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Parking board considers changes to plan

The great parking debate rolled on with a Nov. 19 meeting at La Jolla Recreation Center that saw the board considering changes to its proposed pilot parking program.

Approximately 200 people packed the Recreation Center for the La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board’s monthly meeting, which was originally scheduled for Nov. 15 but was quickly shut down by the Fire Department because the meeting room at Hotel Parisi was beyond capacity.

The board was considering two large-scale revisions of its proposal that had been brought forward by chairman Peter Wagener and board member Mark Evans. Wagener missed the discussion, however, amid concerns about whether he has a conflict of interest on the issue. Wagener owns a parking garage in La Jolla.

“Certainly, the appearance of a conflict is there,” board member Tom Brady said.

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Evans said he trusted Wagener but was also concerned about the issue.

“It pains me to say this, but I think Peter’s interest in a parking garage may bring his objectivity - of which I have no doubt - into question,” Evans said.

Michael Calabrese of the San Diego City Attorney’s Office observed the meeting, and said a conflict of interest occurs when someone has an economic interest in an issue that is substantially different from the public in general. He said his office would analyze Wagener’s situation and have an answer on whether he should step down from the board by the next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 19.

Wagener recused himself from the rest of the meeting, which featured his and Evans’ proposed changes to the proposed pilot plan. Under Evans’ proposal, the implementation of two controversial aspects of the program - paid on-street parking in the Village and the permit program for nearby residential streets - would be determined voluntarily on a block-by-block basis, with a majority of business or property owners deciding whether to opt in or out of the program.

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Wagener’s proposal also would have switched the residential program to a voluntary, opt-in/opt-out system, but differed from Evans’ proposal when it came to paid on-street parking in the Village. Wagener’s proposal would reduce the mandatory paid on-street parking area from the original proposed pilot program but maintain it in the core commercial areas on Prospect Street, Wall Street, Girard Avenue, Herschel Avenue and Ivanhoe Avenue. The remainder of the Village could opt in or out of the program on a voluntary basis under Wagener’s proposal.

Board member Ray Weiss expressed support for the opt-in programs.

“I’ve always been in favor of a system in which the people affected by a policy have some input in the policy,” he said. “I think these are very positive changes.”

But Joe La Cava said during public comment that he didn’t like the question of paid parking being decided in the Village on a block-by-block basis.

“Either (paid parking) is a good idea or it’s a bad idea,” La Cava said.

Jim Fitzgerald didn’t like either of the options.

“We’re supposed to be here talking about alternatives to the program,” Fitzgerald said, “but there are no alternatives that aren’t built around paid parking. That tells me this isn’t really about parking - it’s all about money.”

Evans’ proposal would also make any parking board recommendation to the City Council conditional on at least 80 percent of parking revenues returning to La Jolla. Board member Martin Mosier said that 80 percent was possible, adding that the parking district in Old Town is considering asking for 90 percent of its revenues to remain in its local district.

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The board also discussed adding new valet parking fees to the proposed plan. Valet operators are currently only charged $300 per year for up to 10 spaces to be used for valet purposes - the board is considering asking operators to pay $900 per space.

Board member Marty McGee said valet parking benefits the community by taking cars off the street, but that a higher operator fee could help by ensuring that operators don’t use more spaces than they need.

“It’s a balancing act,” McGee said.

After Evans called the $900 figure “kind of arbitrary,” several audience members asked how the board arrived at the figure. Some suggested that the board should charge whatever the space would be worth if it was a pay-to-park space.

“This discussion is illustrating some of (Donald) Shoup’s points,” Weiss said. “These spaces do have value.”

The board took no formal action on any of the proposals, and will continue the discussion at its next meeting, scheduled for Dec. 19. The location has not been set, as the board is considering several possible locations to better accommodate the larger crowds that have been attending the meetings.

For more information or to read the current proposed pilot program, visit www.lajollabythesea.com/parking.