Guest editorial: Advocates for a Better Village


By Bill Berkley

Owner of Jack’s La Jolla

Surely, we would all support La Jolla Town Council President Ann Cleveland’s stated goal to “polish our jewel” during her term.

The sad fact is that our jewel is being tarnished by overflowing trash cans, dirty streets, neglected landscaping, cracked sidewalks, antiquated street lighting, unrestricted, decrepit news racks, homeless people wandering our streets and streams of cars circling downtown in search of parking.

The municipal services and capital improvements needed to solve those problems will cost money, and we certainly can’t look to the city of San Diego, which has bigger, more pressing, money, service and infrastructure problems of its own. If we truly hope to see the day when our jewel again lives up to its name, it is we, who live and work here, who must act.

Some concerned citizens are suggesting that we form a Maintenance Assessment District (MAD), which could generate revenue to fix our problems. The MAD approach would generate money, but it will be the merchants who will pay for the improvements in additional triple net charges (property taxes). The tourists, residents and property owners would reap the benefits, but not contribute a penny.

I think we, the merchants, tourists, residents, and property owners, should all pay to “polish the jewel” by installing state of the art computerized parking meters. These are not your grandfathers’ unsightly, coin-fed parking meters. The solar powered, wireless, computerized meters can be remotely fine-tuned so that each space will have the best rate for every season, and minute of the day.

The only fair revenue source is installation of “pay and display” parking devices, which will spread the cost of polishing our jewel to everyone who frequents the Village and also establish an income stream to support creation of additional off-street to provide a true long-term solution to La Jolla’s worsening traffic and parking problems. The La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board (LJCPDAB) can act to set this process in motion, but it needs a mandate from its constituents – the residents and business people of La Jolla.

We may wish there was another way, but the longer we wait to face the facts, the more La Jolla will lose its sparkle, just as it has already lost some very good businesses. The Fila and Saks Fifth Avenue buildings remain vacant. Every year there are fewer quality shops and less incentive to shop in La Jolla. Merchant sales per square foot in the Village are a fraction of what they are in the shopping malls.

What message does traffic congestion due to cars endlessly circling the block in their pursuit of an elusive free parking space, and a $40 parking ticket send to visitors and our neighbors from Del Mar and Rancho Santa Fe, who fight traffic just to get into the Village? Employees take up the best parking spaces in front of shops and hourly erase chalk marks on their tires. Stricter parking enforcement alone won’t solve the problem. It will only drive the employees deeper into residential neighborhoods, and our customers away from La Jolla, to more accommodating environments.

What visitor would hesitate to pay two dollars for two hours of convenient parking in front of their favorite shop? It sure beats endless trips around the block and rushing to avoid a $40 ticket. And if we build parking structures, we will get the employees out of the residential areas and off the streets in front of our favorite shops, leaving the convenient spaces for customers.

The estimated $2 million annual revenue stream from pay and display parking will easily cover the cost of a bond issue for the construction and operation of underground parking structures in areas such as Herschel between Wall Street and Silverado. As a Herschel Street property owner, I would grant a subterranean parking easement at no charge, so the LJCPDAB could build a multi-level underground parking structure. I have talked to other property owners on Herschel, who would also grant a parking structure easement. This will revitalize the less than attractive Herschel area and actually increase property values -- truly a win-win proposition.

Parking structures could also provide free two hour parking for residents and eliminate employees parking in front of homes. Stores such as Warwick’s, Manley’s Hardware and Burn’s Drugstore could have free short-term green parking in front of their businesses.

The majority of the residents, property and business owners I have talked to support paid on street parking, which will not only solve our parking problems, but also provide the revenue to make our Village a cleaner and more attractive place. If we fail to take the initiative, how long will it be before the city installs pay and display meters and spends the revenue elsewhere? Acting now through the LJCPDAB will keep 75% of the parking revenue right here to restore La Jolla’s luster. Show your support by signing the Advocates for a Better Village petition on the back page of the La Jolla Light.

Bill Berkley,