Parking on Pacific Coast Highway (on the beach side) one day to visit a friend in the Las Flores Beach area, I return to my car to find a note on the windshield: "Please don't park here again or you will be towed! You're in my tenant's spot."

Signed: "Owner."

I look for official "No parking" signs (there are none). I look at the wall, covered by a bush, that I parked in front of to make sure I was not blocking a driveway or entrance (I wasn't). Annoyed, I mutter to myself, "I can park here if I want to, and next time I visit, I'll park in the exact same spot. Hmmphh!"

Where to park?

The bitter battle over precious parking space in the City of Malibu is an endless one.

At next week's council meeting the city will grapple over whether to ban parking overnight--citywide--allowing only residents with permits to do so, and whether to adopt an ordinance banning sleeping overnight in vehicles on public streets.

Overnight parking is already prohibited on Civic Center Way in front of City Hall.

But the real battles exist not only between residents and out-of-towners, but also between neighbors.

Det. Robert Evans, of the Lost Hills/Malibu Sheriff's Station, said that calls come in all the time about a resident complaining of a neighbor parking their car in front of the complainant's house.

"We say, 'It's a public street, he can park there any time,' " said Evans.

And that's a fact.

In effect, a person can park their vehicle anywhere on a public street or highway, unless there are city or county signs that ban parking. The only other restrictions against parking are: red curbs; if a vehicle blocks a driveway to a residence; or, according to the L.A. County code, the vehicle blocks a private street or highway. Also, according to Title 15 of the county code, a car cannot park between a curb and an adjacent property line if it poses a traffic hazard or public nuisance. Parking restrictions also exist where there are yellow (loading only), white (three minutes or less for passenger loading), green (limited time parking) and blue (handicap) curbs.

That's my spot

To fight for (what they may consider) their right to reserve parking for themselves, their tenants and visitors, some residents post signs, which are unenforceable but effective in intimidating people from parking on streets where it is legal to park.

"I've seen that, where someone posted a private sign to intimidate people from parking," said Chuck Bergson, Public Works director. "Sometimes it works."

However, as Bergson says: "A private party has no authority over a public street."

That doesn't stop residents from putting signs up. It also hasn't stopped them from trying to paint their own curbs.

"Last week, we had several calls [from] a neighbor who complained about another neighbor painting a curb red," said Evans.

Evans said deputies referred the caller to the city, saying code enforcement handles such issues.

Red curbs are painted at the direction of Public Works, per county code, at the recommendation of a Caltrans traffic engineer. In Malibu, there currently exists 3,696 feet of red, 285 of yellow, and 25 feet of white curbs

Red zones are painted when it is determined that there is a hazard or risk posed in regards to visibility for exiting a driveway, whether residential or commercial.

Businesses and residents can put in requests to Public Works for review and recommendations for red curbs.

Last ditch threats

If the signs or falsely painted curbs don't work, then there is the threat of towing an unwanted parked car.

Bergson said that a towing company will not tow a car unless at the direction of the sheriff's department. If a car is illegally parked, a person has to call the police or sheriff's station. A sheriff's deputy will then either ticket or tow the car.

However, Adail Gayhart, owner of Malibu Towing, said sometimes a car will be towed after a resident signs a form that lists the license plate number of the vehicle and information about where the car was parked. If the property owner is wrong about whether the car was parked legally or not, then it becomes a civil matter, he said.

Gayhart did say that if a car is parked on the outside of a line of demarcation (a line that separates private and public property), then the tow company will request a sheriff's deputy to come out and determine whether or not the car is parked legally.

Gayhart also revealed that the city receives an approximate $30 fee for each sheriff's department tow.

In what may be good news for some (especially nonresidents), Gayhart reported that his company is down 900 tows this year. He said this might be due to the condition of the economy--meaning less spending, hence less visitors to stores and restaurants.

Whatever the case may be, parkers beware.

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