Parking recommendations halted by City Attorney

Attendees at the March 19 meeting of the La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board arrived ready to protest committee recommendations for paid on-street parking, but a last-minute communique from San Diego City Attorney Michael Aguirre halted any further activity by the Board.

“The decision means that the Board cannot move forward today on a controversial plan to bring parking meters to downtown La Jolla, a plan that has drawn widespread and fierce opposition in the community,” said Aguirre in a March 19 news release.

Aguirre determined that because the LJCPBAD is not just an advisory board but influences decisions made by city officials, members must comply with financial disclosure requirements under the California Political Reform Act.

The Conflict of Interest Code has been a divisive issue for several months, stalling any decision-making by the Board.

Last month the City Council rejected a proposed code that would have required members to publically disclose financial holdings that may influence their votes.

Until the Board complies with financial disclosure requirements, or is released from accountability to do so, the LJCPBAD cannot move forward.

Aguirre was briefly present at the meeting to take questions.

“We are of the opinion that there has to be proper financial interest filing by the decision-makers,” Aguirre said. “Our advice is full disclosure is appropriate.”

When asked if it was appropriate for the board to meet, Aguirre reiterated that his office felt the committee should discontinue any action, adding that “it was a matter of protecting the entire information-gathering process.”

Following Aguirre’s exit, there was further discussion among Board members as to whether or not the meeting should continue, given Aguirre’s directive.

After Martin Mosier announced the meeting would continue and alternative parking plans heard, Darcy Ashley, an alternate board member, excused herself to the audience.

Sherri Lightner, slated to present a parking proposal, declined, citing Aguirre’s advisement.

Over the next two hours, citizens expressed their concerns about the negative impact of paid parking on the Village of La Jolla.

Ashley presented results of a survey conducted among Village business owners, citing 642 merchants opposed to paid parking and 73 businesses in favor.

For many residents, simply contemplating paid parking has undermined the cohesiveness of the community.

“What I think people are angry about here is that the process is perceived to be unfair,” said Steve Haskins, attorney for La Jollans for Clean Government, Inc.,

Further fueling public distrust of the Board is the perception of collusion between board members and other high-ranking decisions makers to move ahead with paid parking, regardless of community opinion.

Aguirre’s March 19 letter to Mosier and the Board states: “... we are also concerned about the relationship of the board generally, and yourself in particular, with Council President Peters who would render any nominal City Council review of your decisions a mere formality. Our understanding is that you have met with Mr. Peters to develop strategy for ensuring approval of your mutually preferred parking plan.”

A letter from the office of Peters, read by Mosier, responded to this allegation: “To imply that he has already made up his mind is simply false and intentionally inflammatory. Council President Peters knows this is a complicated issue with important consequences, so he intends to find a solution that works for the entire community.”

Community sentiment at the meeting was very heavily anti-paid parking. Of the 100 or so attendees, none spoke in support of paid on-street parking.

“I’m appalled at what has happened to La Jolla,” said Charlotte Thompson, a local resident and retired physician. “"It’s just all about greed.”

Many La Jollans feel that meters will detract from the small-town appeal of the community, as well as discourage shoppers and visitors.

For many merchants, it is a change that could result in the loss of their livelihoods.

Gina Phillips, a third-generation La Jollan and owner of Adelaide’s, stated she pays $1,300 a month for employee parking in garages to keep street spots open for customers.

“Why do we have to struggle to stay in business?” she asked.

Among those protesting meters in the Village was mayoral candidate Steve Francis. “It’s a hidden tax, and I’m opposed to it,” Francis said. “I want to support everyone here.”