Parking is the buzzword at Town Council meeting

The hot-button issue of paid, on-street parking was taken up and debated at length by La Jolla Town Council at its June meeting.

The council, however, opted to monitor the situation more closely, rather than take any formal action.

Two recent sparsely-attended public forums on parking in La Jolla were what prompted the Town Council to reconsider the matter. The council is on record as opposing imposition of paid, on-street parking, which it has referred to as a last resort in dealing with alternative solutions to managing parking and traffic circulation.

Ray Weiss, the town council’s representative on the La Jolla Parking Management District Board, was unable to make the council’s June meeting because he was out of town. Weiss asked the board not to act on the issue until a later date when he could be there to participate in the discussion.

La Jolla’s parking board is comprised of nine members, two of which are nominated by City Council President Scott Peters’ office, with the remaining seven seats nominated by various community organizations in La Jolla. Promote La Jolla, the community’s Business Improvement District representing merchants, has three members on the board including Martin Mosier, who also sits on a similar parking management board with the city of San Diego.

La Jolla’s parking management board recently released a draft plan for public review.

Glen Rasmussen, immediate past Town Council president, said he felt the draft plan contains both good and bad points. He also believes the plan needs to be prioritized.

“It’s fair to say most La Jollans are not in favor of paid, on-street parking,” said Rasmussen. “From the forums, I’m hearing that most La Jollans would like to have some prioritizing of the elements of the plan.”

Rasmussen said La Jollans prefer that alternatives to parking management other than parking meters be tried first. He pointed out La Jollans favor beefing up enforcement of existing time zones first “before we get to paid, on-street parking.”

“This is a work in progress,” said Anne Cleveland, Town Council president, about the parking board’s draft management plan. “I don’t feel they have a finished product to put to the city. They’re a long ways from that.”

Tiffany Sherer, executive director of Promote La Jolla, exhorted town councilmembers as well as the public to attend monthly meetings of La Jolla’s parking board, which take place the third Wednesday of the month at 9 a.m. at the Athenaeum Music & Arts Library at 1008 Wall St.

“It’s really the place to learn a lot about parking and parking issues that face our community,” said Sherer. “It’s so multi-faceted and detailed. It’s very hard to distill it into five minutes or 20 minutes or anything like that.”

Town Councilman Earl Van Inwegen expressed doubt that enough theoretical groundwork has been laid with parking studies to arrive at any conclusions about how traffic management in La Jolla could, or should, be changed.

“There needs to be a financial analysis that looks at the number of (parking) spaces that are going to be available with fees charged,” said Van Inwegen. “It’s all contingent on the city agreeing to share and to implement the intial construction of this.”

Audience members testifying at the Town Council’s June meeting said they felt the two recent public forums on parking were slanted in favor of paid, on-street parking. The viewpoint was expressed that the purpose behind installing parking meters is more about generating revenue than it is about managing parking and traffic circulation.

“This is something (parking) for which you want to have a special meeting and devote the entire meeting to this issue,” said Orrin Gabsch. “I would urge you to consider forming some subcommittees to look into some of these various issues, for example, residential parking permits.

“Some of these things are very general right now, and I think they (parking board) really need to have some flesh put on the bones, so that we really know what we’re talking about. We all know paid, on-street parking is a big issue. There are many questions, in my mind, on how that would operate in terms of what the fees would be.”

“It’s (draft plan) a framework,” said Sherer of Promote La Jolla, “details were specifically left out so they could be delved more into. (Parking issues) are very complicated. They’re very intricate, and interrelated issues: If you put someone here, you displace someone here. Every time you do something its one giant, interrelated ecosystem of parking.”

Town Councilwoman Sherri Lightner vehemently disagrees with one particular contention being advanced about paid, on-street parking in La Jolla. “One of the things I find abhorent is the statement that the city will do it (install parking meters) if we don’t,” Lightner said. “That is not going to happen. And if it does happen, let Mayor Sanders do it. He can take the heat.”

Town Councilman Ed Ward feels the city isn’t addressing the root problem of the traffic problem in La Jolla. “The root cause is people are abusing the system” said Ward, “and we’re not fixing the abuse. We’re going to peanut butter the solution and spread it across everybody with paid parking.”

Keely Sweeney, Council President Scott Peters’ community rep in La Jolla, asked the Town Council and the audience why they felt the two recent parking forums weren’t better attended. The reply was that the public felt the meetings were “scripted,” not held so much to receive public input on parking issues as to achieve a preordained outcome, which some believe is to curry favor for instituting paid, on-street parking, which La Jollans, again and again over the years, have said they do not want and will only consider as a last resort.