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Swork Owner: Parking, Not Bike Lanes, is Eagle Rock’s Big Issue

A leading small-business entrepreneur supports bike lanes—but believes the neighborhood’s parking situation ought to be fixed first.

Swork owner Trish Neal Vuagniaux outside her popular coffee house on Colorado Boulevard. Credit: Ajay Singh
Swork owner Trish Neal Vuagniaux outside her popular coffee house on Colorado Boulevard. Credit: Ajay Singh
Trish Neal Vuagniaux, the owner of Swork Cofee on Colorado Boulevard, is among dozens of Eagle Rock business owners who have written letters to city authorities in support of the Department of Transportation’s plan to install bike lanes on Colorado Boulevard by reducing the number of auto traffic lanes on each side of the passageway from three to two.

And yet, says Vuagniaux, the whole issue of bike lanes does not address what she believes is the central problem for business owners: Not enough parking.

Paradoxically, Vagniaux is greatly bothered by the opposition to bike lanes, even though she wholeheartedly supports the idea of slowing down traffic on Colorado and making it more inviting to bike riders. At home she arm-wrestles about the issue with her husband Gilbert, a Swiss-born general contractor who opposes bike lanes. “He has to hustle from job site to job site quickly and he likes the way Colorado is a thoroughfare,” explains Vuagniaux, adding: “But he’s also not a biker.”

Vuagniaux recently talked to Eagle Rock Patch about her views regarding bike lanes and parking. Excerpts:

"The opposition I’m seeing from a lot of other business owners worries me. The signs they’ve put up on their windows send a kind of negative message into the community, especially at a time when people are trying to revitalize it and make it beautiful.

"There’s a lot of old-school thinking and I feel like if we all broadened our horizons a little bit, maybe we can improve the flow of traffic. Swork has been plied into three times because of people’s speeds.

"The other thing is that we have parking vultures in Eagle Rock who seem to have it out for us. Three City parking attendants meet every day on the corner of Caspar in front of Camilo’s and they figure out their plot for the day. Why does our little community have to have three Parking Enforcement cars? I go to Pasadena and I see one [Parking Enforcement] bike if I’m lucky.

"A customer one minute late out of Swork gets a parking ticket. Here we are focusing on bike lanes when we should really be focusing on why are we targeted in such a negative way.

"I’m a cyclist myself—I cycle 11 miles every Sunday morning. Unfortunately I don’t do it around here because I don’t feel safe. I drive to Dockweiler Beach with a good friend of mine and we bike to Redondo and come back. Basically, that’s Manhattan Beach—they have a wonderful bike lane that’s safe and very family-oriented.

"People really need to know that Eagle Rock is being raped by Parking enforcement. I don’t have this problem when I’m in Pasadena or South Pas. But you can’t be five minutes late in Eagle Rock. It’s a shame. There’s no long-term parking, unless you want to pay $4 in the parking lot behind us. And then you get kicked out of there for the Farmers’ Market—on Fridays you might as well not come to work.

"Recently that whole lot was closed off to businesses because it was rented out to a film production company for four days. And to add insult to injury, only maybe 10 or 15 cars were in there from the actual production crew.

"My employees have to park three or four blocks down the street. My general manager has four parking tickets already. And they’re $63 a piece. It’s like they’re after us. Plus you have to pay a dollar an hour for parking. Ever since the parking rates have changed, our sales have been affected. It’s awful. People don’t want to come into Swork. I bet you they make more money in Eagle Rock issuing tickets than they do in Pasadena.

"I think people should forget complaining against bike lanes. They’re really not going to hurt Eagle Rock. If anything, they’re going to make things safer and cars slow down. I know bike lanes are not going to solve the parking problem. But at least if more people bike around they don’t have to get into a car and potentially get a ticket. They wouldn’t have to worry about the parking vultures. So I’m all for slowing down traffic and making Eagle Rock a more pedestrian, family-oriented place.

"The other thing is that the Starbucks on Colorado has four 15-minute metered parking in front of their place so that people can stop and grab a cup of coffee and leave. Why is it that they get special preference? And they have free parking behind. That’s not fair, is it? I should have three 15-minute parking spots as well."
Lo Luns May 25, 2013 at 01:19 PM
And we are progressing just fine, this town used to be so desolate passed 6pm!!
Ashley A. May 25, 2013 at 01:39 PM
Lo Luns, while it's wonderful that Eagle Rock has long-time residents like yourself, the fact of the matter is that the future of the neighborhood lies with younger people who have moved here in more recent years and are raising families. It's up to the new generations to build Eagle Rock into what we want it to be for ourselves and our children. Those who do not think forward get left behind.
Marcus May 25, 2013 at 02:15 PM
Tim Ryder points out a problem that could be avoided with clearer signage, or by using the meters. If they don't exist already, why not have the meters warn us of street cleaning times - when we're about to drop in a coin or two? I know it would mean less revenue for the PE, but helpful information might make street cleaning more efficient.
Hooper Humperdink May 25, 2013 at 03:37 PM
It is all pain and no gain for local merchants and metered parking - when the solution to the problem has been so clearly demonstrated in Old Town Pasadena and other cities who've listened to the advice of Donald Shoup. Those street meters need to have their prices set so that there is always a parking space or two available on the street. A portion of the meter money needs to go into a fund that will directly benefit the local business community that is generating that revenue. Instead, the meter rates are too low to get people in and out and the meter money collected goes downtown and is in CD14's parking meter slush fund. That is dysfunctional parking policy and it is not helping local business.
Hooper Humperdink May 25, 2013 at 03:40 PM
One more point worth making: when everyone is forced to drive to get around (due to lack of viable options) only the big, moneyed, interests can afford to support the high land costs needed to provide car parking in that scenario. If we give people a chance to safely walk, bike, or take transit then we decrease the burden of car parking needs.
Michael Turmon May 25, 2013 at 05:25 PM
"He also said it wasn't safe for people to sit outside on that intersection" This is not a reasonable argument against having a coffee shop on that corner. Those cars actually crashed straight in to the front door. No business, with outdoor seating or otherwise, would be safe from a car crash like that. The real problem in that case is people driving too fast on Colorado. That was also the cause of the car that flipped over outside Trader Joes (reported on Patch), the other ones that took out the front area of Pete's (twice), the four-fatality crash, the one that smashed in to the chain link fence used for the Dahlia school underpass, and so many other crashes. The one relationship of bike lanes to parking around Swork is that, if biking is easier, it is easier to bike or walk to Swork, freeing up parking spaces. The coffee biz is very local, so it goes well with bicycling.
Elijah H May 25, 2013 at 07:07 PM
Parking is a problem in that area in general, which leads me to ask: Why do we give up an entire block of free parking to St. Dominic's school on the block of Merton between Caspar and Maywood? That is prime parking space that could be used by patrons and employees of surrounding businesses! Are they untouchable because of their affiliation with the Catholic Church? What are the details of that sweet deal they have? When is it up for renegotiation?
Elijah H May 25, 2013 at 07:24 PM
As comparison - St Bernard's schurch/school in Glassell Park has a similar set-up with buildings on either side of Avenue 33. The students and teachers manage to navigate those crossings smartly and easily. I don't understand why - in an area where parking is even more dire - we feel it's necessary to offer special protection for the benefit of St. Dominic's school.
Lo Luns May 25, 2013 at 08:44 PM
@Elizabeth A, ER is old school!! Transplants just don't get it. York Blvd is right over the Hill!! Have fun bike riding over there!
Elijah H May 25, 2013 at 10:23 PM
It appears Billy Biker has a new "friend".
Elijah H May 25, 2013 at 10:25 PM
A "friend" who doesn't seem to see the relationship between the "transplants" and the fact that "this town used to be so desolate passed [sic] 6pm!!" before they moved to town.
jayres May 25, 2013 at 11:05 PM
According to Josef Bra-Ali-bubba, the fact that cars are the only viable means of transportation, land values are so high that its only possible for the wealthy to afford land, thus making parking so scarce. So opening up the roads to bikes will not only create more traffic, it will also lower property values because it creates another viable means of transportation. I haven't heard that theory before, but its great to know that all the people envious of wealth will still not be able to purchase land but property owners will suffer as a result of bike lanes. If that doesn't make you a bike lane proponent, I don't know what will! Drove down Rowena in Los Feliz the other day. Two lanes compressed to one to add a bike lane. Really long lines backed up at the traffic light due to the new one lane road. Skipped over to Waverly side street, then Glendale, Riverside, and Fletcher just to avoid the mess. This is coming to a neighborhood near you folks!
EagleRockMom May 25, 2013 at 11:18 PM
I generally support all small business owners in Eagle Rock, even if their opinions differ from mine. I think it is important to respectfullly disagree instead of publicly slamming anyone for not wanting bike lanes. Also, I wish Parking Enforcement were as aggressive as Trish States because it would be nice if they'd ticket the RVs that seem to think it's cool to park in front of other people's residences. Personally, I have been late to feed the meter in Eagle Rock and have never been ticketed, but have been cited in Pasadena within minutes of meter expiration.
eaglerocker May 26, 2013 at 01:10 AM
I've gotten a couple of those $63 tickets on Colorado before, but I don't think any amount of complaining is going to stop Parking Enforcement. Money talks. Like Elijah, I'm also curious about the St. Dominic situation: Is there anywhere else in LA where this kind of thing happens? How come our Eagle Rock public schools don't get the same sweet deal as this private school? As far as parking for Swork goes -- I'm hoping that if speeds on Colorado slow down, more people will use the parking on the north side of the street. There are always empty spaces there, at any time of day. But it's a real mental barrier to have to cross 6 lanes of freeway traffic for a cup of coffee.
Lo Luns May 26, 2013 at 01:51 AM
St. D's uses the street as a playground. I went to St Doms, and parking is available after 3:30 pm. There is plenty of parking on the North side of Colorado, employees should park there!
eaglerocker May 26, 2013 at 01:59 AM
Um, so what do they use their playground for? Parking? I've never heard of a city street being shut down, every day, all day, so a private school could have more playground space. St. Dominic's already has a nice playground, and a huge parking lot.
Lo Luns May 26, 2013 at 02:03 AM
It's not all day, it opens back up at 3:30 PM!! It provides safety for the kids. They go back and forth to church, the playground for PE, and the hall for gatherings. It's been happening for the last 40 years +, all of a sudden the transplants want more change!!
Lo Luns May 26, 2013 at 02:05 AM
You should change your name to transplanteaglerocker, so the true ER peeps don't confuse you with being one of them!!
eaglerocker May 26, 2013 at 02:26 AM
Lo Luns, please, do tell us who counts as a "true ER peep." Do you have to be over 40 and live in your parents' basement? BTW, closing off a public street til 3:30 does count as "all day." And just because something's been happening for 40+ years, doesn't make it right. In fact, it usually means it's time for a change. The entire neighborhood loses parking because private school kids can't be bothered to use a crosswalk? Where's a petition I can sign to get this ridiculous tradition stopped?
EagleRockMom May 26, 2013 at 07:20 AM
The streets are closed between the two halves of St Dominic's for safety reasons. This "sweet deal" was designed to keep children safe because they must cross the street throughout the day in order to have access to the church and school buildings, plus this temporary street closure ensures speeding motorists and loitering are kept at bay during school hours. My children don't attend St. Dominic's but I fully support their need for the temporary street closure.
Linda Johnstone Allen May 26, 2013 at 04:52 PM
Just saw Tricia Neal's comments and had to add in some comments. I agree with Trish, ONE primary concern on the boulevard is parking....and the bike lane "discussion" tends to take away impetuous on that subject. The ERCPR(Eagle rock Community Preservation corp - now on hiatus)) put in ALOT of time on that issue, being hit by stone walls everywhere. Truth is, they city should have started putting parking lots in many decades ago...but....here we are. A universal valet program did not go through..valet companies said they couldn't make money on it & city offered no monetary assistance. Now businesses need to share their lots, basically, and work out "sharing agreements". There is parking on certain sides of Colorado at different times.....and folks just need to walk some. However, biggest problem on blvd. is SPEED. It is dangerous. It needs to be slowed down...a couple more stop lights would help. We have asked for years....... There needs to be a more pedestrian friendly atmosphere...more trees, plants, decorative planters, a median between Ellenwood and ER blvd.....I could go on and on. Trish with SWORK, Fattys, and Cafe Beaujolais, Camilo's & Coffee Table (amongst others) took HUGE risks setting up businesses here, financially and otherwise. If they had not taken the chance that ER would be a great place to set up their entrepreneurial ventures...we couldn't have gotten where we are now. Bless 'em. I agree bikers need a place to be. If I were an avid biker, I would use side streets most of the time, just by choice. However, it doesn't mean that a bike lane couldn't be TRIED, along with traffic reduction by stop lights & other pedestrian oriented amenities. Sorry, Colorado is still like a freeway.......if you want freeway speeds, use the freeway. Additionally.......I agree the traffic parking tickets are out of line, parking times need to be extended, prices reduced, tickets reduced. Parking vultures is actually a calmer term than I have for the attendants. Must say the City blew it on this issue....not good for business or community. Just because they screwed up the City budget, doesn't mean they should squeeze it out of the electorate. Could go on & on, having been in the boulevard revitalization for years. Though there are still big problems to fix, I am proud that Colorado and ER. BLVD were "saved", new businesses came, and am proud to live here. Thanks, Trish, for investing your time, energy and money into the area, when we really needed new exciting, artistic businesses. It ain't been easy......and still needs innovative improvement. Best, Linda
Andrew Davenhall May 26, 2013 at 06:00 PM
LA Parking Nazis and $84 dollar (YES, EIGHT FOUR DOLLAR) parking tickets tell visitors and shoppers to "stay away from Eagle Rock if you know what's good for you.." and to take your business down the street to the BIGBOX stores. Eagle Rock doesn't NEED a bike lane, bike lanes are for congested narrow metro city streets like in NY or Seattle.. Bike lanes aren't going to make the Rock any more hip or gentrified, only pissed off. -pssst.. Follow the money Patch, somebody's got an uncle in the bike lane business..
Elijah H May 26, 2013 at 06:50 PM
If St Dominic's sweet deal maintains that they're supposed to reopen the street at 3:30, they've been in violation almost every school day for the past three years. That time limit is news to me, thanks for that detail, Lo Luns. I still don't see what makes their students entitled to a free block party every day, when St Bernards school manages their daily crossings just fine without the same sort of entitlement.
bbkong May 27, 2013 at 12:56 PM
Haha! I was wondering when our local predators would get dragged into this cat fight. It's funny how PE is close enough to Colorado to pounce when a meter goes a second over the limit, but it takes 20 minutes for them to show up when some softballer blocks your driveway to get to his game on time. It's nice to see a business owner speak up about parking too. It's a song I've been singing for years. There's a number of businesses that would get more of my money if I could just find a place to park and hop on a trolley. Dare I say parking structure again? The people who are driving up and down the Boulevard doing 50 will still do that if you choke it down to 2 lanes; they'll just do it on Yosemite instead. The elephant in the room is that there's just too many people and it's getting more crowded every day with apartments going in left and right. What we really need is a new plague.
Medium Size Dog May 27, 2013 at 04:28 PM
I don't have solutions but I do have opinions. I ride a bike and do plenty of driving in Eagle Rock. I want my biking to be as risk free as possible and my driving to be minimal and efficient. Rude drivers are much more destructive than rude bikers and we have too many of both. I don't need an officially mandated bike lane on a main street when I know there is a much safer less traveled street one block over even if there is a bike lane on the main street. That bike lane makes for frustrated drivers on the choked main street AND on the formerly less traveled residential street making things even less safe for motorists, bikers and pedestrians. Common sense puts happy bikers and pedestrians a block away from evil, rude motorists. Regardless of whether your thinking is old fashioned or modern, a successful business is a successful business no matter where you put the cars. 30, 40, 60, 70 years ago when all those small store front buildings were built, the same cycle of thriving, failing, barely hanging on businesses were finding their customers and the customers were finding them. You can't blame that on the parking situation no matter how many cars were around then or now. Parking structure? Where? The biggest existing open space and parking lot is right at the corner of Caspar and Merton. What did Pasadena and Glendale do? After all the arguments and smoke cleared, now they're just part of the urban landscape. Do enough people want that for Eagle Rock? Is it necessary? Back to biking. As soon as I get to the end of my driveway I'm on a bike ride. The time, fuel and freeway clogging to get to a windy bike path with too many people biking and NOT biking on it just seems silly when pleasant residential streets are all over Eagle Rock, Glendale and South Pas and the drivers on those streets are much less likely to be angry at you for just existing and may even be friendly because we're part of the neighborhood and help us nudge by nudge to be more aware and sharing of our streets.
John Goldfarb May 27, 2013 at 05:38 PM
I don't see how a centrally located parking structure could not be beneficial to local businesses, as has been the case in Old Pasadena, but no one will pay for it.
Marcus May 27, 2013 at 10:16 PM
Can't wait to hear more about the Take Back The Boulevard initiative. Maybe there are more plans to expand parking? Bike lanes? crosswalks?
Jeff May 28, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Why do employees park at meters and time limit parking when there is unlimited parking in residential areas throughout Eagle Rock. There is free parking up Eagle Rock Blvd north of Swork, why are they parking 3 blocks away?For Swork employees to get repeated tickets tells me they are parking in spaces that should go to customers to enrich their businesses, not employees trying to park through their workshift. When employees park at meters they are only hurting their and other businesses by eliminating available spaces in the retail areas. In addition, there are patrols in Eagle Rock, but compared to Melrose, Downtown, and Westwood, they are not all day. If you parked at a meter and the time expired, you messed up, not the traffic officer.
Cherryl Weaver May 28, 2013 at 12:28 PM
Eagle Rock is a changing neighborhood and contrary to Elizabeth A. when I see the people that are making change happen only a small portion of the people are newcomers, most of the volunteer work to get things done is by long term residents that have pride in making Eagle Rock the best it could be. I dream that more newcomers would get involved. Local business owners deserve our help, I agree that parking is a bigger problem than bike lanes but both are issues that should be addressed. For instance why is it there nowhere else in the neighborhood is there street cleaning but on Wed. and Thurs. between 11 - 1 (rush hour for lunch) are side streets off of Colorado blvd. no parking for street cleaning. You would think that street cleaning in that area if scheduled properly could be done between 9 - 11am. Many shops have small parking lots, some have traffic at different times of the day so I see businesses that are usually only open during daytime hours with empty lots in the evening when restaurants could use that parking for the dinner crowd. Why is the City Hall parking lot empty when people could easily park there and walk across the street to businesses. We need to stand up to the parking enforcement and city services and demand more fair treatment. I applaud the ERCPR for there efforts on studying this problem for a long term solution but there are things that can be done now if the merchants, councilman's office and residents just worked together. I am all for slowing down the traffic on Colorado but I am very concerned that without buffered bike lanes with curbs between riders and traffic we will see more bikers injured than we have experienced with cars.
Hart Fisher May 28, 2013 at 08:52 PM
I have to say, Kudo's for the owner of this business to think this through. I've seen business after business go down over not having easy parking. This is pretty important issue that should be resolved. We need to be thinking about how to better service some of these businesses so we have a neighborhood to bike in. No shops, means no taxes paid for parks, police, firemen, so by all means. Kudo's to the sharp lady. As for the others attacking her... Get a life. She's only thinking of what she needs to stay in business & how to service the needs of her customers better. Something non-business owners should consider in this debate.

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