The article in the Coastline Pilot (2/22) by David Hanson with the headline “City eyes more downtown private parking” offers little useful information on current downtown parking conditions. However, it does bring attention to the continuing debate as to the need and use of public and private parking spaces.
Unfortunately, comments by certain city officials regarding private property owners charging a fee for public use of their parking lots is an illustration of apparent ignorance of the importance of gaining the cooperation from private parking lot owners and maximizing the use of available private parking areas. A softer tone toward the business owners may go a lot further in achieving that result.
Are city representatives really trying to complete a meaningful parking management plan or are they looking for new taxes? Are they suggesting private owners chain off their parking lots after business hours or face new taxes?
Hanson refers to Wells Fargo Bank as not so much a bank as it is a beach parking lot during summer. A city official states, “ you’ve got places running two businesses, like the banks. They are a bank during the day and a parking lot at night. And they’re basically running the parking lot for free, as far as the city is concerned. The city is getting nothing out of that.” A city staff member states “There’s these secondary businesses that may not be, quote-unquote, legal, and one method is to try to….gain revenue from that to offset other expenses.” The staff member does make reference to the potential pool of private parking spaces that could be utilized. Do they mean adding more parking spaces or more tax revenue?
Hanson points out the library has a whopping 12 spaces allocated exclusively for staff. Be aware, these parking spaces also serve the Chamber of Commerce office staff and volunteers working in the Friends Bookstore located on the site, and all the parking is available for public use after library closing hours during most of the year. A small amount of the parking fees collected during the tourist season is returned to the Friends to support library activities.
Hopefully, the forthcoming public meetings on the parking management plan will provide a more positive discussion of parking issues, not “eying” an opportunity for new business taxes. Until the city can provide more parking spaces to accommodate the downtown business area, city officials should be grateful for any private parking space made available for public use.
Martha Lydick, Laguna Beach