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To park or not to park on diagonal lines? It depends on where you are, La Jolla traffic board learns

Diagonal lines on La Jolla Mesa Drive at Van Nuys Street in La Jolla
Tickets a La Jolla resident received while parked on these diagonal lines on La Jolla Mesa Drive at Van Nuys Street prompted her to seek clarification on when parking on such lines is allowed.
(Elisabeth Frausto)

Diagonal lines in a bordered area adjacent to a curb do not always mean “no parking,” the La Jolla Traffic & Transportation Board learned at its Oct. 20 meeting as it heard from San Diego parking enforcement supervisors about when parking on such lines is allowed.

The issue was brought to the board’s attention by La Jolla resident Christine Willsey, who requested clarification from enforcement officials after receiving tickets near her home for parking on the diagonal lines.

Willsey, who lives on La Jolla Mesa Drive, said she and her husband began parking on the street after moving into their home in May 2019.

They parked on the diagonal lines at the corner of La Jolla Mesa and Van Nuys Street, along an unmarked curb.

Willsey said a neighbor told her the lines were drawn for traffic calming but didn’t mean that parking is prohibited.

After two years without incident, Willsey said, she received a parking ticket in July without a reason clearly listed. She disputed it, but there was no administrative review of the ticket, she said.

After receiving four more tickets in the next several weeks, Willsey said she learned through research that those particular lines were painted about 15 years ago after a fatal crash involving a pedestrian.

Willsey said her research and communication with the T&T Board led her to Erin Longen, a parking enforcement supervisor for the city of San Diego, who Willsey said clarified that “in this particular street, [the lines] do not mean no parking. So we have our parking back, which we’re so excited about.”

Longen said at the T&T meeting that such lines are used in some other areas of the city to designate no-parking zones, including the 700 block of Sixth Avenue downtown.

“We had an officer that was working downtown, knew that we cited for this, saw the [lines] up in La Jolla and assumed it was the same thing,” Longen said.

She said parking enforcement officers have now been educated “to realize the intent ... in different parts of the city.”

T&T member Ross Rudolph asked how “the average citizen is to know which ... are legal to park in and which aren’t?”

Downtown, parking stalls are painted adjacent to the diagonal lines, so “it should be clear” that parking is prohibited on top of those lines, Longen said.

“In La Jolla, because there’s no red curb, there’s no sign posted saying ‘No parking,’ it’s OK to park” on the diagonal lines, Longen said.

Longen said the purpose of the lines in La Jolla “specifically is traffic calming.” Drivers may be alerted to slow down as the space narrows approaching the intersection.

“There are other areas in the city where it’s basically meant to give a better visual to motorists on where the traffic flow is,” she said.

La Jollan Rick Kent suggested signs to indicate that parking is allowed on the lines, as “the citizenry needs to know where you can and where you can’t park. It’s not a matter of training the police, it’s a matter of communicating what we can and can’t do.”

Longen said a no-parking zone would be indicated by a red curb or a sign, but she added, “I agree it could probably be a little bit better.”

Turning to other parking matters, T&T member Natalie Aguirre asked Longen and Laird Tucker, city senior parking enforcement supervisor, to ensure that enforcement officers are present in The Village into the evenings.

“As a merchant here in La Jolla, it’s really important to me that the traffic enforcement officers are here on a daily basis circulating,” Aguirre said. “What we find here in The Village, especially on Girard [Avenue], is that by 3 o’clock, we have a lot of merchants that are parking, mostly restaurant workers and such.”

She said the workers “are not concerned about getting tickets, because they seem to know — and they’ll even say it — that the traffic enforcement officers are usually gone by 3:30 or 4 p.m. We’re still open till 6 p.m., 7 p.m., and it’s a problem when we have musical cars going around.”

Tucker said three parking enforcement officers are assigned to La Jolla, with at least two of them focused on The Village.

He said most officers are off at 5:30 p.m., though they have to report to the station well before then to finish paperwork. Only eight officers are on until 8:30 p.m., “spread throughout the city,” he said.

Tucker said “maybe we can have one person try to stay in La Jolla just to do some enforcement there, but one person covering all of The Cove is going to be a lot to ask.” ◆