Magnolia Boulevard has become a victim of its own success. For years, owners of the quaint shops, antique and collectibles stores, and moderately priced eateries, fought mightily to draw attention to their sleepy street in Burbank’s Magnolia Park. Well, that’s all changed. Magnolia Boulevard is now a hip cool place to shop, mingle, dine, and hang out. The new popularity has aggravated parking problems, which have always dogged the boulevard. Those parking problems have sparked a major conflict among some merchants in the 3400 block of West Magnolia. At the center of this angry storm is Romancing the Bean.
Popular eatery Romancing the Bean
There is a lot of love out there for Romancing the Bean. Folks rave about the coffee, food, decor, and much more. There is a glowing review about it by a guest blogger here on Media City Groove. Over the years, the coffeehouse/cafe has had several locations in the Media City. In October of 2012, it opened at the present location, 3413 West Magnolia Boulevard.
Romancing the Bean took over the space of a former restaurant and a retail shop for a total of 2,000 square feet. Romancing the Bean apparently was able to sidestep the parking requirements for a restaurant by getting its parking calculated as if it were retail. I dropped by Romancing the Bean on Friday, August 8, and a co-manager told me they had only two parking stalls in back. One for handicap customers and the other is used by the owner, Kerry Krull. I left my card for Krull to allow her the opportunity to comment on the parking problems. (So far, I have not heard from her)
By the way, the establishment has seating for at least 50 inside and another 10 or so outside on a patio located on the public walkway. Also, the eatery now offers free WiFi, which has extended the stay of many of its customers. A huge plus for Romancing the Bean. On the other hand, some store and shop owners on that block say it’s been deadly for their businesses.
Parking complaints from other business owners
Ralph Persinger is frustrated with the parking problems in front of his business, Burbank Antiques , at 3423 West Magnolia Boulevard. When I dropped by his shop, Persinger told me the situation is “out of control.” He says, “… we’re all getting hammered. Unless you can get people to buy — you’re screwed.” Persinger has owned the shop for five years. He claims business is down 50-70 percent because his customers can’t find parking on Magnolia in front of his shop. Persinger says he has watched Romancing the Bean patrons park on the block and stay for “several hours.” He insists this is “… not fair to the rest of us.”
Alice Danescu of Burbank Books and Antiques,3429 West Magnolia, agrees with Persinger: “We should have equal space for parking for our customers.” In business only a few months, Charlotte Carpenter Lewis admits that if she had known of the parking problem she would have probably picked a different location. The former NBC Page/actress/television production employee now runs Miss Charlotte’s Vintage at 3429 #B West Magnolia.
Carpenter-Lewis stresses the need for better enforcement of parking restrictions. Also, she supports a change from two hours to one hour parking on this block of Magnolia. She believes the merchants should work together: “Retail and restaurants can complement each other. Then everybody wins.” Landlord, Daniel May, has several tenants on the block. May says business for four of his retail tenants has dropped so much they’re having “a hard time paying their rents” and are “thinking of closing their retail stores to move elsewhere.” May blames the clientele at Romancing the Bean whom he says “…have been monopolizing the street parking.” He too supports a change to one-hour parking on that block.
Merchants take complaints to city council
May was one of several people who went before the Burbank City Council last Tuesday to voice their concerns about the parking problems on this stretch of Magnolia Boulevard. Recently, city officials have received numerous phone calls, letters, and emails detailing the parking complaints. At the council meeting, Mark Scott, city manager, announced the complaints are being taken seriously:”I’ve been aware of this issue for two weeks. It’s gonna to take a little bit of time to go through all these issues…. we do want to make sure that we have an opportunity to hear from all the different affected parties and there are many.”
City manager says proposal in the works
Scott pointed out one issue is at the top of the list: ” We actually believe that it’s time to put in the signal (Magnolia Boulevard and Lima Street). Those of us who do this for a living, know you put in a crosswalk in a place like that without a signal we’ll probably lose a life sooner or later. So we want very badly not to have that happen as a result of the crosswalk. We are ready to work up the proposal on a signal and try to get that done.” Applause broke out in the audience following Scott’s remarks.
Also, Scott went on to say the proposal will include “… some of those other issues as well. We can look at the one hour. We can talk about whether it benefits to stripe the street. .. we’ll be talking about how best to look at the enforcement out there and the police department is very ready and prepared to engage in that dialogue. So we’ll do all those things as quickly as we can.”
Mayor Dr. David Gordon weighed in saying he had “… over three decades of familiarity with that area, and the parking problems, and the pedestrian problems, and the business challenges in that area.” Mayor Gordon says he’ll wait to see Scott’s proposal before making any decisions on solutions. However,Gordon joined with a number of the speakers in calling for “some immediate attention paid to the enforcement” of parking limits on Magnolia Boulevard. Also, Dr. Gordon brought up another issue: “Encroachment in the right away with respect to dining. Because some of these chairs and seats are right up against the curb. And also makes parking –in and out of cars— hazardous as well. Just one other aspect I think we need clarified.”
City officials need to really move quickly on resolving these issues. The situation has ignited animosity and some harsh allegations. More on that coming.