For Inglewood Residents, SoFi Stadium Brings Super Bowl Pride — And Traffic Headaches
The good news for Inglewood residents? Super Bowl LVI — and the attention and business that comes with it — is coming to SoFi Stadium on Sunday.
“We want to make this a great event for the City of Inglewood,” she said. “But we also want it to not be painful for our residents.”
One big pain point: the traffic. Residents have seen all season how events at the stadium can back up streets and make it difficult to find parking outside their own homes. And it's complicated by the fact that SoFI is home to both the Rams and Chargers.
As a result, residents such as Maria Mendez — who has lived in the city for 16 years — are left with mixed feelings about the stadium.
On the one hand, she feels pride in her city and her home value has increased. On the other hand, Mendez feels like she and her family can’t get in the car on gamedays without getting stuck somewhere.
“The stadium is bringing in a lot of money to the city, that’s no doubt,” she said. “But what’s happening is they’re not preparing for what is to come, for what could happen. They didn’t prepare for this traffic. They didn’t prepare for us residents.”
Mendez and I met up in her neighborhood on the day of the NFC Championship between the Rams and the 49ers.
As we walked north towards the stadium, the sidewalks became more crowded with fans.
“Think about it,” she pointed out. “Where did all of these people park?”
To be clear: you are not supposed to park on these residential streets if you’re just visiting for the game. There’s a two hour limit unless you have a permit. And it’s complicated but, generally speaking, permits are for residents.
On some of the streets, there are big signs — in bright yellow, they’re hard to miss — that are supposed to let visitors know that. But they’re not on all of the streets. So enforcement, Mendez claimed, can be inconsistent.
As we waited to cross a busy street, Fred Aubrey was also waiting with his bike. He overheard what we were discussing, and said that he shared the same feelings as Mendez.
“To be honest, I love the stadium, because I'm looking at the opportunities to work that it’s bringing. That's awesome," he said. "But I just feel that the planning wasn’t up to par. The city is already congested. And now they’re bringing more?”
What The City Is Doing
For the record: I reached out to the City of Inglewood, its public works department, the person in charge of residential parking permits, and the Super Bowl Joint Information Center for their responses to all of this. None of them agreed to speak for this story.
The mayor, James T. Butts, Jr, however, told Larry Mantle on KPCC's AirTalk that residents should be used to traffic by now.
“Traffic is nothing new to long-term Inglewood residents, and every resident understands that on an event day, you don't go down Prairie. You don't go down Manchester,” Butts told AirTalk host Larry Mantle.
“So this talk about traffic is somewhat perplexing to me because this is a city that has had major events for decades.”
And officials’ appearances at past public meetings, such as a September District 4 Town Hall, give a glimpse of the city’s efforts.
Louis Atwell, who was then introduced as the director of public works, assured residents that the city actively carries out traffic control on game days, including controlling traffic signals, putting out cones and signs to direct visitors, and providing shuttles for fans who park at designated sites. They’ve even made heat maps of busy intersections (e.g., Century and Prairie) and side streets where fans try to park to help focus enforcement.
Atwell said the big signs are a “passive measure” in the city’s efforts. Active measures, he said, would involve police enforcement.
The residential parking permit program is also a big part of the city’s plan.
But, as city Traffic Operations Manager Bill Thompson of LAZ Parking also explained, it had been difficult to enforce the use of permits, because not enough residents had gotten theirs yet.
“The last thing anybody wants to do is make it difficult for you to park in front of your own house,” Thompson said.
At that meeting, he said there was some confusion during the parking permit rollout: each residence was supposed to get two passes for free. But the city got questions from residents: what about homes that might need a third or fourth permit for other residents, babysitters, or regular medical care providers? And what about visitors?
And, despite the permit requirements, since parking can get quite expensive at the stadium, some visitors try to wind through residential streets anyway to see if they can find a spot.
Some residents sell parking spots in their driveways for $50 to $100, though as Mayor Butts told FOX 11, while commercial businesses can do that, doing so at private residences is technically not allowed.
“For neighborhood integrity, we don’t allow parking for the venues within neighborhoods, because you can’t control that,” Butts told the TV station.
Preparing For The Super Bowl
For the Super Bowl specifically, the city is trying to reassure residents that there is a plan to mitigate as much of the congestion as possible. According to an FAQ on the city website, that plan includes:
- Targeted street closures
- Collaboration with the NFL to reduce the number of individual cars out on the streets (by using shuttles and buses).
- A phone number residents can call if those measures fall short (310-412-5398, which also happens to be the number for the city’s Parking & Traffic Department)
But not always in the way you might expect.
“Not all traffic is bad traffic. It’s good to finally have some traffic that’s bringing in revenue, and folks are going to come and celebrate here in the city of Inglewood," said District 2 Councilmember Alex Padilla.
As we continued our walk to the stadium, Mendez, the resident and homeowner, said she gets it. She supported the construction of the stadium, and still supports further plans for the city, including the future home of the Clippers at Intuit Dome, and, eventually, the upcoming Olympics.
“Can you imagine that? I’m so for all of it,” Mendez said. “Just fix the traffic. That’s it. Fix that? We’re all good.”
We get to the stadium entrance at Yukon and Century. Vendors are selling t-shirts and street dogs. Fans are pouring in for the NFC Championship Game. We even watch some of the tailgating. This is her first time seeing the gameday action up close.
And despite the traffic and other inconveniences, she said she’s still a fan of football and the stadium and the pride the Super Bowl will bring to the city. Though, for visitors, she has a few small requests.
“Just … don’t be loud. Don’t throw trash. Drive carefully. Don’t drive fast,” she said. “If you’re friendly with us, we’ll be friendly right back.”