Congestion Taming Measures Ok’d

By Jennifer Erickson | LB Indy

This summer, more than clanging trolleys will signal the arrival of festival season. Laguna Beach plans a pilot valet parking program downtown as well as upping the price and extending the hours of meter parking, among other strategies approved by the City Council on Tuesday to alleviate peak-season congestion.

Using aerial maps of the town’s streets and parking lots overlaid with colors ranging from yellow to deep red to indicate low to high occupancy, Deputy City Manager Ben Siegel offered in a time-lapse format a compelling picture of the problem: most on- and off-street parking becomes 100 percent occupied by late afternoon on weekdays and by early afternoon on weekends. Occupancy exceeding 85 percent results in motorists circling to find spots and increasing congestion.

While the ACT V canyon lot does near or reach capacity Thursday through Sunday in the summer, the 50 spaces available to the city at the Pavilion’s market and another 150 spaces leased from Mission Hospital remained largely under used.

The impetus behind the eight strategies, said Siegel, was reducing congestion by making parking more convenient, and by combining pricing strategies, better signage and timely trolleys to lure motorists to remote lots.

The Council approved hourly pricing hikes for meters and off-street lots. Effective July 1, hourly meter rates would rise to $2 an hour on weekends and weekdays after 5 p.m. on most downtown streets. With the exception of the already higher-priced Glenneyre lot, meter rates at off-street city lots will likewise increase. Increases will not affect residents with parking stickers.

Meanwhile, the daily rates at city lots will increase to $15 on weekends and weekdays after 5 p.m., remaining at $10 at all other times.

Furthermore, since data showed parking spots at full capacity well into the evenings, the pilot plan includes extending meter hours until 9 p.m., within the range of other coastal cities, the report says. The three-hour parking limit will be eliminated after 5 p.m.

The recommendations emerged from a “toolbox” of parking strategies involving management, supply, pricing and zoning to be rolled out over the next five years. They were conceived by Irvine-based RBF Consulting, hired to figure out how to maximize the 1,547 existing parking spaces downtown and in Laguna Canyon available in summer. Their plan is available on line at the city’s web site.

Last June, the City Council opted not to adopt the 110-page plan in its entirety, but asked staff to work with the consultants and planning commissioners Norm Grossman and Linda Dietrich to come up with a priority list. Tuesday they did just that.

Other measures included studying how to improve summer usage at peripheral lots and ones off main arteries such as at the Susi Q Center and Hagan Place as well as working with the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Laguna Beach on how to promote them.

Siegel said the valet program, enthusiastically endorsed by people who attended a workshop, required additional brainstorming to pinpoint a drop-off site with minimal traffic impact and a remote parking location.

The impacts of the pilot measures undertaken throughout the city next summer will be studied and staff will prepare a summary for the City Council in the fall.

“Frankly, I think that we may not be able to do it all,” said Pietig. “But we want to try,” he concluded.

Offering the only public comment on the measures, Carol Nilsen, a member of Let Laguna Vote, the grassroots group that mobilized opposition to a proposed parking structure behind City Hall, lauded the process for its transparency, responsiveness to public input and that the data-based strategies included a system for evaluating success. “Terrific!” she concluded.


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