Greta Cobar

Censored at the April VNC Meeting: Interview with Sara Wan

By Greta Cobar

Sara Wan, former California Coastal Commission member, attended the April 16 Venice Neighborhood Council (VNC) meeting. She spoke with the Beachhead subsequent to the VNC meeting, and this is what she had to say concerning Overnight Parking Districts (OPDs) in Venice:

Beachhead: What do you think about OPDs in Venice?

Sara Wan: The residents in Venice don’t know the long-term effects of OPDs, and neither does the public. The April 16 VNC meeting was rigged. There was no attempt to listen to what problems might be created for homeowners, residents and members of the public. The presentations were very one-sided. How are they going to determine who gets to vote in order to establish OPDs?

Beachhead: Were you unhappy with the VNC meeting?

Sara Wan: The meeting was a big disappointment – they did not allow me to say what I wanted to say. I wanted to give a little background on why the commission turned OPDs down twice – the public should know what the reasoning was. VNC reps limited me to talking only about the current settlement and told me that if the public wanted to know more about the previous defeated attempts to establish OPDs in Venice, they would address those questions to me during the Question and Answer section. However, when someone did ask me a question, Marc Saltzberg, who was presiding over the meeting, directed Mark Ryavec to take over the microphone from me, which he did. He then took all the allotted time to express his position, and I was never allowed to answer the two questions the person had for me.

Beachhead: Is the city of Los Angeles questioning the Coastal Commission’s jurisdiction over parking?

Sara Wan: The original intent of all of this was to challenge the California Coastal Commission’s power to regulate parking by stating that parking does not fall under the definition of “development”, and therefore is not under the jurisdiction of the Coastal Commission. “Development” is defined in the Coastal Act as anything considered to be a “change in density or intensity of use.” Parking is definitely a change in intensity of use.

By voting in support of the California Coastal Act of 1976, the public stated that the Coastal Zone be treated differently than the rest of the state. The city has the power to regulate parking outside of the Coastal Zone, but the city does not have the right to over-ride the Coastal Commission.

Beachhead: What do you think about parking restrictions in the Coastal Zone? 

Sara Wan: Parking restrictions create preferential treatment for the people who live there. OPDs are against public access and are designed to limit the public’s ability to park and therefore to use the beach. OPDs are against the Coastal Act of 1976.

OPDs will eventually lead to Preferential Permit Parking (PPD, which allow residents within 1500 feet of major commercial streets to apply for 24-hour permit parking). PPD would limit non-resident parking to a few hours, while residents with a City permit could park with no restrictions.

Beachhead: How is the city of Los Angeles bringing the issue of fairness into the discussion concerning OPDs?

Sara Wan: One of the main issues raised by Rosendahl’s s office has been the matter of fairness (if the rest of the city can have OPDs, it is unfair for Venice not to be able to have them as well). This is an attack on the Coastal Act – if you think that the Coastal Zone should be treated no different than the rest of the city, then you don’t think there should be a Coastal Act, which was voted by the people.

Beachhead: What do you think about the current midnight to 5am curfew on the beach and Ocean Front Walk?

Sara Wan: It is illegal. The city never got a permit from the Coastal Commission for the curfew. The public needs to write to the Chair of the Coastal Commission and ask the Commission to take action to deal with the enforcement of the curfew and initiate enforcement action against the city.

Beachhead: Do you think that by increasing the number of parking spaces available in the early morning hours the new settlement might be approved by the Commission?

Sara Wan: No, all those parking lots are supposed to be open 24 hours, they should be used for public access now.

Beachhead: What can the public do to let the Commission know that they are against OPDs in Venice?

Sara Wan: The public needs to understand that this is not a set thing. Attend the Commission hearing in June ( Long Beach City Council Chambers, 333 W. Ocean Blvd., Long Beach), following which the Commission could deny the settlement establishing OPDs in Venice, could approve them with modifications, or approve them as they are now.

Letters can be sent to the San Francisco office (45 Fremont Street, Suite 2000, San Francisco, CA 94105-2219) to be forwarded to the each of the commissioners. Some of the commissioners have their addresses listed on the Commission’s website (, and in that case letters can be sent to them directly.

Phone calls can be made to the Long Beach office (562-590-5071) for further questions and comments.