Parking Limits in Overdrive? La Jolla traffic group to consider uniform Village time zone

To introduce the idea of uniform parking times in the Village, La Jolla Coastal Access & Parking Board chair Deborah Marengo presented an idea to La Jolla’s Traffic & Transportation advisory group during its July 23 meeting at the Rec Center.

Without recommending a particular time limit, Marengo said she would like to see a sub- committee form to discuss and find a consistent parking-limit — 1-hour, 2-hour, 90-minute or other — that would best suit the Village (with the exception of keeping 3-hour parking along the coast).

However, not everyone at the presentation liked the idea. Warwick’s bookstore owner Nancy Warwick contends a one-size-fits-all approach would not be appropriate for La Jolla.

Marengo, of Marengo Morton Architects, said she surveyed the Village to map the various parking time zones, finding different time limitations throughout, and, in some cases, two different time zones on either side of the same street on the same block. Although predominantly two-hour parking, several streets are confusing to visitors, she said.

For example, on Wall Street, there is one side of the street with 1-hour parking while the other side is 2-hour. At its eastern end, near the post office, the parking limit is 30-minutes.

“Fay Avenue is also interesting,” she said. “You have a 2-hour zone for a few blocks and then a 1-hour zone for one block and then it’s back to two hours.”

Along the coastline, parking varies between 2-hour and 3-hour. On the west side of the retirement community Casa de Manana, parking is allowed for three hours, but on the east side, parking is 2-hour. One block east, on Prospect Street near the La Jolla Rec Center (where T&T meets), one side is 2-hour and the other side of that same block is 4-hour.

In addition to the inconsistent parking zones, there are sporadic 15- and 30-minute parking spots throughout the Village.

“We are a very visitor-serving community,” Marengo said. “I know these streets because I see them every day, but it can be confusing to people coming into the Village.”

She said her office at 7724 Girard Ave. is in the middle of some of the mismatched parking zones, and “if someone parks on Silverado (one block away) and one parks on Girard, they are parked in two different time zones. I have literally had to interrupt meetings so people can move their cars.”

Because of the variation in parking limits, Marengo said people often think they are parking in one time zone when they are actually in another, and explore the Village accordingly. Patrons of the new restaurant Piazza 1909, located in a one-hour parking zone, reportedly often get tickets while dining.

“It wouldn’t be possible to have a glass of wine and eat a meal (at some restaurants) in one hour,” she said. “There are also several hair salons near one-hour time zones. I can tell you I can’t get my hair done in an hour.”

T&T member Patrick Ryan commented, “Confusion is one of the most frustrating things, it makes (drivers) slow down, it makes them get tickets and it leads to a bad experience. The simpler things can be, the better.”

However, Warwick said, “I don’t agree with the assumption that people have an expectation of uniformity of parking. In fact, it’s normal for a community to have varying parking times. ... It’s expected behavior for a driver to read the signage to know how long one can park, if there are street-cleaning days and if unlimited parking is available. “We are fortunate that the city does not impose a one-size-fits-all approach to parking and that instead we have the flexibility to match what fits a particular environment.”

Speaking from experience, Warwick successfully petitioned the city in November 2014 to change parking on the 7700-7900 blocks of Girard Avenue (her bookstore is at 7812 Girard Ave.) from 60 to 90 minutes. At the time, she contested one-hour parking was not enough for Village shoppers ahead of the holiday season.

She petitioned affected businesses and received signatures of support from 97 percent of those merchants. Marengo Morton Architects did not sign in support. Since the change took place last winter, Warwick said, “I’ve heard nothing but positive feedback.”

Unlike some of the more “elegant” restaurants on Prospect Street that benefit from being within a two-hour parking zone, Warwick said, the restaurants in the 7700- 7900 blocks of Girard Avenue reportedly serve their customers comfortably in 90 minutes, and the change was sensitive to the particular needs of the businesses on those three blocks.

“It would be demoralizing to the 97 percent of businesses (on the three blocks that favored the change to 90-minute parking) to think their participation in local government was worthless, if we decide to overturn their efforts,” she suggested. Warwick added that for businesses that currently have 2-hour parking fronting their establishments, changing to anything less would be “tough.”

The ever-changing parking is possible because of T&T protocol. Historically, if someone wanted to change the parking on their street, they would circulate a petition to affected businesses and/or residents. With enough people in support, T&T would recommend the change to the city.

Early ideas

Ideas were put forward at the meeting to ease confusion but keep the needs of businesses in mind. One involved bumping up parking limits from one hour to 90 minutes. “If it had been proposed to take all the 1-hour zones and change them to 90 minutes, that makes more sense because you aren’t going from one extreme to another (in relation to the 2-hour zones),” Marengo said.

Another suggestion, by T&T member Tom Brady, focused on polling businesses to see if they would prefer a 1-hour, 2-hour or 90-minute parking zone on their blocks.

An additional suggestion was to alternate blocks between 90-minute and 2-hour zones. For example, 90-minute parking on Girard Avenue, and 2-hour parking on Fay Avenue, and 90-minute again on Eads Avenue.

Marengo also said shorter parking zones, such as 15- and 30-minutes, could bookend each block, so those needing to run a quick errand could park there, knowing where to find the short-term parking.

Shores has similar situation

In 2005, the La Jolla Community Parking District, a group formed by the San Diego City Council and advised by the former Promote La Jolla (the Business Improvement District group for La Jolla until it dissolved in 2011) conducted a parking study and suggested uniform 90-minute parking for the Village and La Jolla Shores.

Heeding its advice, the La Jolla Shores Business District along Avenida de la Playa is now all 90-minute parking. Angie Preisendorfer, corresponding secretary for La Jolla Shores Association advisory group, said for the businesses along the Shores thoroughfare — which include restaurants, galleries, retail and recreation — 90 minutes has been “convenient for everyone.”

The residential area surrounding the business district has no parking limit, and the area around Scripps Institution of Oceanography is 2-hour.

But in the tourist-friendly business area, “You can have lunch and go shopping but you can’t park on Avenida de la Playa to go kayaking, surfing or paddleboarding — that’s what the parking lots are for,” she said.

Preisendorfer, whose business has been on Avenida de la Playa since 1990, said years ago, parking was 1-hour but too many visitors got tickets. Echoing Warwick’s point, she said turnover is necessary for business, which is why 2-hour parking would not have worked in the Shores, leaving 90-minute parking as the happy medium.

Next meeting

A subcommittee of T&T board members was formed to address which time zone, if any, would benefit the community. It will present its findings to T&T as soon as a recommendation is made.

T&T next meets 4 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 27 at La Jolla Rec Center, 615 Prospect St.