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Parking board and public disagree on pilot program

The rancorous nature of La Jolla’s parking debate continued at a public meeting held Thursday, Aug. 30, as attendees and parking board members disagreed on everything from the makeup of the board to the location of the meeting itself.

The La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board called the special meeting to discuss several matters, including a pilot program that would implement some of the most controversial aspects of its draft management plan for parking in La Jolla. The item was only up for discussion and the board took no official action, but that was only the last of several contentious debates at the meeting.

The meeting started with public speakers objecting to the location. It was held in a conference room at Hotel Parisi, which is owned by Advisory Board chair Peter Wagener. Some attendees argued that the board should take no action on any items because the board meetings are supposed to be held in neutral locations. Wagener said the board was no longer allowed to hold its meetings at the Athenaeum, partly due to the crowded, rowdy nature of the last meeting held there. He said that other public venues such as La Jolla Recreation Center were unavailable that night.

One meeting attendee said the night itself was the wrong choice, coming just before the Labor Day holiday weekend.

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“This special meeting has disenfranchised people who are out of town on vacation,” Mike Forbes said.

Board member Ray Weiss noted that the public notice for the meeting was sent out just hours before the deadline of 72 hours before the meeting, as required by law.

The board then discussed changes to its meeting rules, including those related to public comment and conflicts of interest on the board. The board voted to adopt public comment rules similar to those used by the San Diego City Council. The board voted to limit public comment on non-agenda items to 30 minutes, which angered several in attendance. Public comment on agenda items will remain unlimited.

Board members said the limit on non-agenda public comment was necessary to conduct productive meetings.

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“People are coming to disrupt these meetings - there are organized efforts to disrupt them,” board member Reza Ghasemi said. “You can’t have that if you’re going to have a public meeting.”

The board refrained from voting on new rules about conflict of interest after a debate on the subject. Forbes argued that the rule was written so vaguely that every member of the board would have to recuse themselves, while Joe La Cava disagreed.

“I was stunned to find you don’t already have these rules,” La Cava said. “If everyone has a conflict of interest, that’s not a conflict. If there’s a unique conflict, that’s a problem. You’ve been operating without conflict of interest (rules) for two years? That’s not good.”

The conflict of interest issue crystallized moments later, when Weiss chose to reveal that Michael Harth, the at-large business representative on the board, is an employee of Sunset Parking. Weiss said he had faith in Harth, but that the public perception of the board was in such bad shape that Harth should step down.

“I think something drastic is necessary to re-engage the community,” Weiss said.

Harth was originally appointed to the board by City Council President Scott Peters, then re-elected by the board in May 2007. The board took no action on Weiss’ suggestion.

The discussion then shifted to the board’s proposed pilot program, which would implement paid on-street parking in the Village and along Coast Boulevard and new time limits in nearby residential areas for a period of one year.

The pilot program as drafted would sunset automatically after one year, “unless a majority of the Board votes affirmatively to renew all or any part of the Program based on its demonstrated success.” Several meeting attendees decried the vagueness of that statement and asked for an objective definition of “success.” Others wondered if, once the City Council approved the pilot program and saw the revenue start to flow, the board would have the authority to end the program.

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The pilot program would establish a three-hour time limit in the commercial zone of the Village and charge $1 for the first hour, $1.50 for the second and $2 for the third. The beach zone along Coast Blvd. would be subject to a four-hour limit and charge $1 for the first hour, up to $2 for the fourth. Residential streets including Virginia Way, High Avenue and Park Row would be subject to a two-hour time limit that residents could exempt themselves from by purchasing a permit.

The board took no action on the pilot program, which would have to also be approved by the City Council. Its next meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 19, though a location has not been set.


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