Draft parking plan goes to planning groups

The draft parking plan created by a local parking advisory board made its debut on the local planning group circuit and sparked a lengthy debate about the merits of paid on-street parking.

Ray Weiss, a member of the La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board, presented the plan at the March 8 meeting of the La Jolla Town Council. Weiss, who is also a trustee of the Town Council, said he had experienced an epiphany about La Jolla’s parking situation after hearing a presentation by Donald Shoup, a UCLA professor and urban planning expert, who advocates a three-pronged approach to parking consisting of time limits, enforcement and paid on-street parking.

“I went (to the presentation) thinking I could overcome whatever this man could say, but I couldn’t,” Weiss said. “He convinced me an integrated plan could make life in La Jolla better.”

The draft plan presented by Weiss lists creating a 10 to 15 percent availability of parking in commercial, beach and other high-demand areas as its first objective. It proposes achieving that availability rate by installing a system of paid on-street parking with rates and hours of enforcement that would be adjusted to achieve the desired availability.

The draft plan also lists as one of its objectives protecting the residential areas that may be affected by paid on-street parking in nearby areas. In order to prevent certain residential streets from being used for all-day parking by non-residents, some neighborhoods would be subject to parking time limits. Residents of the affected streets could purchase up to two residential parking permits to exempt them from the time limits, and guest permits would also be available.

The Town Council expressed a desire to hold community forums to further discuss the proposal but voted down a motion to create a sub-committee to host the forums, instead entrusting that responsibility to the parking board. The board has since announced that Shoup will appear at Sherwood Auditorium, at 700 Prospect St. in La Jolla, on March 21 at 5:30 p.m. to explain his views on parking.

The parking plan will also be on the agenda at a supplemental meeting of the La Jolla Community Planning Association to be held Thursday, March 15 at 6 p.m. at La Jolla Recreation Center at 615 Prospect St.

Weiss said at the Town Council meeting that any parking plan must fully integrate all aspects of La Jolla’s parking situtation, including the Village, residential areas and the beach areas.

“It’s like the under-inflated balloon that, if you squeeze on one side, the other pops out,” he said. “The agony shifts to another area.”

Several attendees at the meeting were skeptical about whether the parking board’s draft plan would be good for business in the Village. Town Council trustee Anne Cleveland said one of the reasons she moved her business from Mission Hills to the Village was to escape the paid on-street parking program in Mission Hills.

Orrin Gabsch agreed, saying, “If I’m a business owner, I don’t think I want 10 to 15 percent of the spaces empty.”

Weiss said that parking studies have shown that greater availability of spaces increases business revenue.

“If the parking pressure is high, statistics argue that businesses do better (with a higher availability),” Weiss said. “If it makes La Jolla a more accessible place, then their revenue will go up.”

Other meeting attendees who noted that La Jolla currently has an availability of about 5 percent of parking spaces that the parking board hopes to increase to 15 percent wondered where the other 10 percent of cars will go. Weiss said parking is not a “zero-sum game” and called the draft plan a free-market approach that will put pressure on citizens to use public transportation and on employers to pay for their employees to park in currently under-utilized private lots.

Town Council trustee Ed Ward disagreed.

“It will shorten visitor time, it will reduce the walkers we want in our community,” Ward said. “It will change the character of the Village.”

The draft plan makes no mention of possible parking rates, and allows for adjustments if the plan is implemented. Weiss said it was important to get the discussion on the draft started before the city makes its own unilateral parking decisions for La Jolla.