By Dave Schwab
How much valet parking is enough?
In the Village of La Jolla, that question always invites debate.
And it did again Thursday as La Jolla Community Planning Association (LJCPA) said enough is enough in nixing, by an 8-7 vote, a proposal to add four more valet spaces at 1298 Prospect St.
The proposal to add four more spots to 12 already existing in front of George’s At The Cove was meant to accommodate the new Eddie V’s (formerly The Chart House) restaurant scheduled to be open by July.
Immediate past LJCPA president Joe LaCava said the group’s narrow recommendation not to add four new Prospect valet spaces will now be forwarded to senior traffic engineer Gary Pence for his consideration.
“It’s an administrative action,” LaCava said. “The city has final authority whether to grant what the applicant is asking for, which is four new passenger loading zones with the classic white curb paint.”
The hour-long valet parking discussion and vote at the April 7 LJCPA meeting had residents, restaurateurs, community planners and local landlords all choosing sides.
At issue was whether valet is self-serving or community-serving, and what the optimal number of valet spots on Prospect Street actually is.
Conceding valet is here to stay, longtime landlord Lincoln Foster nonetheless argued against adding any new spaces.
“The 12 there now are not being utilized efficiently,” he said. “These parking spaces are parking storage stalls. Putting 16 valet parking spaces on this street that was never designed for it creates an additional backlog of traffic onto Torrey Pines Road that is a compromise to this community.”
Restaurateur George Hauer disagreed.
“Valet parking doesn’t cause the lines going out Prospect Street and down Torrey Pines,” he said. “It’s the demand to come to La Jolla and its restaurant district.”
Hauer said his 170-seat restaurant alone with its 180 employees served 275,000 meals last year. He added the new Eddie V’s, adding nearly 300 more seats, will place an increasing demand on valet parking, which he described as a “parking extender.”
Hauer pointed out, since the community can’t build a parking garage, there is no alternative place for people to park.
“If you don’t have valet to extend parking, what you end up with is people who have no place to go circling around and finally saying, ‘I’m getting out of here, there is no place to park,’ ” said Hauer.
LJCPA member Orrin Gabsch said he felt a decision on adding valet spots is premature.
“We should be studying it further, whether to split the spaces, try to make sure that valet is operated efficiently,” he said.
Colleague Dan Courney noted valet proponents have been subtly altering their expansion proposal over time.
“This started as a battle between Ace and Sunset shifting four spots, and now they want four more spots so there will be no more battles between the two,” he said. “This is a form of paid parking. We should wait until we get a business association up and running to see what merchants really want before we add four additional valet spots.”
In other action, architect Tony Crisafi was elected new LJCPA president replacing Joe LaCava.
Lifeguard Sgt. John Sandmeyer and other city officials gave an organized presentation on disaster preparedness/emergency evacuation plans to tsunamis, hurricanes and floods in the La Jolla area. Sandmeyer said studies have shown La Jolla Shores is the area most likely to be inundated in a catastrophic event. He said evacuation signs pointing to high ground in the event of a tsunami have been installed in high-risk areas of La Jolla.