Arguments over nightclub in neighborhood continue
Parking restrictions in the neighborhood around Mozambique Steakhouse at 1740 S. Coast Highway are here to stay.
Despite complaints from some patrons and residents that the neighborhood has become a ticket trap due to the restrictions, the City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to continue limiting overnight parking to residents who live within a three-block radius of the restaurant.
As part of a trial program this summer to prevent noisy late-night patrons from parking on quiet neighborhood streets behind the restaurant, 314 $43-tickets were issued between May 27 and July 24. With the city collecting $30 for each ticket, and the remainder appropriated by the state of California, about $9,420 from parking fines poured into the city treasury during those two months. The city expects to raise nearly $22,800 annually from the zone alone.
Council member Verna Rollinger, who voted against continuing the preferential parking program, said she was alarmed “to see that we expect to give almost $23,000-worth of parking tickets in this area to fund this program; I think that’s very wrong-minded.” Councilwoman Jane Egly agreed, emphasizing the long-argued point that the area’s zoning does not specify nightclubs.
According to a staff report, the trial program cost the city $14,200 to set up and conduct and will require an additional $13,700 to run for the remainder of this fiscal year and $10,900 each following year.
The test period was initiated in an attempt to quell noise from patrons leaving the restaurant after the bar closed and live entertainment ended. Two signs per block for a total of 31 were posted in the quiet zone to inform motorists that parking was limited to residents between the hours of 9 p.m. and 5 a.m. Residents were asked to purchase a city shopper’s permit to display on their vehicles and were provided with at least 10 red hang-tag guest passes. Live entertainment at the restaurant was limited to midnight on Fridays and Saturdays and 10 p.m. on Sundays.
But to some residents, the solution is creating problems on bordering streets.
“What didn’t start as a parking issue, it is now,” said Charlotte Bell, who lives on Bluebird Canyon Drive. “I’m here because I can’t park when I go home. It’s not a noise issue.”
Residents living on the perimeter of the quiet zone told the council that they, their friends and family members are receiving tickets for parking on restricted streets because they can’t find parking on their own streets. And that the tickets are coming too readily.
“We were told there’d be a 20-minute grace period before they’d start ticketing after 9 (p.m.),” Bell said, “and we see officers all the time waiting five minutes to 9 (p.m.), waiting to ticket. These things lower the credibility of the program.”
Other residents asked that their block be eliminated from the quiet zone for lack of a problem. In addition to providing a 20-minute grace period before police start ticketing, suggestions were made to allow residents and guests three ticket dismissals, make the parking signs reflective so that they can be seen at night, limit Sunday entertainment to earlier hours and continue meetings with neighbors.
“We all screw up,” said Kari Nies, who lives less than two blocks from the restaurant and said she’s never had a problem with Mozambique but does have a problem with ticketing in the quiet zone. “I feel it is a financial burden to the residents. I think you need to do it in such a way that residents are not financially penalized.” Nies told the council that UC Irvine, where she works, allows three parking ticket dismissals per year. Of the 314 tickets issued during the initial two-month period, 48 were contested with eight of them still under consideration and only one dismissed; 39 were upheld.
With an obvious split in the council, the vote to continue the program was assumed by Mayor Toni Iseman. “We are going to make minor changes and, hopefully, you’ll be pleased with them,” Iseman said prior to the council’s vote. “If you have any direct ideas, other than ending the quiet zone, that tweaks it, you should send them to us.”
Other residents asked the council to again address the bigger issue of allowing a nightclub in a commercial zone that permits restaurants. “Is this just a band-aid solution so that you guys don’t have to deal with the real issue?” prompted nearby resident Jeff Kaplan.
“It’s a failure of this council that we didn’t recognize it was a nightclub in a residential zone,” said Egly. “I don’t think we should have this quiet zone. I’m not sure that was an appropriate name, and I think we should go back to the real issue of the location of a nightclub in a neighborhood.”
But councilman Kelly Boyd, who, along with Iseman, facilitated meetings with neighbors to establish the rules of the quiet zone, said it’s a more complex issue. “I guess it is a nightclub three days a week,” he conceded. “It’s not an easy thing that we’re trying to do. I thought it would work; we tried to make it work.” But Boyd was sympathetic to business owners. “It’s not pretty. Sales are down dramatically,” he commented.
“And if you start taking things away, he (Ivan Spiers, owner of Mozambique) might have to close his doors like Club M did, like other businesses have done. I don’t want to see that happen to Ivan and I don’t want to see that happen to Mozambique.” Boyd, who owns the Marine Room bar on Ocean Avenue, suggested changing Mozambique’s reggae entertainment hours from 8 to 10 p.m. on Sundays to 4 to 8 p.m. “We do it and we pack the bar,” he said, where the Missiles of October have played every Sunday for 20 years.