Parking hits sour note at music awards show

Get ready for a long wait for your limo: Sunday’s Grammys are facing some daunting transportation problems.

For the first time since the music awards have been held at Staples Center, the massive parking lots directly across the arena are unavailable. Construction of the 4 million-square-foot L.A. Live complex is under way on those sites.

Livery operators were told Friday that 600 limos will have to exit the security cordon and park at the Sports Arena/Coliseum. Those limos will thus have to re-enter when the show is over.

According to Staples Center spokesman Michael Roth, there’s room for 650 chauffered vehicles in lots across Figueroa within the security area. After the show, these guests will walk to their vehicles, enter their limos and leave. Some of the larger limo companies will have golf carts shuttling their clients to this lot.

Street pickups will not be allowed on adjacent roads outside the security zone. In other words, if a guest calls his driver and they arrange to meet at Figueroa and Olympic, the limo will be immediately ticketed for stopping.

“It’s going to be very awkward. It’s going to be very tough, and there’s going to be a lot of confusion,” said one limo company exec. “These are clients who are used to having their vehicles parked within touching distance.”

“Obviously with the loss of those two gigantic lots, it’s going to be a little more cramped,” said Craig Friedemann, director of special events for the Music Express limo company. “With what resources they have remaining, they’ve come up with a good plan. It’ll work, but it won’t be as smooth as it was in the past.”

In a rare case of the proletariat being better positioned than the VIPs, guests driving their own cars should be unaffected by the new situation. Self-parkers are in lots outside the security area across Figueroa and at the Convention Center.

“I wouldn’t recommend a limo,” said the L.A. Dept. of Transportation’s Aram Sahakian. “Drive, park in a lot and walk to your car is the best scenario.”

NARAS spokesman Ron Roecker said that to coordinate the limos, the event will be using a “modified call-up system” — a version of valet parking. An attendant gives the driver and passenger a numbered ticket; when the passenger exits the show, he hands the ticket to an attendant who calls for his vehicle.

Roth said he did not know the number of employees who would be working the call-up system. It does not appear to be as large a system as would be used at the Oscars or Emmys. Who would pay for the system has been a point of contention between NARAS and Staples.

“The limo companies will have to be out in force trying to reconnect their clients with their vehicles,” said a livery company exec. “We know the drill.”

Another minor complication is that there are two dropoff points but only one pickup locale. Some drivers are concerned clients will go to the wrong location after the show.

As for the overall situation, there’s a 60% chance of rain Sunday, which could either complicate matters or keep the traffic down. But there are no competing events, like a USC basketball game, to bring more cars downtown.

“The good thing is it’s a Sunday,” Sahakian said. “Otherwise we would have never made it.”

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