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Calling all parking pros: Debate about the future of parking in the village continues to heat up this summer

As the debate over the future of parking policy in La Jolla heats up, the local board charged with creating the policy is ready to call in the pros.

The advisory board for the La Jolla Community Parking District will hold a public meeting Aug. 15 at 9 a.m. and will discuss issuing a request for proposal for a professional parking consultant to analyze our local parking situation. Board members say the consultant will be asked to look at the issue on a supply-and-demand basis, and may come to different conclusions than those the board has already reached. But the consultant will also be asked to provide greater clarity on the costs and revenue possibilities associated with some of the most controversial aspects of the plan, such as paid on-street parking in the Village.

The proposed parking management framework created by the board has been a point of debate for local residents and businesses throughout the summer. Its stated objective is to create a 10- to 15-percent availability rate of parking spaces in commercial, beach and other high-demand areas. It proposes to achieve this goal by implementing paid on-street parking in areas such as the Village and the commercial strip along La Jolla Boulevard in Bird Rock and creating time limits in nearby residential areas that could be affected by spillover from those areas. Residents could purchase permits that would exempt them from the time limits, and the plan also allows for guest permits. The proposal also calls for increasing the fees for valet parking operators and improving enforcement of parking regulations, which are notoriously sidestepped in the Village through the practice of wiping chalk markings off tires.

Community Parking District Advisory Board member Patrick Ryan said that the board would not hire a consultant simply to work from the framework that the board has already created.

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“I don’t think it would be a great idea to start from any of the assumptions we’ve arrived at, because certainly there are portions of the community who disagree,” Ryan said.

The disagreement has centered most sharply on the proposal to charge for parking in the Village. Promote La Jolla, the Business Improvement District for the community that designates three members of the nine-member advisory board and has provided more than $15,000 to fund the board’s activities, argues that the current parking situation is harmful to local businesses and that paid on-street parking is part of a comprehensive plan that could improve the situation.

City Council President Scott Peters agrees. The City Council will have to issue final approval on any parking plan that comes out of La Jolla.

“The merchants are telling us that parking is an issue and that it’s hurting their business,” Peters said. “If we’re hearing this from the business community, we have to take it seriously.”

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But not all merchants agree with the parking advisory board’s current course of action. Warwick’s bookstore on Girard Avenue recently sent a notice to its customers urging them to oppose the board’s plan, arguing that paid parking would damage the sense of community in the Village. A local resident drafted an anti-paid parking petition that was signed by dozens of Village merchants.

Those sentiments could have been fueled by misperceptions. The notice sent out by Warwick’s featured the image of a metal, coin-fed parking meter, the type that sits at the head of an individual parking space. The Community Parking District Advisory Board has never considered installing such devices; they are considering “pay-and-display” devices that could be stationed at a corner and serve several parking spaces, accepting credit cards and cash in addition to coins.

Several merchants have supported the plan, and tout the possible improvements in the community that could be facilitated using parking revenues. The parking consultant will also be asked to provide concrete projections for the costs of implementing the parking board’s framework - including paid on-street parking and residential parking permit programs - and estimates of the revenues the programs could create.

Should the parking board succeed in establishing a revenue stream, it would then work to keep those funds in La Jolla.

Peters said he is “a hawk” about keeping 100 percent of local revenues in the community, though that is not guaranteed by law.

The board has discussed using money generated by parking for beautification projects or to fund improved enforcement of parking regulations, possibly by purchasing an additional GPS-enabled enforcement vehicle. Larger goals have been discussed including the parking board purchasing and managing existing lots, or building new lots or a garage.

The board expects to have proposals from parking consultants by its September meeting. Board members will take the plan to the local governmental groups they represent for input, but the final decision will be made at the city level. The board will submit its plan for review by San Diego city traffic engineers, who would then ask that it be considered by the City Council.

The Aug. 15 meeting of the Community Parking District Advisory Board will be held at 9 a.m. at the Athenaeum, 1008 Wall St.

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