Coastal Access & Parking Board faces tough decision on use of La Jolla Parking and Transportation Funds

After meeting with representatives from the City of San Diego and the California Coastal Commission (CCC), the La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board (LJCAP), has a tough decision to make.

The board has been tasked with implementing the twofold La Jolla Coastal Access Parking Plan to alleviate vehicle congestion in the Village. This involves finding a) short-term and/or long-term parking and traffic circulation related programs, and b) a shuttle system with an off-site parking reservoir.

Finding the shuttle and reservoir system portion unfeasible and unsustainable, the board submitted a list of alternatives that were reviewed by Meredith Dibden-Brown, overseer of the La Jolla Coastal Parking & Transportation Fund and Alex Llerandi, a CCC coastal program analyst. After reviewing the suggestions, Dibden-Brown, Llerandi and the LJCAP board met Sept. 2 to discuss their options going forward. Chiefly, whether to continue to pursue and suggest an alternative that meets the goal of the shuttle/reservoir system or amend the governing document so the money — from the La Jolla Parking and Transportation fund, gathered largely from developer impact fees and interest collected by the CCC since the 1970s — could be used in other ways.

“Our view for a very long time has been that spending the money on the shuttle would be pouring it down the drain,” said board member Ray Weiss. “(The money) would be gone in a year and it didn’t pass the common sense test. We were hoping that we could propose something good for the community ... we are trying to make the place better.”

However, the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) dictate that 50 percent of available funds, approximately $275,000, must be spent on a shuttle/ reservoir system, however, Llerandi explained, “It might be possible to come up with a plan that doesn’t mirror exactly what was in the MOU, but the key part is that it has to meet the intent of it.”

LJCAP member Sheila Fortune lamented, “With all the brilliant minds (working on this) no one has been able to meet that intent. Is it going to take 30 years to figure out a plan?”

Of the submitted suggestions, the one that gained the most traction with coastal commission analysts was to “Fund the startup of a Village shuttle that circulates between parking lots and garages and various destinations in La Jolla.”

Fortune asked whether a golf-cart system could be implemented to avoid large buses, and the idea is to get people here, but also get them around once they are here.”

He added, “There needs to be a way to move people that cuts down on parking, that’s why a shuttle is (a requirement), to encourage that alternative transportation mindset that not everyone needs to drive to La Jolla.”

Dibden-Brown suggested the board complete a request for information, a non- binding proposal to see how much some of their ideas would cost to implement and what is available.

Other explorations into ways to meet the shuttle requirement included incorporating one into the Mid-Coast Corridor Transit project — an extension of the trolley system that reaches University City, with expected service in 2019 — to bring people from the nearest stop into La Jolla. Llerandi reported there were no plans to integrate a shuttle at the time of the meeting.

Should they decide to find an alternative for the shuttle/reservoir system, they would need to formally propose a program or combination of programs to the CCC.

Otherwise, the board would need to begin proceedings to change the language of the MOU so the funds could be applied to another program to alleviate traffic. “(To change the) MOU would require an amendment to the Local Coastal Program (LCP) to change the ratio or the use of the money,” Llerandi said.

Amending the LCP, he continued, “is not going to be the easiest process and it’s not one we would encourage,” and he noted any suggestion that does not incorporate public transportation would be “a tough sell.” He explained that the process starts at the

City Planning Department. Once it approves the proposed change, it goes to the City Council for approval. From there, the Planning Department and the City Attorney’s office file an application to CCC analysts, who review the application and either suggest changes or recommend approval to the Coastal Commission.

“We would be starting over,” said Fortune, noting the board has been working on finding an amenable way to spend the money for 30 years.

Funding for the La Jolla Coastal Access Parking Plan primarily came from developer impact fees collected during the 1970s and 1980s and the half dedicated to the shuttle system is in an interest-bearing account. A portion of the half not dedicated to the shuttle has since been used to fund discounted parking passes for Village employees. The non- shuttle funding also previously paid for bus passes, but as MTA stopped selling discounted passes, so did LJCAP.

“It’s not doing anyone any good to have that money sitting (in a bank) collecting dust, and we may have disagreements as to how the money should be spent, but the goal is to get it spent on something that would benefit the community and not just sit there,” Llerandi said.

The La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board next meets 5 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 7 at the La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St. lajollacpa.org/cap.html

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