There’s just one thing about the new no-parking-at-night signs in the “quiet zone” near Mozambique Steakhouse, installed to appease residents’ unceasing complaints about noisy late-night patrons. Some say they can’t be seen at night.
Frank Mattingly of San Clemente said he forgot to wear his “night-vision goggles” when he and his wife dined at Mozambique last month. When they got back to their car at 10 p.m., he said the $43-ticket on his windshield was more visible than any no parking sign.
Flashlight in hand, Mattingly said he tried to find the reason for the ticket. “I walked to the corner and finally found the sign,” he said. “You don’t look on the corner of streets for no-parking signs. We’re used to no-parking signs being right in our face.” He added that the signs could not be seen from where he parked, faced the opposite direction of the parked cars, were few in number and not reflective. Mattingly said he has parked in that same spot for 10 years.
“To me it just becomes a ticket trap,” he said, “and the same idiots just like me will not see the signs. My personal feeling is this is just a way to extract money out of visitors to Laguna Beach.”
Since May 27, 276 similar parking citations have been issued for quiet-zone violations, according to Jim Beres, public outreach officer for the city’s police department. The city issued 482 warning notices from April 1 through May 26 about the new overnight parking prohibition. No citations were given from June 27 through July 4, Beres said, due to the lack of officers assigned to that area.
In other no-parking zones, the signs are reflective, more numerous and facing the driver or parallel to the curb, in compliance with state codes.
Last February, the City Council voted to create the city’s first year-round residential “quiet zone” around the Mozambique restaurant to discourage late-night lounge customers from parking on neighborhood streets. Contention over noise arose when the restaurant added live music acts four nights a week. The restrictions are intended to abate loud talking and disruptive actions from often-inebriated music patrons. The five-month test period started on April 1 and will end on the night of the council’s Sept. 6 meeting.
Beres said there have been a number of complaints about tickets and non-reflective signs. He said a full report on the zone’s effectiveness will be presented for public hearing at that meeting.
During the trial period, parking has been restricted to residents only from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m. on streets neighboring the restaurant. Two wooden curbside signs per block post the restrictions. Vehicles parked on nearby portions of Glenneyre, Catalina, Agate, Flora, Pearl and Center streets during those hours must display residents-only shopper parking permits or city-issued hang-tag guest passes.
Mattingly said the parking restriction is unfair to out-of-towners.
“They discriminated against me terribly as an outsider to Laguna Beach,” he said. “I’m not privy to the information that the residents of Laguna Beach have. They all know about the signs. There’s a lot of people coming into Laguna Beach from other countries for vacations. How are they supposed to know?”
Mayor Toni Iseman, who was instrumental in organizing the quiet zone, said this week that the signs were meant to be reflective. “Perhaps they need to get some more paint,” Iseman said. “They’re city signs; they should be reflective.”
Ivan Spiers, owner of Mozambique, paid for the signs. He thinks the complaint is moot but is willing to make changes. “The signs are there at every corner. They’re totally visible under the light,” he said. “They’re as clear as daylight. The neighbors should be very happy. They’ve pretty much got their own gated community.”
Spiers said he’s willing to make changes, such as adding a reflective strip, to make the signs more visible. Steve Kawaratani, Spears’s project coordinator, said the signs were made and installed according to city public works regulations.
“It’s dark, it’s a nighttime parking issue, hello,” said Mattingly. “You have to over-signage that area, especially since it takes place at night.”
As to the effectiveness of the quiet zone, once-disgruntled neighbors say they’re getting more sleep.
“It’s better,” said neighbor Ed Todeschini. “None of the residents want this quiet-zone program. They want no nightclub.”
Mattingly said that even if the city makes the ticket go away, he won’t. “The city needs to go back and anybody that’s been ticketed, they need to pay those people back,” he said. “And they should fix the signs. I’m not going to stop until they fix the signs. If I have to go to the county and register a complaint with the court system there against the city of Laguna Beach, I will.”