Business owners complain that FEMA employees or other area workers might be faking disabilities to abuse Old Pasadena parking privileges
By Joe Piasecki
Sebastiano Grasso, Hey, That's Amore Italian Coffee House
Most weekday mornings it's almost impossible to find parking along the small stretch of East Holly Street between Fair Oaks and Raymond avenues, and that's bad for nearby businesses.
According to several irate area shop owners, the parking situation on their street is not only a disaster that could be prevented, it's also one they think is being caused - ironically - by FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
At about 6:30 each morning starting in November, said Hey, That's Amore coffee shop owner Sebastino Grasso, as many as a dozen men and women wearing business attire and what appear to be FEMA nametags park in front of local businesses. Then they enter the nearby east annex of the Parsons Engineering complex, a building FEMA leases for work on closing accounts opened during the 1994 Northridge Earthquake.
The problem is these cars stay throughout the afternoon using blue, apparently state-issued disabled parking placards, although the drivers appear physically healthy.
The culprits are always the same, and "no one even buys a cup of coffee," complained Grasso.
"It's a loss for our businesses and the city," said Keke Ohm, owner of Deco Policy, who along with Silver Me jewelry store owner Monica Goldblatt-Macias believes the phony disabled parkers have cut into her bottom line.
Grasso said he has called Councilman Chris Holden, but did not get a response. Nor, he said, have police done anything about the situation.
After speaking with the Weekly, Pasadena Police Lt. Phlunte Riddle made a special stop Friday on Holly Street, which is a few blocks from the police station, but she found nothing out of order that afternoon.
FEMA spokesperson James Shebl was upset to hear that federal employees might actually be feigning disabilities and crowding limited public parking on Holly Street, but said he could not confirm whether the culprits actually work at the agency.
After sending out a memo about the situation, said Shebl, "We met with the entire staff ... and reminded them that we provide parking. We've advised our folks, and we hope they understand that's not what we stand for and that it doesn't become more of an issue. As federal employees, we want to do the right thing and set an example as good citizens."
27 E. Holly Street
Pasadena, CA 91103