Coastal Commission to Santa Cruz: 10 p.m. parking ban is too early
Article Launched: 03/07/2008 04:01:31 AM PST

CARMEL — State officials blasted Santa Cruz’s parking rules along West Cliff Drive Thursday, saying they get in the way of moonlight walks and late-night surf sessions.

The California Coastal Commission, at a meeting in Carmel, handed Santa Cruz city leaders a “frustrating” defeat that forces lighter parking restrictions in an area officials and residents say is a magnet for trouble after dark.

See video from midday early this week on West Cliff Drive

The commission’s 10-2 decision requires city officials to return with a new parking ban that starts at midnight instead of 10 p.m.

“I think it’s unfortunate the city has to ask for permission from an unelected body to protect the public, especially when our plan actually increases safe access,” Santa Cruz police Capt. Steve Clark said.

Santa Cruz was called in front of the state commission that oversees development along California’s coast for posting signs in 2006 between Santa Cruz Street and Chico Avenue that say “Tow Away — No Parking — 10 p.m. to 5 a.m.”

Local residents pushed the city to install the signs after a crime wave on the Westside in 2006 that included bullets striking a house on West Cliff Drive. The residents paid $2,600 for the new parking signs.

Commissioners said the city erred by issuing itself a
retroactive coast development permit in October for the signs, a violation of the local coastal plan due to the signs’ impact on the view and restricting public access to the ocean.

Commissioners and coastal staff questioned how much Santa Cruz really struggles with crime along West Cliff Drive because police were unable to provide statistics related to problems in the area.

However, police and residents said the parking slots on West Cliff Drive are known for gang activity, drug use and sales, partiers and vandalism. Problems have dropped off substantially after the signs went up, Clark and others testified.

“If there’s a public safety issue, deal with it,” Coastal Commission Executive Director Peter Douglas said. “But not with the broad-brush of prohibition we see here.”

Commissioner Dave Potter, a Monterey County supervisor, said public access is the issue.

“I don’t want to appear to be belittling concerns about public safety, but that’s not the issue before me,” he said.

Parking manager Marlin Granlund, defending the existing restrictions, said parking rules and signs have been on West Cliff Drive for the past couple of decades. In fact, he said, old rules prohibited parking until 6 a.m., an hour longer than now.

“We believe we’re protecting public and private property rights by controlling crowds that make it unsafe for residents and visitors,” Granlund said.

Councilwoman Lynn Robinson, who lives a block from West Cliff Drive, said the area has some of the most lenient parking rules in the county compared with meters along the beach in Capitola and permit requirements near Pleasure Point in Live Oak.

“The restriction on West Cliff is a tool that works for our community,” Robinson said. “It’s not an unreasonable request.”

Commissioner Dan Secord of Santa Barbara, siding with Santa Cruz, said the parking decision should be a local one.

“It seems to me 10 p.m. is fine,” Secord said. “That’s what we do in Santa Barbara.”

Santa Cruz has 60 days to present a new parking plan for West Cliff Drive. After the plan is approved, new signs are required to go up within 30 days.
Contact Shanna McCord at 429-2401 or