Large trucks drive by the 5 foot and under parking sign on 11th Street Monday afternoon. City officials are using the signs to preserve parking spaces while creating a better line of sight for drivers exiting driveways and alleys. (photo by Brandon Wise)

11TH STREET — Parking is precious in Santa Monica, so when resident Daniel Davidsohn awoke one morning to find a new “No Parking” sign in front of his building, he was naturally upset. He thought City Hall had finally declared war against the gas guzzling SUV after examining the sign, which prohibited parking for vehicles above 5 feet tall.

“There is no special circumstance and there is no other sign in front of other buildings on my block,” Davidsohn wrote in an e-mail to the Daily Press last week. “This restriction affects every SUV, pickup truck and mini van!”

What Davidsohn didn’t know at the time he wrote the e-mail is that City Hall recently started using the restriction as a way to preserve as much parking as possible while also responding to complaints about an inability to see when exiting a narrow driveway or alley.

City officials said a neighbor of Davidsohn requested a parking restriction in front of an apartment complex on 11th Street between Wilshire Boulevard and California Avenue. The reason: the neighbor was having trouble seeing when exiting underground parking at an apartment building.

Rather than painting the curb read, making it off limits to all vehicles, city officials decided to try the 5-foot restriction, retaining parking on a street that is just off bustling Wilshire Boulevard.

“It’s a balance,” said Ellen Gelbard, assistant director of planning and community development for City Hall. “It is a restriction in the California Department of Transportation manual of signs that is available to use and our new principal transportation engineer was trying to address issues and solve problems in the best way we could do it and still provide parking because we know it is important.”

City Hall has installed the signs at three locations, two on Colorado Avenue (one at 15th Court and another along the 2600 block all the way to Cloverfield Boulevard) and the one on 11th Street.

Engineers respond to concerns from residents or merchants, investigate the location to determine how the line of sight is affected and to what degree and take into account other factors such as speed to determine if a sign is necessary. The restriction typically applies only to the two parking spaces on either side of an alley or driveway.

“The amount of space is dependent on the location and situation, but we’re trying to limit the spaces to as few as possible,” Gelbard said.

City Hall has struggled with a lack of parking in certain sections of the city, including the neighborhood just north of Wilshire Boulevard, where residents have asked for studies on creating diagonal parking spaces and building partnerships with organizations like churches that have their own parking lots that may not be full during evening hours.

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