La Jolla traffic board rejects angled Eads parking proposal

Eads Avenue resident Tom Carroll pleads his case against angled parking on his street to a sympathetic La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board at the Rec Center, Jan. 15.

Passionate pleas from neighbors convinced the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board (T&T) not to recommend a proposal to eliminate a small stretch of parallel parking remaining on Eads Avenue (between Rushville and Genter Streets). The proposal would have created either four new spaces (for angled parking) or 12 (for head-in).

The proposal was initiated by developer David Bourne, whose recently permitted plans to build an apartment building at 801 Pearl St. met with community resistance because its onsite parking probably won’t accommodate every resident.

At T&T’s Jan. 15 meeting, eight residents of the block spoke out loudly and clearly.

“As you drive down Eads, when it transitions from parallel to angled parking, you can barely fit two cars on the street at the same time,” said Todd Robinson, “and it’s a real safety issue for the high-school students, who are newly licensed drivers trying to race to class.”

Added Tom Carroll: “Every time a committee goes to another committee and then goes to the City, it’s another notch in the whole idea of living in a village. Every inch is another inch left off a foot. Please leave our street alone, at least this one block.”

The board vote was unanimous, 6-0-1, with board member Donna Aprea abstaining because she lives in the area.

“We’re always looking for more parking in La Jolla, but we don’t want to do it at the expense of making La Jolla unsafe,” said T&T vice chair Brian Earley, who ran the meeting in chair Dave Abrams’ absence.

Valet dance

After debating the issue for an hour, T&T voted 5-3 to recommend reducing the loading-zone permit for La Plaza La Jolla, 7863 Girard Ave., from four to two spaces, and to have the signs changed to provide clear instructions on where and when parking is allowed.

On May 1, 2014, the La Jolla Community Planning Association, acting on T&T’s recommendation, approved the conversion of four parking spaces in front of the shopping mall to white-curbed passenger loading. The zone was approved for 11 a.m. to 2 a.m. daily, and it’s still signed that way.

However, according to Natalie Aguirre — who represents the La Jolla Village Merchants Association (LJVMA) on the T&T board and manages a neighboring store — cars are only valet-parked there on Fridays and Saturdays, and not until 3 p.m. Therefore, anyone who parks in one of the spots when it isn’t being used for its approved purpose gets ticketed.

Aguirre claimed that 28 tickets were issued in one afternoon alone. (The Google Street View map for 7863 Girard Ave. actually shows a San Diego Police Parking Enforcement truck parked out front.)

“I think it’s shameful that the City and LAZ (Parking) know this is happening,” Aguirre said. “They’ve known it for years. Business is tough enough. We don’t need people coming to La Jolla to shop and getting ticketed.”

Brian Barnes, representing the ownership of La Plaza La Jolla and its merchants, claimed that a permit “sets forth the times you’re intending to operate, but there is no requirement.” He said that his building has “a high amount of vacancy now,” and “to pay to have people have a valet when it’s not being used is an unnecessary.”

Barnes promised some “big tenants” on the horizon, however, and said that he drove down from L.A. for this meeting to defend his current permit, to avoid having to re-apply for another one once business picks up.

“We’re trying to maintain the ability to right-size our valet parking operation as necessary,” he explained. “We’re just asking to not hamstring ourselves by reducing the service or eliminating the hours when it’s a benefit to us. We feel it’s also a service to the public in general.”

But Earley suggested that reapplying for a permit was a simple matter that shouldn’t have to tie up two valuable La Jolla parking spots that aren’t being used for their permitted purpose.

“All you’re really doing is taking four spaces away from The Village,” added Girard Bendl, owner of Custom Shirts of La Jolla, who spoke from the audience.

It was LJVMA executive director Jodi Rudick, also in the audience, who suggested posting “hybrid signs.” These would clearly state “from this hour to this hour, you can park for 90 minutes; from this hour to this hour, it’s a passenger loading zone,” she explained, since the currently conflicting instructions contribute significantly to the number of parking violations.

Board member Tom Brady admitted once getting a ticket there himself.

“I felt like the village idiot for not being able to read those signs,” he said.

Also at T&T …

La Jolla resident Ira Parker updated the board on a recent meeting of his La Jolla Boulevard ad-hoc pedestrian safety committee, stating they’re “thinking about scheduling community meetings and getting the word out about the project and its importance.”

— La Jolla Traffic & Transportation next meets 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19 at the Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.