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Parking debate needs to change course

The much-maligned La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board, which for months has pressed forward with its proposed pilot parking program while absorbing near-constant criticism, has finally changed its tune. And that is both good and bad news.

Good news in that the changes proposed by board members for the pilot program at its two most recent meetings represented the first sign of willingness on the part of the board to even consider altering the original plan - prior to those meetings, not one letter of the proposal had changed from its original form.

Bad news in that the changes do nothing to address the public’s main concern over the program - whether paid on-street parking in the Village is in the best interests of La Jolla.

Though no official action has been taken, the board appears ready to abandon its original plan to impose paid on-street parking throughout the Village. Instead, they are now considering two alternate proposals, one of which would implement paid on-street parking in only a small portion of the Village, with the rest able to opt in to the program on a voluntary, block-by-block basis. The other proposal would make the entire Village plan voluntary.

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While it’s refreshing that the “railroad” that many feared was heading inevitably toward paid parking throughout the Village appears to have slowed, we think these opt-in plans are crazy. Throughout the parking debate, board members have insisted their main goal was not to raise revenue, but to manage our parking situation - and a main part of that was stopping people from cruising the streets looking for free parking. Under the opt-in plan, we could end up with a Village with a hodgepodge of free and paid blocks, sometimes with pay spots located right across the street from free ones. How exactly would that reduce the trolling for free spaces? How could that possibly be considered good management?

We like some of the proposed changes. We think cutting the beach areas out of the plan is a must. We think increasing the fees for valet operators is a fair way to raise revenue, and we like that the board is getting serious in its thinking about how the negotiation with the city over parking revenues will play out.

But the opt-in proposal makes no sense to us, and we doubt it will satisfy the huge majority of La Jollans who oppose what the parking board is doing. That opposition isn’t going anywhere. The crowds who come to speak out against the board at their meetings are getting bigger, not smaller. They will continue to grow until the board does one of two things: cut paid on-street parking out of the plan or convince the public that it’s a good thing for the community. They’ve been trying to do the latter for months to no avail - so they either need to radically change their approach or just give it up.

We thank the board for its new-found willingness to change course - but now it has to change again.

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