La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board approves new valet parking zone on Girard Avenue

A new valet parking loading zone is planned for 7300 Girard Ave., in front of the Marine Medical building.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board voted to approve a valet parking loading zone in front of the Marine Medical building at 7300 Girard Ave. during its Oct. 21 meeting.

The valet zone — which is planned to take up 60 feet, or the equivalent of three parallel parking spaces, in front of the newly renovated building — would be in effect from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays. It also would function as a drop-off and pickup area for patients of the building’s tenants.

Brad Elsass, vice president of strategic initiatives for Ace Parking, said there would be about 30 valet stalls in the building’s underground parking garage.

The valet zone would be open to anyone, he said, and not limited to those with medical appointments in the building.

The board’s vote followed a continuance from last month’s meeting, when the board asked Elsass and building owner Jonathan Lipsky to reach out to nearby La Jolla Elementary School and Gillispie School for input, as their pickup and drop-off times might be affected by the valet zone.

Elsass and Lipsky shared a letter that Lipsky received from Gillispie’s head of school, Alison Fleming, who wrote: “With the completion of the medical building on the corner of Genter [Street] and Girard Avenue, I am aware of the need for ‘smart’ parking due to the significant increase in [the] number of patients/visitors who will require office visits. As a solution to this expected increase in cars to the area, I think offering valet parking will help the situation. The addition of three-minute parking in front of the building will also allow the traffic to move more smoothly.”

Lipsky said he reached out to La Jolla Elementary Principal Stephanie Hasselbrink, who he said responded via her assistant that “they’re generally supportive.”

Elsass said Gillispie would be the most affected by the valet zone, as it is on the same side of Girard Avenue. “We don’t see a big impact from La Jolla Elementary School in terms of the pedestrian safety there,” he said.

In a board discussion before the vote, member Nancy Warwick asked about the possible effects on residents of Genter Street, which runs perpendicular to the building.

Elsass said residents are “not typically at home” during the time when the valet service would be in operation and therefore would be minimally impacted.

Board member Natalie Aguirre asked if the zone could be limited to the equivalent of two parking spots for the first year, followed by a review to determine whether a third spot is needed.

Elsass said the request for 60 feet is intended to accommodate “large shuttle buses from [local] assisted living facilities” arriving at the medical building.

A motion to approve the request passed 7-2, with Aguirre and board member Donna Aprea dissenting. Aprea later told the La Jolla Light that she wanted Ace Parking “to leave at least one parking space available for patients who wanted the option to free park.” The three requested spaces, she said, are “excessive,” leaving “no available spaces for those patients who just want to park their own car.”

Request for new signs in medians

Another discussion involved a previous proposal to place signs in various road medians discouraging motorists from offering money to solicitors at the medians, citing safety concerns. The board voted to continue the matter to a third discussion after city leaders elected next month are installed and questions about the legality of the proposed signs are answered.

La Jollan Chris Cott originally brought the idea to the board.

“We were agonizing over the legal aspects of that — if it’s possible to have a city ordinance that would patrol or restrict it in some fashion,” said T&T Chairman Dave Abrams.

“The other aspect was possibly having some signage that would alert people to be cautious or not participate in solicitations,” he said.

Abrams shared a memo from the San Diego city attorney’s office from September 2014 in response to a similar request. The memo, Abrams said, “outlines the legal aspects of restricting people from being in the medians. It did caution that any ordinance would have to include areas of demonstrable public safety risk. There would have to be specific evidence to justify any restrictions [and] identify areas where solicitation could occur elsewhere.”

Steve Hadley, representing San Diego Councilwoman Barbara Bry, whose district includes La Jolla, said the memo “still stands and simply explains that the city has to make some findings of safety and come up with an ordinance that would treat all people equally for safety purposes.”

An ordinance also would be unrelated “to soliciting funds, per se,” he said. “The city just didn’t pursue that.”

Chris Cott presented this sign as an example of what he'd like placed in some road medians to discourage panhandling.
La Jolla resident Chris Cott presented this sign as an example of what he’d like placed in some road medians to discourage panhandling at the medians.

Hadley said he has contacted the city Development Services and Transportation & Storm Water departments regarding signage. “I sent them a picture of the sign [that Cott presented at the last meeting], and asked them if that could legally be placed on the medians at this time. I have not heard back from either one of those departments.”

Cott said, “I don’t really want to see more signage; I just thought that would help alleviate it.” He added that the signs might help police enforce an ordinance.

“There really isn’t a safe median to be in,” he said. “I don’t want to appear to be unsympathetic to the needy or the homeless; I would like to be able to eliminate the safety issue but also to help them in some way.

“I’d like to see some ordinance go into effect first and then perhaps follow up with the signage if that’s the logical way to go.”

Abrams asked Hadley if there’s any likelihood of the city being open to drafting such an ordinance at this stage. Hadley reminded the board that “in about a month and a half, the majority of the [City] Council will be new [and] you’ll have a new mayor.”

Board member Tom Brady said: “I don’t see where the city is too anxious to buy into a program where they will have more things to do. I don’t think this is an appropriate time to forward a request for an ordinance.”

Abrams suggested the board continue the discussion until there is more information on what kind of signage is allowed and under what circumstances. The board voted unanimously to continue the matter until early 2021.

The La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board next meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Nov 18. For more information, email