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Parking Board may be on the way out

The viability - and usefulness - of La Jolla’s two-year-old parking advisory board has been called into question by City Council President Scott Peters, whose First District seat represents La Jolla.

“The parking board process, I don’t know that it makes sense to the community,” said Peters. “The (parking) conversation has stopped, and I don’t think it makes sense to put people through it anymore.”

Peter’s avoided calling for an end to discussion of paid, on-street parking, however.

Despite some news reports to the contrary, the councilman has not changed his stance on paid-parking, said Peters’ communications director, Pam Hardy. Peters, she said, never indicated paid-parking should be removed from the table as one conceivable option, among a number of other possible alternatives, to promote traffic management. Said Hardy: “Scott is saying that the parking board has led to a lot of fighting and name calling, and that that is not the answer.”

The La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board, a nine-member group of community planners and representatives, including three members from Promote La Jolla, La Jolla’s Business Improvement District (BID), has advocated instituting a one-year trial program for high-tech paid parking in La Jolla’s downtown Village.

Darcy Ashley, spokeswoman for Nopaidparking.org, a grass-roots citizens group that has risen to oppose paid on-street parking, charging that it would be a community-character buster, said the composition of the parking advisory board was wrong and unworkable from the start. She accused the board of of being too closely tied to Promote La Jolla and “also the people that were chosen in its leadership positions were just TNT.”

Deborah Marengo, president of Promote La Jolla, said the parking advisory board has been hamstrung of late by the City Attorney’s opinion that the board is not empowered to meet and make any binding decisions regarding parking management in La Jolla’s dowtown Village.

“The City Attorney says they cannot vote on a plan, or make any recommendations on it through the city,” Marengo said. “That’s been stopping them from moving forward with more community input, and modifying their (parking) plan based on that community input. They’re pretty much at a standstill.”

Marengo said she is unable to comment on Peters’ concerns because she hasn’t discussed the subject with him yet. She added that though the parking board may ultimately prove to have been unworkable in practice, it nonetheless was true to the spirit of its mission: to achieve a consensus on how best to manage public parking.

“The Parking Management District was formed under Council policy, so it still exists,” Marengo said. “We always felt that having a diversified format for the parking management district meant having a diversified parking advisory board that would represent all the respective community groups. The idea was that all the groups would benefit by keeping a calm, open discussion in the community.

“Unfortunately, some community leaders have chosen to go out in the community and use fear tactics to scare people that this (parking) plan will not work, instead of keeping an open dialogue. Residents and businesssowners were given misinformation, and they were scared about what the city was going to do with any (parking generated) funds.”

Peters suggested a new process must be found, one which can succeed in crafting a truly effective community parking-management strategy. “We should concentrate on the things people agree on,” he said. “That will be more productive than sending the community back into this constant battle.”

Peters’ lack of support for the current parking board may well end its exsistence, and it is clear that once Peters leaves office, the First District will not be getting a Council Member who supports on-street, paid parking.

Sherri Lightner and Marshall Merrifield, two of three candidates in the June 3 District 1 primary election to replace termed-out incumbent Scott Peters, have gone on record as opposing paid parking in La Jolla. Third candidated Phil Thalheimer also said he believes citizens in La Jolla have clearly spoken.

“This is a community issue that needs to come forth from the community,” said Thalheimer. “The community doesn’t want paid parking. So I don’t think they should have it. The community pretty well seems dead set against it. We’re (politicians) representing the community.”

Peters said he hasn’t decided exactly what form a new parking management process might take. He stressed that there is general agreement that there needs to be better enforcement of exising parking regulations in La Jolla. “There are other things we can do that everyone agrees on short of paid parking,” Peters said.

Even if La Jolla’s Parking Advisory Board is dissolved, paid-parking opponent Darcy Ashley noted the battle she and her colleagues have been waging will likely continue.

La Jolla Town Councilman Ed Ward has been an outspoken critic of paid parking in La Jolla. Ward, and a number of other paid-parking opponents, have been crafting a counter plan for parking management in La Jolla, which calls for increased enforcement of existing parking regulations and other parking management ideas advanced by paid-parking proponents, but omitting paid-parking.

Should La Jolla’s parking advisory board be done away with, Ward said that action might result in present community planning advisory groups banding together to work toward “reinventing” how parking is managed, which might involve including elements in the new parking counterproposal.

“This multi-point plan has reached a good level of popularity and acceptance,” said Ward, “without paid parking meters on the street, to manage parking and not tax it. I have personally spoken, a number of times, on the need for the parking board to be reconstituted to accurately, and more effectively, represent the community in general, and the residents at-large.

“Perhaps a different approach, with the support of the town council, and the community planning association and other community groups, can be taken to improve significantly parking issues the Village of La Jolla faces from time to time.”

Peters said he still intends to assist the community of La Jolla in finding its own answers to parking management. “I had hoped to set up a process by which the community could come up with its own solutions,” said Peters. “I have never committed myself to any particular (parking) solution. It has been my hope that the community would bring one to me. That’s why I’m concerned that the process is broken. It just doesn’t look like that discussion will be productive anymore.”