Turns out we have our very own hometown circus, right over there
in the North Village.

The racket started in February, when dozens of students began
waking up to find $40 tickets on their windshields. There had been
complaints that the sidewalks weren’t accessible to
wheelchairs, so the agency responsible for issuing tickets started
nailing the sidewalk-blocking offenders. OK, fair enough. 

(By this time, there are grumblings about the parking crisis in
Westwood. The frustration is understandable, but wait ““ it
gets better.) 

Then came another slew of tickets, this time for cars parked in
the long-sloping space between the sidewalk and the street.
Technically, parking like that violates vehicle code.

This time, though, there was a rumor that a single someone was
behind the whole operation, not a group of Westwood busybodies like
had been assumed. A wheelchair-using someone, perhaps?

It looks like that someone was none other than Michael Dukakis
himself, Westwood’s resident ex-governor of Massachusetts and
also a visiting professor at UCLA. He looks to be in pretty good
shape, no wheels necessary. 

(Now, the wheelchair access complaint wasn’t unfounded.
Anyone who’s ever trekked up Strathmore Drive has done his or
her share of walking in the street to get past two cars that are
practically kissing bumper to bumper on the sidewalk. The West L.A.
office of the Los Angeles Police Department says it received
multiple calls about this in February.)

Turns out he’s been complaining for the past three years
about The Treehouse on Strathmore ““ “a dump,” he
calls it. With parking code violations rampant and trash on the
streets, he says “There are serious problems over
there.”Â 

What took the city three years to listen to Michael Dukakis?
 

“Things move slow in this business,” he said.
“Finally we’re starting to get some
response.”Â 

Well, to say the least. Not only did the police crack down at
10919 Strathmore Dr., they blanketed the entire neighborhood. The
LAPD says it issued 50 tickets in Westwood last week to cars
violating the sidewalk rule, as compared to 76 given out in the
five previous weeks.

Actually, that’s just from last Monday through last
Thursday. None were given Friday because the officers who issue
them were off. 

So a former presidential candidate might be tapping his
connection to the LAPD (he’s friends with Chief Bill
Bratton), students are driving around in circles trying to figure
out where to park and others are just leaving the tickets on their
cars, thinking that’ll ward off future red-trimmed
envelopes.

To top it off, there’s gambling with the street cleaner
and the officers who may or may not be working that morning.
 

Parking guru Donald Shoup, for one, isn’t terribly
concerned.

Shoup, an urban planning professor trained in economics who now
specializes in transportation, believes the solution is two-fold:
Turn the North Village into a permit district, like how the
neighbors living east of Hilgard Avenue do it, and allow tenants to
park in front of their own driveways to eliminate wasted street
space.

“If you make it a permit district, then you won’t
have this problem. They don’t sell more permits than there
are places to park,” he said. Shoup says the driveway parking
permit will add more spots.

It might help, anyway, as would opening up Veteran Avenue and
the streets west of it for permit parking. The neighbors would
probably throw a fit, and maybe that’s why Councilman Jack
Weiss hasn’t done anything to help.

But regardless, the city can’t just start writing tickets
if the cars really don’t have anywhere to go ““ no
matter who’s asking them to do it.

E-mail cjenkins@media.ucla.edu if you think you have the
record for North Village parking tickets.