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L.A. City Council Candidate Says Councilmember Axed Free Parking In Political Move

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A city council candidate claims that L.A. City Councilmember Paul Koretz may have ended a free parking program on Robertson Boulevard in a politically-inspired move. Jesse Creed, who's running against Koretz to represent the 5th district, claims that, after his campaign office moved to Robertson, free parking at a nearby lot was nixed—a series of events that Creed characterizes as suspicious.

Robertson Blvd hosts a wealth of stores—there's the Wolf & Man menswear shop, and the boutique Kitross. And nearby 3rd Street is stocked with a number of restaurants. But parking spaces in the area come at a premium. Many of the residential streets are reserved for permitted parking only, and small valet lots can only hold so many cars.

So it was seen as a boon when a city-owned parking structure at 123 S. Robertson Boulevard was announced to be offering, for two weeks starting December 15, two-hour free parking. This action was the result of a city council motion intended to encourage holiday shoppers to patronize the area.

Some local merchants later claimed that city officials told them that the free parking would return every two weeks until March, when it would become permanent at the structure. This contradicted statements made by spokespeople from the fifth district, which suggest that there was no such agreement. While the free parking program was extended beyond its initial two week period, this was done due to the popularity of the free parking program, not as part of a prior promise, a spokeswoman told Women's Wear Daily. The spokeswoman added that, by January 15, they couldn't grant another extension without changing city policy.

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Some claim that it is suspicions that officials were quick to extend the program past December, then later say that no more extensions were immediately possible. Creed alleges that it has do to with his campaign office moving in to the area, and that Koretz's office may have had a hand in blocking free parking as a political maneuver. "They didn't know I was moving in to Robertson Boulevard. I move in. They know I'm there. And they didn't extend [free parking] again," Creed told LAist. "They extended parking for January 1 to January 15. We move in on January 3, and on January 15 the program expires."

In a press conference held on Friday, Creed was even more direct, saying that the situation harkens to the "Bridgegate-style politics" of New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (who allegedly called for lane closures on the George Washington Bridge as an act of punishment against Fort Lee Mayor Mark Sokolich for not endorsing Christie during his re-election campaign).

When asked how this tactic, if it was indeed being employed, is designed to hurt his campaign, Creed turned to his campaign volunteers. "We literally just had a volunteer come in the other day to make calls, and she said, 'I got to go. I'm approaching the two hour mark and I can't afford to pay for parking.' And I told her that they actually got rid of that program, and she was surprised," Creed told LAist. "So we've been losing volunteers."

But it's not just a matter of Creed's political campaign. Merchants from the surrounding stores have been asking for more parking options. "At one point it was booming with foot traffic," Sylvia Diaz, who's co-owned the restaurant Cuvee for over 20 years, said of Robertson at the conference. "It was a destination place not only for locals, but for tourists alike. As you can see, it's no longer the case." She added that, with "the city taking away our free parking, it hinders our ability to compete with our local cities that offer free parking." Creed said that Robertson is turning into a "retail desert."

The merchants were happy with the brief respite of free parking in December and January, but were disappointed to see it go. Business owner Fraser Ross (who oversees Kitross) told WWD that city officials informed him that, after the holidays, free parking at the structure would extended every two weeks until March, at which point the free parking would become permanent. Ross' claim contradicts that of the aforementioned spokesperson from the fifth district, who said that the two week extension in January was a one time thing. Another merchant told WWD that, since Creed's office moved in, getting in contact with Koretz's office has been difficult.

"At first [merchants] were upset with me. They said 'Why did you move here. Now our two hour free parking is gone.' And I say that I don't have the power to bring it back. It wasn't my decision," said Creed.

LAist reached out to Paul Koretz's office but no one was immediately available for comment.

This article was updated to better reflect that certain claims were made by Creed and local merchants.