Parking debate’s cast of characters
- The Guru -- Donald Shoup
The UCLA Professor of Urban Planning wrote the book, “The High Cost of Free Parking,” that became something of a sacred text for parking board members. Shoup, who received a Ph.D in economics from Yale, believes that free street parking is a subsidy that comes back to cost taxpayers hundreds of billions of dollars each year. He says it encourages a car culture that encourages people to drive rather than walk or use public transportation and contributes to urban sprawl. He presented his ideas at a public forum at Sherwood Auditorium earlier this year and received a mixed reception.
- The Convert -- Ray Weiss
Weiss was one of the most vocal oppponents to forming a community parking district during that debate in 2005. Weiss said at the time that Promote La Jolla’s three seats on the nine-member board gave it disproportionate influence that it would use to try to implement a program centered around paid on-street parking, which, at the time, Weiss opposed. After hearing a Shoup presentation and further studying the issue, Weiss, a scientist at the Scripps Institution for Oceanography who represents the La Jolla Town Council on the board, changed his mind and came to agree with Shoup’s basic ideas about parking as a resourse that requires management. He now supports the proposed pilot program but has recently expressed concerns about the lack of public consensus.
- The Veterans -- Martin Mosier and Marty McGee
Mosier and McGee have studied parking as long as anyone in San Diego. Both men have served on parking task forces both in La Jolla and citywide over two decades. Mosier has studied parking management is coastal communities all over California, and he describes La Jolla as an anomaly in a state where paid on-street parking is the norm near the coast. Whenever someone frets that paid parking will strip La Jolla of its “Village character,” Mosier is quick to rattle off a list of places like Laguna Beach and Monterey where successful programs proved that such fears were unfounded.
McGee also supports the plan but says his support is based on at least 80 percent of parking management revenue being returned back to La Jolla.
- The Workers -- From busboys to brokers, La Jolla workers have taken on the role of villan as the parking debate has unfolded. You know the scene: a worker whose employer doesn’t provide parking is forced to park on the street and hustle out to the car every two hours to dupe parking enforcement officers by wiping the chalk mark off the tire. The story has been told countless times, often by supporters of the pilot program who think it illustrates how dysfunctional La Jolla’s current parking situation is.
- The Residents -- Some who would be affected by the proposed Village-adjacent residential permit area, like Park Row resident Ray Weiss, say something has to be done to free up streets that are jammed with the cars of Village visitors and employees day and night. Other residents of the proposed permit area worry that the two-hour time limit will increase traffic by increasing turnover and bringing in more cars trolling for free short-term spaces.
- The Restaurateur -- George Hauer
Hauer and Bill Berkeley own two of the biggest restaurants in La Jolla and both support the proposed pilot program. They say the funds that parking could raise are needed for streetscape improvement and beautification. Both already pay thousands to provide parking for employees, and both pay to operate valet parking spaces. The parking advisory board had discussed sharply increasing the fee to operate a valet from around $300 to as much as $1,000, but valet parking is not mentioned in the proposed pilot program.
- The Retailer -- Nancy Warwick
Warwick has had customers signing petitions opposing the pilot program at her bookstore for months. She worries that paid parking would change the character of La Jolla and was part of a group of candidates that ran for Promote La Jolla’s volunteer board in opposition to the pilot program. Warwick came the closest of the candidates, but still couldn’t unseat any of the eight incumbents in an election with a less than 25 percent turnout that was still more than double last year’s.
- The Promoters -- Tiffany Sherer and Deborah Marengo
Neither Sherer -- Promote La Jolla’s executive director and only full-time employee -- or Marengo -- the head of PLJ’s volunteer board -- actually sit on the CPD Advisory Board, but they are involved at the board’s meetings and have represented the board to the public and in the pages of the Light. They say La Jolla is losing ground in the regional competition for visitors, shoppers and quality stores and restaurants. They say the slip is driven by a perception that La Jolla is hard to access, partly because of parking, and by a general decline in appearance -- two problems that the money from a parking district, which could dwarf the group’s current budget by several times, could solve.
- The City -- They loom large over the discussions. If La Jolla’s parking board creates a plan that eventually creates revenue, will the City actually send some of the money back to La Jolla, or will it all get lost in the swamp of the general fund? If La Jolla’s district chooses not to implement a plan, will the City come in later with their own plan, on their own terms?