If it’s bad in Claremont…

by John Pixley

In the Page 2 column in the Los Angeles Times 2 or 3 weeks ago, Gale Holland wrote about how absolutely insane the “No Parking” signs are in some parts of LA. She wrote about there being, in many cases, several signs on one pole with arrows pointing in different and sometimes the same directions and with different hours and days in which parking is forbidden. It is more than enough to drive many people crazy and municipal revenue way up.

A short time later, there was a letter in the paper responding to the column. The writer said that the signs are perfectly clear, that no parking from 8 to 11 a.m on Wednesdays to the left means no parking from 8 to 11 a.m on Wednesdays to the left. According to the writer, the problem isn’t bad signs but “bad readers.”

The letter writer is clearly someone who works for the city or someone who never smiles and doesn’t have much to do—or both. I say Ms. Holland is right, that the signs are crazy and maddening.

Both the column and the letter made me think about when I went up to Mt. Baldy Village a week or so earlier. It was a bright Saturday morning, right after what may well have been the last significant storm of the season, with snow low on the mountain, and I had gotten it into my head to go have breakfast at the Mt. Baldy Lodge. Why not? There was snow and sun, and I have never been to the Mt. Baldy Lodge—or not in years and years and years.

It was a nifty mini-getaway, less than half an hour away, to a white, very laid-back back-in-time world, and the cinnamon rolls really are terrific, as I’d heard! (In fact, Mt. Baldy was featured as a weekender in the next day’s Los Angeles Times Travel section.) But the trip up was something of a jolt.

The intersection of Mills and Mt. Baldy Road was, to say the least, a real scene. I had heard and read about the crazy parking situation there, but I didn’t realize until that morning just how bonkers it is. No wonder there are new parking lots being put in and new policies established!

Even if it can be argued that the residents here knew what they were getting into when they decided to live next to the Wilderness Park, I can see why they are upset. With car after car after car jammed in along the side of the roads as well as in the parking lot, it reminded me of Pacific Coast Highway on a Saturday afternoon in July. Or, more so, when I was talked into going to an overnight concert out in the desert years ago and there were more people than I thought existed—who were they, and where did they come from?—parked every which way along the dirt road.

But, really, come to think of it, it wasn’t unlike the streets near the entrance to Runyon Canyon in Hollywood. I can see that it’s not unusual to have to park several blocks away and have a bit of a hike before getting to this popular trail. I guess the residents on these streets (mostly in apartments, it appears) have garages or parking permits—or I hope they do.

Then again, this is pretty much the case all over Hollywood and West Hollywood and lots of other places around LA, like Santa Monica. Often, when I go to a play at one of the dozens of small storefront theaters, I have to park blocks away so I have to try to get there even earlier. When I get a spot nearby, I feel quite lucky. Score!

Which brings up those parking tickets and all that revenue the city gets. I’m not like some friends who collect them like frequent flyer miles—one to the point of having their driver’s license suspended—but I have gotten 2 or 3.

Getting a parking ticket in LA is like playing a game of chess one can’t win. Try fighting one. It’s always checkmate, usually due to a sign not seen. I once went to an appeal hearing in a warren of offices in an underground mall near city hall, which made me think of going down a rabbit hole with the mad rabbit, to mix metaphors and literary references. That I don’t remember if I won or not probably means I didn’t.

That wasn’t as bad as last summer when, again near LA City Hall, I went to a free outdoor Friday lunchtime concert by the Belle Brigade at the California Plaza on Bunker Hill. I was thinking it was pretty sweet to be seeing a folk-y band that I liked hearing on KCRW up close while munching on a picnic lunch on a nice sunny day. That is until I went to leave the underground parking lot after a bit more than a hour and was charged $43, which they gladly took on my credit card. Ouch! And where were the signs, big signs, this time?

Parking in LA is even more crazy when there are events like the Day of the Dead festival at the Hollywood Forever cemetery, the Gay Pride Festival and, when it was going on, the annual Sunset Junction Street Fair. It’s not unusual to have to park many blocks away. My worst parking experience in LA, worse than the $43 fee, was when I went to Sunset Junction about a dozen years ago, back before it got too big for its britches and when it cost something like $3 to get in. I thought I was being clever parking in a nearby store lot, only to find, when I left after the last band played that Saturday night, that my van was towed away.

So there we were—me in my wheelchair and my companion—at 11 p.m. on a Saturday night with no vehicle to drive home to Claremont. Luckily, I had been taking the then-new Metrolink trains to Union Station a lot and knew something about the LA buses. And, luckily, with some advice from someone on the street and some walking, we were able to take a bus to the 480 bus to Claremont, with there being no late Saturday trains at the time. (Also luckily, it was a warm August night, and I was okay with no shirt in my overalls.)

Unfortunately, even as it was nice to discover that the drivers were friendlier at that late hour, we had to wait an hour in El Monte after missing a connection and didn’t get into Claremont until 4 a.m. Still, it was amazing that we were a block from my house and great to know that getting home from LA late on a Saturday night without a car is actually possible.

And that things aren’t so bad in Claremont.

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