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Could La Jolla’s Coastal Access and Parking Board disband? Setbacks lead to talk of whether to continue

The La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board discusses at its Aug. 26 meeting whether to continue or disband.
(Ashley Mackin-Solomon)

After years of fruitless effort to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars and create parking solutions in The Village, the La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking Board was asked about possibly disbanding during its Aug. 26 meeting online, its first meeting since March.

The board has been tasked for more than a decade with spending money set aside in the La Jolla Coastal Access Parking Fund, which was established about 50 years ago through California 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 board and the city of San Diego. Just over $278,000 is available for the shuttle system and about $121,000 for short-term parking projects.

The latter include a discount merchant parking program that provides a reduced rate for Village employees to park in area garages. In the past, there was a discount pass for public transportation.

Over the years, the board determined that the shuttle idea was unsustainable and has since sought alternative ways to spend the money that the Coastal Commission (which has veto power) would find to be in line with the MOU. So far, none have.

With one idea after another falling through, some feel that enough is enough.

As the fiscal agent of the funds, the La Jolla Village Merchants Association has been involved with finding a project for the Coastal Access Parking Fund money. The association’s executive director, Jodi Rudick, estimates she has spent 100 hours on contacting appropriate entities, arranging meetings and conducting research.

But that time might be up.

“That time is being donated by the merchants association,” she said, and LJVMA “is questioning the value of the time spent with this board.”

Latest setback

Most recently, the Coastal Access and Parking Board shifted its focus to a two-part directional sign program, with static signs to be posted throughout The Village directing pedestrians to area landmarks and beaches, plus an electronic sign indicating how many parking spaces are in four area garages, where they are located and the cost at each one, and signs fronting those garages showing how many spaces are available.

The plan got the green light from the Coastal Commission late last year to proceed.

After a request for proposals process, Texas-based FlashParking was selected as the vendor for the electronic signs. But when company representatives presented their plans for the signs to CAPB in February, they were met with critiques of the design. In March, board members raised questions about the size and location of the signs.

In June, FlashParking withdrew its proposal. Rudick said the Coastal Commission “did not approve of our moving forward with a runner-up and wanted us to start over.” The new proposal would have to include buy-in from the participating garages to include one hour of free parking.

Discussion of the signage program stopped there, and it is not known whether the board will continue with the project.

“It was frustrating,” Rudick said. “As someone that spent a lot of time on this … my frustration is that the three-steps-forward-six-steps-back operation is tripping everyone up.”

Over the past six months, Rudick said, she “continued to vet ideas with the Coastal Commission, all ideas that have been approved … and worked with the city. Instead of this board being [seen as] a promoter that moves projects forward, the board has become a detractor for moving projects forward.”

She said the merchants association board “agrees spending time finding parking solutions is something we want to focus on … so we have invested in and created in parklajolla.com,” which Rudick said has been a success. However, “it probably does not make sense for me to continue to be the executive director of this board. I want to keep moving toward parking solutions. But I want to do that without [a situation where we are] working toward a goal, being given a directive and then bringing it back because the board has questions and starts micromanaging. I feel as if this board is one more obstacle [to overcome] when there are already a lot of obstacles.”

She raised the question of whether the board wanted to continue pursuing its mission or dissolve.

Acting Chairman Dave Abrams, who has been involved with the board for years, said the discussion of whether to continue it “caught me off guard.”

For an hour, the board debated how to proceed. Some suggested alternative projects to consider, others suggested that LJVMA “devote more resources” to Rudick so she could continue in her role with CAPB.

CAPB member Ann Kerr Bache posed taking a vote on whether the board should disband. There was no discussion of what would be done with the parking fund should that occur.

Others wanted to defer such a vote. The latter view prevailed, and the board will revisit the issue at a future meeting.

Rudick’s role on the board also will be revisited.

Frustration of purpose

This isn’t the first time the board has considered whether to continue with its mission.

In 2015, the group explored whether a Doctrine of Frustration of Purpose would be feasible. The doctrine could be used if the terms of a contract could not be fulfilled, La Jolla attorney Glen Rasmussen said at the time. However, he reported that the Coastal Commission wanted the board to continue.

Past efforts

The Coastal Access and Parking Board formed in the early 2000s to find a way to spend the money that had been accruing since the 1970s. From 2013 to 2015, the board met regularly and brainstormed alternatives to the MOU so the money could be used in a sustainable way. But at the time, the Coastal Commission was seen as the deterrent.

Then-Executive Director Sheila Fortune told the La Jolla Light that a commission representative “literally laughed at us and our suggestions” in 2014 and officials “were not agreeable to any of our solutions and would not allow us to alter the MOU.”

Nevertheless, the board has looked at everything from a shuttle to connect The Village to the Mid-Coast Trolley Blue Line extension to Sunday shuttles to transport people around The Village one day a week. But for one reason or another, the proposals did not gain traction with the Coastal Commission.

Other plans, such as using UC San Diego buses and parking structures as the basis for a shuttle to take visitors to The Village during the summer, when university classes are not in session, did not gain traction at the city level in 2016.

Next meeting

The board typically meets on the fourth Thursday of each month, or as business items arise. For its next meeting, the board opted for Thursday, Sept. 30, so it could discuss a Sept. 29 forum at which a panel of experts will discuss different parking options for La Jolla.

Learn more at lajollabythesea.com. ◆