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Promote La Jolla submits parking plan to city

By Maria Connor and Dave Schwab

There is one thing most La Jollans can agree on: The community’s parking advisory board, as presently constituted, is broken.

What almost no one in the community can seemingly figure out is the best way to go about trying to fix it.

That includes La Jolla Town Council, as well as Council President Scott Peters.

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Last week at its April monthly meeting, town council members and audience members alike debated for more than an hour, Peters’ recent pronouncement that La Jolla Community Parking District Advisory Board (LJCPDAB) is not working out, and that the community may need to move in a different direction, yet to be determined, in future planning for traffic management.

Community planners also expressed concern - and disapproval - of the action taken last week by Promote La Jolla’s board to send work done up till now by the La Jolla parking advisory board on to the city of San Diego for its perusal.

“Nothing’s been approved by the parking board,” noted Ray Weiss, the town council’s representative on the parking advisory board. “It was just a draft put out for public discussion that included paid parking, specifically, which (Village) streets paid parking would be put on including residential.

“The purpose of that document was to get something out there that could be discussed. There is nothing from the parking board which the Promote La Jolla board could have approved, and yet they endorsed it and sent it downtown. It’s a bizarre situation.”

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Keely Sweeney, Peters’ La Jolla representative, reiterated the councilman’s stance on the paid-parking issue in La Jolla: “What Scott has said to everyone is the process is clearly broken. He has never said how he feels, one way or another, about implementation of paid on-street parking.”

Promote La Jolla (PLJ) members, at their April 9 meeting, voted to submit their proposed parking management framework, which includes paid on-street parking in high-demand areas, to San Diego city officials, despite heated opposition from community members and some business owners.

The decision was made, said Deborah Marengo, PLJ president, following a report from Martin Mosier, chair of the (LJCPDAB), indicating the group felt it could no longer function, given recent actions by City Attorney Michael Aguirre and the lack of progress in determining conflict of interest requirements for LJCPDAB members.

In an effort to preserve the work already compiled, the PLJ board felt the best course of action was to forward their findings and recommendations to city officials.

“I would like to see at least some elements of the plan tried,” Marengo said. “Having the community control was a good thing because we could adjust it, and we weren’t at the mercy of the city. Unfortunately, this whole situation ... has come down to parking meters, and the framework has many elements in it.”

Marengo cited employee parking, access for residents and the inability of businesses to renovate and expand due to the lack of available parking as just a few of the challenges facing La Jolla.

“What’s happened at these meetings is people are so upset and so angry about parking meters that they don’t listen to any other elements and there’s no dialogue,” Marengo said.

An ad hoc citizen group, No Paid Parking, in a statement on their Web site reacting to PLJ board’s action, said, “Many have long suspected that Promote La Jolla would vote to send the Pilot Plan to the City Council, without any changes, adjustments or modifications. Most importantly, the prediction was that the ‘Pilot Plan,’ calling for paid on-street parking throughout La Jolla, would not be altered due to public comment. This is exactly what happened!”

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Jim Heaton, chairman of the La Jolla Shores Association (LJSA), responded similarly in an April 11 e-mail reiterating LJSA’s opposition to the pilot program and paid on-street parking: “Finally, we find it very disconcerting that Promote La Jolla has chosen to take this course of action in light of overwhelming opposition to the Pilot Plan by the very community it is supposed to promote and serve.”

“We’re merchants and we’re residents,” Marengo of PLJ said. “We don’t want to do anything to hurt our businesses. We have an interest in making it successful for all the merchants.”

At the April 10 La Jolla Town Council meeting, a suggestion was made that, now that it appears the parking advisory board is to be disbanded, that the next logical step might be to form an ad hoc committee composed in part of representatives from La Jolla’s four community planning groups, to kick-start the traffic planning-management process.

Ray Weiss reiterated his view that the composition of the parking board, with one-third of its membership coming from PLJ, spelled trouble with the board’s being accepted by the public from the start. “It was bound to fail,” he said. “If we can’t figure out why, we’ve got a problem because, if you can’t understand why it failed, there’s no point in doing the same thing again. We need to understand how to build consensus.”

Town council member Darcy Ashley, also a member of No Paid Parking, said an ongoing commitment to paid parking on the part of some in the community, without regard to public input, has brought the situation to a head. “If there had been some receptiveness to looking at other alternatives,” Ashley said, “and taking this (paid parking) off the table, we wouldn’t be here today.”

“Are we trying to solve a parking problem, or are we trying to create a revenue source?” queried Ashley. “The community is very interested in managing parking, less interested in coming up with a source of revenue. That’s where we get down the slippery slope.”

At the end of its April meeting, La Jolla Town Council voted 10-6-0 to send a letter to Peters asking him to be forthcoming in stating his position on paid on-street parking in La Jolla. The council also voted 11-2-2 to table, for now, discussion of creating a new ad hoc committee to restart the dialogue on traffic management in La Jolla.