It’s been more than a year since the La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board met, having seemingly exhausted its efforts to find parking solutions in The Village and establish a shuttle system in accordance with a California Coastal Commission (CCC) directive from the 1970s. But in light of The Village discounted parking program recently coming to an end (due to a decrease in availability in parking garages), the board reconvened April 11 to discuss their current standing and what may be next for the group.
Coastal Access & Parking Board chair Deborah Marengo called the meeting in the conference room of Marengo Morton Architects on Prospect Street.
The La Jolla Coastal Access Parking Fund was established some 50 years ago through CCC-required contributions by office-space developers. The purpose was to implement a shuttle system to move people throughout The Village from a remote parking reservoir, and implement other short-term or long-term parking solutions for those who work here. These terms are outlined in a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the CCC and the City of San Diego.
The first goal has been stymied for years after the board determined that a Village shuttle system is not sustainable, and an alternative has yet to be agreed upon. The short-term parking solution implemented was the discounted parking permit for Village employees.
The City contracts directly with the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) to administer the La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking program through the La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board.
As of the April meeting, City of San Diego neighborhood investment manager Elizabeth Studebaker said $405,438 was in the account, which has been accruing interest since 2002. It is divided as $269,154 for the shuttle and the remaining $136,284 for the parking solutions
Discount parking program
“We have basically been told by all the garages that were giving us the discounted spaces that they have no room for us any longer, which pretty much put an end to that program,” Marengo told the board. “No one would commit to anything beyond a month-to-month lease.”
Sheila Fortune, former program manager of the Coastal Access & Parking Board, added: “A couple of years ago, we had five or six garages (we could use). And with new tenants moving in and taking parking for their employees, that number reduces further.
San Diego traffic engineer Tanner French said the so-called “parking money” is flexible and there are several options for short-term parking solutions, “not just a discount parking pass program.”
Ahead of the meeting, LJVMA contracted Ace Mobility Solutions’ representative Brad Elsass to do five hours of research a month into parking problems and solutions for La Jolla.
He told the Coastal Access & Parking Board: “There is some limited and temporary parking availability. We have capacity within The Village to park cars at full retail (price), but from a business perspective, it doesn’t make sense to discount parking when demand is what it is.”
He said Ace Mobility is in the process of identifying “creative components” to what is feasible within The Village in terms of moving people. “We are not just talking about parking,” he said. “Our process is to look at the following basic sections: assessment of today’s issues and immediate solutions, increase the availability of on-street parking during key visiting hours, traffic congestion that is changing the dynamics of areas such as Girard Avenue and Prospect Street, and moving people around when they are actually here.”
Going forward, Elsass said the goal is to assess general feasibility and general cost, and then come back to the group with a menu of what is possible.
“We’re not looking to solve everything tomorrow, but make small incremental changes,” he said.
In discussing the proposed shuttle, Coastal Access & Parking Board member Ray Weiss said: “The idea was to kickstart something that would allow people to park elsewhere and be shuttled into The Village, and the shuttle was considered the only viable thing. But when you run the numbers, the account (to fund such a shuttle program) would be empty in less than a year.”
Studebaker suggested going back to the CCC to see if there is flexibility in the MOU terms, which struck a chord with some of the longer-time board members.
Fortune said: “We looked at golf carts, busses, shuttles, the trolley, a tram, and nothing (met the terms).”
Marengo added that the CCC “doesn’t want to budge.”
However, LJVMA executive director Jodi Rudick suggested that an alternative to a daily shuttle would be a summer shuttle.
“I’ve had a couple of conversations via e-mail with the CCC, and they understand that things have changed,” she said.
“I don’t think it would hurt us to go back, remold and try again with some new data.
“I found the CCC to be interested in some of the ideas we have. So while we might not be able to sustain a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekday shuttle for employees, we could try something to see if the market would be willing to take advantage of a weekend shuttle.”
Rudick said she put together a rough concept to contract a shuttle from the Sunday Open Aire Market to take people into The Village and/or The Shores “and take advantage of the fact that the people are already here with some leisure time.
“The CCC came back and said they were interested,” Rudick said.
“We may find that no one would take it, and then we would have that much more ammunition to go to the CCC and say ‘we tried, we worked within the perimeters and people are not willing to take a shuttle.’
If we could pursue these ideas, we might be able to find what is working or not.
“We’ve heard a lot about what didn’t work in the past, but in order to appease all parties involved, we need to move forward.”
At the same time, she said “dusting off the old ideas” and trying them again might work, considering new technology.
— The next meeting is 9:30 a.m. Tuesday, May 14 at 7724 Girard Ave., second floor. lajollacpa.org/cap.html