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Coastal Commission calls La Jolla directional sign proposal ‘promising’

A rendering depicts a possible directional sign in La Jolla.
(Courtesy)

For all its years of trying, the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board may have a proposal the California Coastal Commission can approve to ease parking congestion in The Village and open public access to the shoreline with a two-part directional sign program.

A Coastal Commission representative said the proposal has “promise” and “gained traction with staff.”

But it requires a lot more work before it could get the green light.

The board met Aug. 27 to discuss a plan to install directional, or wayfinding, signs for local landmarks and parking opportunities and whether it could fund the plan using money it has been accruing since the 1970s.

The La Jolla Coastal Access Parking Fund was established some 50 years ago through Coastal Commission-required contributions by office-space developers. The purpose was to implement a shuttle system to move people throughout The Village from a remote parking area and to carry out other short- or long-term parking solutions. The terms are outlined in a memorandum of understanding between the commission and the city of San Diego. There is approximately $250,000 for the shuttle system and about $150,000 for short-term parking solutions.

Any plan would have to meet the terms of the MOU to use some of the funds.

Last month, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association said it had contracted with Integrated Sign Associates to produce renderings and plans but would not proceed to fabrication or installation without additional funds.

The La Jolla Village Merchants Association is a step closer to installing new directional signage in The Village, a project that has been considered in some form for the past five years.

The signs would be placed throughout The Village to point visitors to local attractions, the beach and pay parking opportunities in garages.

“We have a lot of factors that affect people’s ability to come to the coast; some are real and some are imagined,” said LJVMA Executive Director Jodi Rudick. “One of the myths is that we have limited parking in The Village, which is not true. We have lots of [pay] parking in The Village. On weekends and at night, the parking garages are 80 percent empty. … There is always parking if people knew how to access the garages and knew it was OK for them to park in a lot that looks like it is only for the use of [an] office building. The goal is to get people who are staying longer to park off the street.”

To that end, LJVMA has proposed a two-phase wayfinding signage program. The first phase would include basic signage with area attractions. The second phase would include higher-tech signage that points drivers toward garages and indicates how many spaces are available in each garage.

The Village Merchants Association is revisiting the idea of installing directional signs in La Jolla to help people find their way around.

“The [basic] signage could direct people to amenities in The Village … some people don’t know how close they are to the coast when they get to The Village. We want to change that by creating this onsite communication with these old-school signs,” Rudick said. “The goal is not only to help people once they are here … but to deter people from always turning on Prospect Street, and let them know that there are 2,000 spaces ahead in The Village [in a garage].”

Only Phase 1 was initially presented, which isn’t enough to garner Coastal Commission approval for use of the CAPB funds.

“When we were first approached with Phase 1 of the wayfinding signs, we said it was not enough for expenditure of the funds,” commission program analyst Alex Llerandi said. “But Phase 2 did get more traction with staff.”

He recommended that the Coastal Access and Parking Board propose Phase 1 and Phase 2 together.

“If we get more information, we can view Phases 1 and 2 together. … The two-phase proposal is promising,” he said.

A hiccup with Phase 2, Rudick said, is a lack of buy-in from area garage owners. She said the cost to retrofit a garage to include digital counting sensors is $10,000, but the “real cost” is for maintenance.

One concept was to have the board pay the upfront cost of adding the new technology and have the owners pay to maintain it. But that has not been met with enthusiasm.

“They say, ‘Great idea, we just don’t want to pay for it,’” Rudick said.

Although the garage owners reportedly were not yet on board, Llerandi encouraged the board to pursue the two-phase plan. “It could potentially be approvable,” he said. “Of all the ideas this board has brought forward over the years, this is the one that has gotten the most traction among staff. It is the closest to achieving the goals laid out in the MOU.”

Meeting those terms has been a hurdle for the board. It has presented ideas such as a Sunday shuttle around The Village as an alternative to the shuttle/remote parking area concept, but none was found to meet the terms. The city and the Coastal Commission share authority to determine whether a proposal is in line with the MOU.

CAPB trustee Ray Weiss said the MOU is “so restrictive” that it “only allows us to come up with ideas that don’t make sense,” such as the shuttle with remote parking, which he called “unsustainable.”

Under the MOU terms, he said, “we could spend the money on something short-term, there would be a small benefit and then it would be gone. And I would like to ask whether the CCC would broaden the scope to something that could be more longstanding that would benefit the people.”

Llerandi responded that “the MOU states … if the MOU is not working, the city has a clear option to come to us with a different plan. We would have to approve it, but they can come to us.”

The board did not take action on the sign proposal but agreed to pursue it further. Its next meeting is at 4 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 24, online. Learn more at lajollabythesea.com under “Other documents.” ◆