Board no closer to plan for spending $388,000 in La Jolla shuttle funds: Mid-Coast Trolley Line could provide some hope

With the close of 2017, another year has passed with no ideas for what to do with the hundreds of thousands of dollars languishing in the La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board account for a shuttle system in The Village. Though local efforts have been seemingly exhausted, the planned Mid-Coast Trolley Line could provide a glimmer of hope for the nearly $400,000 available to alleviate parking congestion and bring visitors into La Jolla.

The La Jolla Coastal Access Parking Fund was established through Coastal Commission-required contributions by office-space developers in the 1970s and ’80s. Half of the amount is used for a short-term parking solution, which the board determined to implement through a discount parking pass system for Village employees, but the rest is earmarked to establish a Village shuttle system, as outlined in a Coastal Commission Memorandum of Understanding (MOU).

The fund, which totals $388,000, is held in a City of San Diego account managed by the Economic Development Department (EDD) staff, who oversee the Community Parking District Program, said San Diego EDD manager Elizabeth Studebaker. She added that a maximum of $24,000 is paid to the La Jolla Village Merchants Association annually to administer the parking pass system.

Considered by the La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board as “unsustainable,” the MOU calls for a shuttle bus to transport people around The Village and the construction of a lot outside The Village where people could park, be picked up and brought into town.

“The amount is not enough to hire drivers, buy/lease buses, get insurance, promote the service, etc. and sustain the program,” said Coastal Access & Parking Board member Sheila Fortune. “The main point of the MOU is to bring people in from outside of La Jolla and provide access to the coast for their enjoyment, free of charge.”

In 2013-2015, the Coastal Access & Parking Board met regularly and brainstormed alternatives to the MOU, so the money could be used in a sustainable way. But “over the past years, meetings have been reduced, since there is no new business. Any board can elect to do this and does often if there are no agenda items,” Fortune explained.

“The board has had no reason to meet (recently), as there has never been anything thought of that we could use the coastal shuttle funds for and sustain, following a Coastal Commission meeting in 2014 where they were not agreeable to any of our solutions and would not allow us to alter the MOU. The Coastal Commission rep literally laughed at us and our suggestions.”

In 2015, the board explored whether a Doctrine of Frustration of Purpose would be feasible. The doctrine could be used if and when the terms of a contract cannot be fulfilled, reported La Jolla attorney Glen Rasmussen. However, he told La Jolla Light: “The Coastal Commission did not feel the purpose was frustrated. Their position is that the Coastal Access & Parking Board could still promote alternative transportation and alleviate parking (and meet the intent of the MOU)”

Possible solutions

One idea, Rasmussen said, is to use the funds to supplement a shuttle to and from The Village as part of the Mid-Coast Trolley blue line extension (set to provide a line from downtown San Diego to Westfield UTC). With the trolley extension, there will stops with “park-and-ride” facilities at Balboa Avenue near Pacific Beach, and Nobel Drive near UC San Diego.

“The amount of money collected is not sufficient to purchase a shuttle and associated expenses, but it could be used to supplement one,” Rasmussen said.

California Coastal Commission Coastal Program analyst Alex Llerandi said the Commission is “always willing to listen because much of the money is for a shuttle … but it is not enough to say to the shuttle is not sustainable, there has to be an alternative presented.”

He added that the idea for using the money to supplement a shuttle as part of the trolley extension was “floated around,” but “nothing has happened since.”

Construction is underway for the trolley extension, and services are expected to start in 2021.

Another suggestion came from former District 1 City Council member Sherri Lightner, who in 2016, said she would like to use existing UC San Diego busses and parking structures as the base for a shuttle to transport visitors to The Village during the summer, when university classes are not in session.

While on the campaign trial, current District 1 City Council member Barbara Bry said she supported that idea.

While there hasn’t been any progress in implementing the plan, Bry’s communications director Hilary Nemchik said: “Making The Shores and The Village more accessible is a priority for Council member Bry, and she intends to explore this option in 2018.”

The Coastal Access & Parking Board is comprised of appointees by the La Jolla Town Council, the La Jolla Community Planning Association, and the La Jolla Village Merchants Association. They include Fortune, Deborah Marengo, Tom Brady, Steve Haskins, Ray Weiss, Yolanda DeRiquer and Cindy Greatrex.

Want to know more? Visit and search for La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board, or reach Fortune at (858) 454-5718 or

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