L.A. Times, August 27,
2011Overfilled Hollywood Tour Buses Feel the
Weight of the Law
By Bob Pool, Los Angeles
David Lewis was headed toward the Hollywood Hills homes of
actors Charlize Theron and Laurence Fishburne and rock star
Billy Idol when he and his 14 passengers were pulled over by
police in front of game-show host Bob Barker's house.
Officer Timothy Rolsen sized up Lewis' 2008 Ford E-350
open-top van and the tourists inside. He decided they were
1,800 pounds too heavy to be on Outpost Drive.
passengers looked on dumbfounded, Rolsen handed Lewis a
traffic ticket. "He told me that no commercial vehicles were
allowed," said Lewis, 44. "I told him the sign down the
street doesn't say 'commercial vehicles.' It just shows a
picture of a truck with a slash mark through it and the
words 'Over 6,000 pounds."
Hollywood tour guides try hard to fill their buses and vans
with paying passengers before heading to celebrity-packed
neighborhoods, Los Angeles police say some are too full -
making them too heavy for residential streets.
limit enforcement has come as two new tour companies have
entered the highly competitive Hollywood sightseeing field.
The proliferation of tour buses has prompted complaints from
homeowners who contend their neighborhoods are overrun with
vehicles that stop in the middle of the street and block
municipal code prohibits vehicles heavier than 6,000 pounds
from using local streets posted with weight-restriction
signs. The restrictions also apply on some streets
classified as "major" or "secondary" thoroughfares. The code
specifically authorizes local streets' weight restrictions
for vehicles "used for round-trip sightseeing tour service."
Rolsen cited him for weighing 7,800 pounds. "I told him
these vans weigh about 5,900 pounds, but this one is even
lighter because the roof is off. But he didn't weigh the
vehicle. So how did he know it weighed 7,800 pounds?" said
Ford Motor Co., the E-310 weighs 5,404 pounds. Add 15 people
each weighing an average of 175 pounds and the tour van's
total weight is 8,029 pounds - minus a few hundred pounds
for the missing roof. The van's passenger load counts as
part of the vehicle's gross weight, said Sgt. Christopher
Kunz, who is in charge of traffic officers in the Hollywood
area. Managers of the city's Department of Transportation
aren't so sure, however. "They don't count the vehicle's
passengers' weight. My understanding has always been the
weight refers to the vehicle, perhaps including the gasoline
in its tank," said John Fisher, the department's assistant
general manager. What is clearer is the municipal code's
authority to restrict tour buses and vans on local streets
throughout Los Angeles, Fisher said.
80.36.1 prohibits tour buses and vans on virtually all of
the narrow, winding streets in the Hollywood Hills and on
residential streets in flatland neighborhoods if they are
posted with advisory signs, as Outpost Drive is.
tour buses and vans could be banned from the vicinity of the
Hollywood sign. Residents of that area have complained that
tour vans have added to congestion along narrow Deronda
Drive, which dead-ends at a locked gate to a fire road that
leads to the top of Mt. Lee, where the sign stands.
think Beachwood Drive is a major or secondary street,"
Fisher said of the roadway that tour vans must take to reach
For the city,
weight restrictions are important, he said: "It's for the
integrity of the asphalt. Paving is not as thick on local
streets intended for local circulation as it is on main
thoroughfares." Delivery trucks, construction vehicles,
garbage trucks and municipal buses are exempt from street
drivers said they have been cited by Rolsen for their vans
being overweight. Kunz said Rolsen, who has been a police
officer for three decades, did the drivers a favor by
ticketing them under the municipal code instead of the
state's vehicle code, which would have added a point on
their driving record and could have resulted in a fine
totaling 40 cents for each pound they were overweight.
tour bus drivers and their companies could ask the City
Council to amend the municipal code to raise the weight
restriction to 8,000 pounds or to eliminate Section 80.36.1
(b), which prohibits sightseeing vehicles on local streets.
residents of neighborhoods frequented by sightseeing buses
and vans could ask the city to post their streets with
weight-restriction signs. Lewis, meantime, said he plans to
contest his ticket on Monday. If he loses, he expects it
could cost him $500 out of his own pocket.
(BCNA President, Fran Reichenbach and VP/Secretary,
Larry Markes paid a visit to Captain Girmala. The Captain
volunteered to reach out to the West Traffic officials to
get citations issued for tour bus weight infractions. We
applaud her quick response to this on-going tourist impact