly the re­quests came from, in­stead break­ing them down by City Coun­cil dis­tricts.

Most of the re­quests came from dis­tricts rep­re­sent­ing South and Central Los An­ge­les. Crys­tal Kil­lian, a 29-year veteran of the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion, said a com­bi­na­tion of low in­come and high pop­u­la­tion den­sity leads to more de­mand for on-street park­ing in cer­tain neigh­bor­hoods.

Kil­lian said that many of the peo­ple who re­quest dis­abled park­ing in their neigh­bor­hood are se­nior cit­i­zens on fixed in­comes.

“The park­ing spa­ces on the street are al­ways oc­cu­pied,” Kil­lian said. “So you al­ways have to hunt for park­ing.”

How many of these blue­painted park­ing spots ex­ist is a bit of a mys­tery.

The city used to track the num­ber of traf­fic signs and curb zones, but Kil­lian said that in the mid-1990s those data were lost, and the city never cre­ated a new database to cap­ture that in­for­ma­tion.

Kil­lian said the re­port that will be put to­gether over the sum­mer will ad­dress is­sues such as the cost of cre­at­ing new dis­abled park­ing spots.

“I think we don’t un­der­stand how ex­pen­sive it’s go­ing to be. That, I think, is go­ing to be some of the crit­i­cal things that will come out of the study,” she said. “The over­whelm­ing ma­jor­ity of lo­ca­tions I’ve looked at need phys­i­cal con­struc­tion.”

Hunter-White likes to go out with her friends and en­joys reg­u­lar games of ten­nis.

De­spite try­ing to main­tain an ac­tive life­style, she has strug­gled with nag­ging aches and pains from arthri­tis. It makes walk­ing long dis­tances a grind.

“Be­ing in con­stant pain, I’ve adapted, but you don’t re­al­ize the amount of things you don’t do be­cause the thought of pain is too much,” she said.

Her rent-con­trolled home is in a Venice bun­ga­low complex. Most of the eight units are empty, ex­cept when they’re used by Airbnb ren­ters.

Many of her old friends in the neigh­bor­hood are gone, re­placed by young tech­nol­ogy firm em­ploy­ees.

In this densely pop­u­lated en­vi­ron­ment, find­ing a park­ing spot she can use with her dis­abled plac­ard has be­come in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult.

Venice is so con­gested on the week­ends that Hun­terWhite said she re­lies on Lyft to get around out of con­cern that she will not be able to find a spot. The one blue curb spot nearby al­ways seems oc­cu­pied, she said.

In early 2017, Hun­terWhite was told she could sub­mit an ap­pli­ca­tion for the cre­ation of a new spot. She ap­plied in March and a month later, on April 19, she was told her ap­pli­ca­tion ap­peared to be in or­der.

But Hunter-White said an em­ployee from the Depart­ment of Dis­abil­ity also told her that the re­view process could go through sev­eral agen­cies.

And that could take a year.

‘Now you’re lit­er­ally de­mol­ish­ing, pour­ing, re­form­ing and tak­ing away park­ways and me­di­ans and green­ery to cre­ate a park­ing spot.’ — Ge­of­frey Straniere, se­nior project co­or­di­na­tor for the Depart­ment of Dis­abil­ity

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

DEL HUNTER-WHITE of Venice has had trou­ble get­ting a blue painted curb for dis­abled park­ing. In 2012, changes in state and fed­eral guide­lines made it far more com­pli­cated and costly to add such park­ing spots.

Jon Sch­leuss Los An­ge­les Times

Al Seib Los An­ge­les Times

“I’VE ADAPTED, but you don’t re­al­ize the amount of things you don’t do be­cause the thought of pain is too much,” said Del Hunter-White, who uses Lyft on week­ends be­cause it’s hard to find a park­ing spot near home.

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