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East Hollywood Residents Steamed About Curb Removal

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There's an interesting neighborhood squabble going on in East Hollywood over the removal of a street parking space, no small issue given how tight parking is on this block of N. Westmoreland Avenue. Earlier this month, the Bureau of Street Services did a follow-up report to see if resident Alyssa Romano, who owns a fourplex building at 1166 N. Westmoreland Avenue had gotten a permit for an illegal driveway that she made last summer. Neighbors say that back in July Romano hired a construction crew to jackhammer out the curb, pour concrete and create a second driveway (keep in mind that she already has a driveway, and four parking spaces behind her building). “They basically made her driveway about 8 feet wider, so that she didn't have to turn the wheels of her BMW when coming and going from her driveway," an area resident tells us. Since Romano removed the city-owned parking space without a permit, she was instructed by the Bureau of Street Services to apply for a driveway permit (retroactively) with the Department of Engineering, who'll now determine whether or not she should be allowed to keep the driveway or restore the area to its original state. Regardless, the neighbors on this street are angry because 1. Romano never got the original permit. 2. She took away the city owned-green space between the curb and the street. 3. Parking on this street sucks even more than it did before.

----Some background on the street: With visitors going to the Lexington Avenue Primary Center School (on the same street) and the Children's Hospital (up the block), neighbors say that finding street parking is difficult. Additionally, the Little Temple bar is around the corner and patrons often park on Westmoreland.

---Backstory on the actual curb removal: The story comes from one neighbor who lives on the street, who asked not to be named (same guy quoted above). He writes via an IM interview: “I woke up at about 8 am on the morning of the 4th of July last summer, and there was a crew of workers jackhammering away at the curb. I assume she, the land lordess of that property, did it that early on the 4th so that no city inspectors would happen to drive by.”

---What the city says: Michelle E. Vargas, Public Information Officer, Dept. of Public Works, says that following complaints to the Office of Street Services, an investigation was launched. The Department of Public Works Bureau of Street Services issued Romano a notice (there is no fine) for a non-permitted driveway approach in January/February 2009, and instructed Romano to apply for a driveway permit with the Department of Engineering. Multiple neighbors say they reported Romano to the Bureau of Street Services in July/August 2008, and some are upset that it took the city so long to react. "It's not normal to have such a long delay" in regards to an investigation, says Vargas.

-----Ticketing: Cars are still getting ticketed because they are try to squeeze two cars into the original spot (essentially what’s left after Romano took away the spot is about 1.8 spaces) because the cars overhang into Romanos' driveway. It's not clear who is calling in the traffic officers to write tickets, but there's some suspicion among neighbors that it's Romano. Emailing us the above photo, Clark Bernstein, who lives on the block, shows off the ticket he received last winter. He is fighting the ticket on the grounds that it's an illegal driveway.

---What's next? As noted before, Romano, who didn't respond to a note left in her mailbox, has applied for a permit for a driveway with the Department of Engineering, and now they have to basically decide whether or not to approve her driveway retroactively. According to Vargas, what it comes down to is whether Romano's driveway follows city code: If it’s found she is obstructing the public right of way, or not compiling with the various codes (there are rules about how big the driveway has to be, for example), she will be asked to remove the driveway at her expense. But Department of Engineering could also approve her driveway and she could keep it.

---Not the norm: Public spokesperson Vargas says that this case is unusual. "Most homeowners know they have follow the rules," says Vargas, who urges homeowners to apply for permits for any type of similar work via the web site for the Bureau of Engineering (below). That'll do little to mollify neighbors. "She did it the wrong way, why is it even allowed?” says another neighbor, who also asked to remain anonymous.
· Bureau of Engineering [Official Site]