Published in L.A. Weekly (April Fool's Day edition)
A Honda Accord driven by James Duffy, 27, claimed the last parking spot in Westwood on Saturday afternoon, witnesses reported, a discovery that sent shockwaves through the neighborhood near UCLA.
Duffy drove up Westwood Boulevard and circled the neighborhood for more than 20 minutes before locating the space, which was next to the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf on Gayley Avenue. He was parking to meet his friend Scott for pizza and maybe a movie afterwards, according to sources close to him.
The spot at first appeared to be too small. "I thought it was impossible," Duffy said, "but when I cut the steering wheel to the left and pulled back, I knew I had it." Duffy later admitted to Scott that he slightly bumped the Subaru Impreza in front of him.
Duffy's spot was a 10-minute walk from the Italian Express where he and Scott agreed to meet, a distance that prompted a "just parked, will be there soon" text, according to phone records. Duffy's lateness caused the pizza consumption to extend too close to the 4:50 p.m. showing of Wanderlust, and so he and Scott decided to skip the movie and order another slice instead.
While circling in his car, Duffy considered parking in a garage, but ultimately decided against it. "I'm a little low on cash these days, so seven bucks to park is a little steep," he said. At another point in his search, Duffy saw a car's length of curb, but it turned out to be a loading zone.
Duffy also said he toyed with the idea of parking in the Ralph's parking lot, thinking he might "just run in and buy a soda or something," but he was unsure if the scheme would hold up if questioned by the lot's security guard.
"I probably would have questioned him," the security guard on duty, Tom Hartman, told reporters afterwards. "You can't just go in and get a soda and then leave your car here for two hours."
Duffy responded that he believes the act would have been justified. "I'm still a Ralph's customer, even if I just get a soda," he said. "I actually kind of did want a soda. And if I make two stops in the same neighborhood, then I shouldn't have to park twice. But anyway, that's not the point. I'm just happy I found a spot."
Before Duffy's discovery, all Westwood parking spots were thought to be occupied, according to UCLA Urban Planning Professor and parking expert Donald Shoup. Shoup plans to study Duffy's methods, which he hopes will lead to the discovery of other spots in Westwood.
City Councilman Paul Koretz, whose district includes Westwood, congratulated Duffy on his finding. "James' story is inspirational," Koretz says. "His story will inspire everyone who comes to Westwood, either for our legendary movie houses or our midrange chain restaurants, that no matter how hard it is to find, there is a spot out there, somewhere."