Businesses Struggling Under Ryu’s Parking Restrictions

A sign posted in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, where residents claim Hollywood sign tourism has created quality of life and safety concerns. Photo: ConstantinAB // flickr: Creative Commons

A sign posted in the Beachwood Canyon neighborhood, where residents claim Hollywood sign tourism has created quality of life and safety concerns. Photo: ConstantinAB // flickr: Creative Commons

BEACHWOOD CANYON—A year after Los Angeles City Councilmember David Ryu implemented parking restrictions to discourage tourists overrunning the area to get close to the Hollywood Sign, businesses are struggling, residents are frustrated and there appears to be no long-term solution to a problem that has upended this once tight-knit community.

The Hollywood Sign has become a hot button issue in Ryu’s district as selfie-seeking tourists have flooded the once bucolic neighborhood below the sign.

Aided by smartphone GPS technology, mapping apps and crowd sourced travel websites, tourists have created traffic jams and public safety issues along Beachwood Canyon Drive, the area’s main thoroughfare used by residents to get home, but also by an unprecedented number of tourists to get an Instagram-worthy photo of themselves with the iconic sign.

Ryu’s fixes, thus far, have included resident only parking on weekends and holidays on much of Beachwood Canyon Drive and increased parking enforcement and police presence on busy holidays like New Year’s Day and the Fourth of July.

But so far, none of his remedies have completely satisfied the community.

Beachwood Canyon is best understood in three parts: upper residential Beachwood is nearest the Hollywood Sign; middle Beachwood—which includes 22 homes and the area’s small commercial district—and lower Beachwood, composed mostly of apartments extending to the flats of Hollywood on Franklin Avenue.

What everyone knows thus far: trying to fix the excessive tourist-parking problem in the area is like trying to contain a whack-a-mole. When parking restrictions are put in one area, tourists just move on to the next and so on and so on.

Earlier parking restrictions only impacted local residents and their guests. But after last March, Ryu’s restrictions started impacting the local, micro-economy: the area’s tiny business district, known as the village.

Local businesses—including a restaurant, a small grocery story and a dozen or so shopkeepers—fiercely opposed Ryu’s restrictions. They said dependable parking was needed for their customers seven days a week.

The businesses do share a small parking lot with the local independent grocery store, but said they have for years relied on available street parking for customer overflow.

Since Ryu’s March 2016 directive restricting parking near the village, owners of Beachwood Canyon’s businesses say they are struggling.

“We are down 20% on Saturday and Sunday,” said Patti Peck, owner of the Beachwood Café, a customer magnet for the area. “I’ve had to let go four staff people to date.”

Jeffrey Meyer has owned and operated a small antique shop in the village for over 20 years. But recently, he began telling close family and friends he is going out of business.

“The city…has made it impossible for me to survive because of the parking changes that they imposed on the neighborhood,” Meyer said.

According to Meyer, his business started to suffer when the first of the residential parking restrictions were put into place in 2014 under then Los Angeles City Councilmember Tom LaBonge. But, he said, it was Ryu’s expansion of the restrictions into the village last March that pushed his business over the edge.

“As far as on Saturdays and Sundays, I’ve lost 95% of my business” since then, Meyer said.

What many of the business owners want, like Meyer, is to seal access to the Hollywood Sign from tourists and hikers completely, a notion the city has said is illegal and which is currently being challenged by lawsuits.

For his part, Ryu tried to implement solutions, like diagonal and metered parking in the business area, which Ryu promised he would look into in the fall of 2015.

“We’ve followed through on all of those items,” said Ryu’s spokesperson, Estevan Montemayor. “In regards to angled parking, [the city’s department of transportation] determined that that wasn’t feasible,” due to the width of the street, said Montemayor.

Regarding meters, Montemayor said, Ryu ultimately chose not to move forward with such a plan after the landlord of the area’s main retail building indicated opposition.

“I can’t state emphatically enough that I oppose parking meters being installed in front of my family’s commercial property,” wrote Greg Williams to Ryu’s office in 2016. “No neighbor will want to hunt for coins to feed a meter to run [into the market] and buy eggs.”

A year later, Williams—whose grandfather started one of the first businesses in Beachwood almost 100 years ago—said the future of the village is now in jeopardy.

If businesses keep failing, he said, he may consider converting the village’s main commercial property into townhomes or condos.

Local residents, who say they were attracted to the area, in part, for its village-like persona, are also tired of the issue and say they just want a solution.

“I just think, I’m not dealing with this, I’m going to Gelson’s,” said area resident Kris Sullivan, to the issue of not being able to find parking. “It’s too bad because we want to patronize [our local market]. It’s a great asset that we have.”

Residents instead say what is still missing from Ryu’s office is a long-term solution to the Hollywood Sign tourism issue.

All seem to be waiting on comprehensive traffic plans from Ryu, which were due months ago, but have yet to be released.

“Ryu has not kept his promises that he has made to us in terms of helping us find a long-term solution,” said J.J. Blair, an outgoing boardmember of the Hollywoodland Homeowner’s Assoc. that represents some households in the area.

“We are very disappointed by him, and we feel like we have not been given a fair shake,” Blair said. “He’s been an equal opportunity ignorer and has continued to kick the can down the road.”

Residents in lower Beachwood seem to agree.

“Because hikers [and tourists] continue to be very attracted to…the sign and now park their cars below the village, people who have no parking at all who live…in apartments [in lower Beachwood] cannot leave on the weekends and expect to be able to return after doing errands,” said Eda Hallinan, a 63-year resident of lower Beachwood. “They are prisoners in their own homes.”

According to Hallinan, the parking problem has hit residents in lower Beachwood particularly hard because the area’s many apartment buildings were built without enough parking spots for each tenant to begin with.

As a result, Hallinan said, parking was already scarce long before anybody began talking about Hollywood Sign tourist traffic.

The residual effects of the new parking restrictions on businesses and residents have also caused one of Ryu’s strongest campaign allies to withdraw her support.

“The person he was as a candidate inspired all of us. The person he is as a councilmember is disappointing many, disappointing most,” said Fran Reichenbach, a formal local publisher and Beachwood Canyon resident who was on Ryu’s transition team after he was elected.


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