La Jolla parking forum is postponed after two sponsors pull out as worries intensify about parking meters

The La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Village Merchants Association have pulled out of an online community parking forum.
The La Jolla Town Council and La Jolla Village Merchants Association have pulled out of an online community parking forum that had been scheduled for Sept. 29 but has been postponed.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

A La Jolla parking forum scheduled for next week has been postponed indefinitely after two sponsors pulled out amid increasing community concerns about its purpose and impartiality.

The La Jolla Town Council announced Sept. 19 that it had “decided to withdraw its participation,” and the La Jolla Village Merchants Association followed suit the next day.

The parking forum had been set for Wednesday, Sept. 29, via Zoom. Along with the Town Council and LJVMA, it has been promoted as being sponsored by the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board, La Jolla Community Planning Association and Enhance La Jolla.

After the Village Merchants Association ended its participation, organizers didn’t have enough time to arrange registration and other logistics that had been handled by LJVMA, Community Planning Association President Diane Kane said Sept. 21.

“It is not canceled,” Kane said, adding that LJCPA will reschedule the forum for a later date.

Traffic & Transportation Vice Chairman Dave Abrams said the traffic board will still co-sponsor it.

Enhance La Jolla President Ed Witt did not respond to requests for comment.

The forum was designed to offer information about current parking conditions in La Jolla, explain parking options and brainstorm solutions to parking difficulties in light of traffic congestion, among other topics.

Some community members have raised worries that the forum would resurrect the idea of installing parking meters throughout The Village, a hotly contentious topic that was debated in 2007 and 2008 and rejected.

Darcy Ashley, a La Jolla resident who helped lead the charge against paid street parking in 2007-08, said a big problem with the forum is that the scheduled panelists “are exclusively people who have made their living as paid-parking professionals, advocates or beneficiaries,” making the forum “an opportunity for the promotion of paid on-street parking in La Jolla.”

Community members including Ashley, Warwick’s bookstore owner Nancy Warwick, and Keith Kelman, who owns three businesses on Fay Avenue in The Village, approached the Town Council with their objections.

Ashley, Kelman and Warwick have called for the forum’s cancellation, saying it would be “divisive” for the community.

“It is more important to work on things that the community would support,” Ashley said.

Dropping out

Town Council President James Rudolph wrote in an email Sept. 19 that his group did “not wish to address the merits of these concerns” but “wishes to maintain its reputation for being the go-to place for fair and honest discussions about issues affecting our community.”

“In keeping with our tradition of exploring any and all topics in the most balanced way possible — and because we wish to avoid even the perception of partiality — we decided that the best course of action was to allow the forum to proceed in our absence,” Rudolph wrote.

In a Sept. 20 statement, Village Merchants Association President Cody Decker and Executive Director Jodi Rudick said “LJVMA has decided to cancel their involvement in the community parking discussion. … We feel the timing isn’t right, and LJVMA has many other positive things planned on behalf of our members as we move into the holiday season.”

LJVMA did not have further comment.

Kane said the forum was never intended to focus on parking meters but rather on “parking inventory management and public right-of-way allocation.”

She said those topics are particularly germane as the city of San Diego moves forward with programs that will affect parking inventory in La Jolla, such as “Spaces as Places,” a plan for permanently approving temporary outdoor dining and retail spaces.

Previous proposal

Kelman noted in an email to the La Jolla Light that after a proposal to install parking meters in La Jolla was brought forward 14 years ago, a survey of La Jolla business owners by members of a residents group with a website called indicated that more than 90 percent opposed the idea. A petition against parking meters garnered more than 5,000 signatures, Kelman wrote.

La Jolla’s business improvement district — at the time called Promote La Jolla — advocated instituting paid on-street parking during a year-long pilot program in The Village core. A La Jolla parking board — with nine members drawn from a cross-section of La Jolla groups — worked for months to draft a parking management plan that would include paid on-street parking.

In May 2008, LJCPA and the Town Council voted to withdraw their representatives from the parking committee, and Promote La Jolla decided not to submit the committee’s findings to the San Diego City Council.

“We all thought on-street paid parking had been overwhelmingly and permanently put to bed,” Kelman wrote.

This summer, the Light conducted an online poll in which 63 of the 77 respondents (82 percent) said La Jolla should not have any parking meters.

‘Airing of the issue’

When the forum plans were revealed in July, possible topics mentioned included parking’s impact on traffic congestion, the results of a 2021 LJVMA visitors survey and “The Four M’s of Parking Solutions,” encompassing
incentives to motivate off-street parking, discouraging merchants’ employees from parking on the street, a marketing plan to direct drivers toward off-street parking, and monetization, with paid on-street parking as a possible option.

Kane said none of the forum’s original co-sponsors necessarily supports parking meters or any other parking option. “It’s just to provide information … to spread to our members,” she said.

Abrams said “I don’t know that it’s necessarily totally ... parking meter-oriented.”

Ashley told the Light that parking meters are “really inconvenient,” especially for residents like herself who make multiple stops around The Village and would need to pay each time.

Ashley said she fears that meters would “make it difficult” for people to spend money in The Village at various retailers.

Warwick told the Light that she strongly opposes paid on-street parking. “The installation of parking meters or stations would damage and potentially force community-serving businesses to close in La Jolla,” she said.

Warwick, who also serves on the T&T, Enhance La Jolla and La Jolla Coastal Access and Parking boards but spoke to the Light only as a merchant, added that the forum panel’s “bias” can’t be fixed by adding a parking meter opponent.

Abrams said Rudick tried to schedule speakers on both sides of the issue.

“We have to consider some other ways of going about parking,” Abrams said. The forum is “a way to at least get some airing of the issue and some options. We’re open to at least having open discussions.” ◆