Even as Laguna Beach looks under the hood of its transit system for ways to offset rising costs, parking experts unveiled draft plans that promote reliable, high-frequency shuttles coupled with low-cost remote lots to help unclog the town’s streets.
Bob Madsen of Irvine’s RBF Consulting and his team of experts presented their draft recommendations to better manage the town’s existing parking to the Planning Commission and members of the public Wednesday, April 10. The team fine-tuned points presented at a March 20 workshop.
Matson and his assistant manager Anthony Hernandez were joined by parking experts including Rick Williams, of Portland, Ore., and Rick Wilson, a professor at Cal Poly and consultant in parking policy and financing. The team was engaged last May to identify ways to maximize resources in the downtown area bordered by Legion Street and Cliff Drive and Laguna Canyon Road to the Laguna College of Art & Design.
The team analyzed data collected from 13 studies, including summer and off-season occupancy figures from 2002 and 2007, respectively. They also interviewed city staff involved with parking, as well as 50 to 70 landowners and merchants in the downtown area, and have held three public workshops beginning last July.
They summarized the 110-page draft plan, which can be found at the city’s website under Popular Links in the bottom left of the home page.
The Planning Commission will review the draft formally at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, April 24, in City Council chambers.
Dynamic pricing figured as a key recommendation, based on the belief visitors can be lured to remote lots or outlying meters if the price is right. If, during the summer, parking meter rates increased downtown, significantly lower prices in remote lots could entice visitors to park there if they could rely on fast and frequent trolley service into town, the experts said. This might require improving shuttle service on weekends and possibly increase it during peak days and hours.
Other recommendations included making Ocean Avenue a one-way street all the way to Coast Highway and restriping for diagonal parking for its entire length; a shared valet parking plan; encouraging more businesses to share their parking with others in off hours; and relaxing the parking requirements tied to conditional use permits.
The consultants received positive feedback for the shared valet plan. This would involve setting up several curb-side valet stations (which could simply mean taking up one or two parking spaces and painting the curb) throughout the downtown area. Visitors would pull up to the curb, rather than circling to look for spaces, and leave their car with the valet who would park it at an off-street location. When the visitors are ready to leave, they go to whichever valet station is nearest and their car is brought to them.
Laguna Beach resident Michael Hoag challenged the team, saying that studies show that more parking in a city serves only to increase congestion, and claiming that cities now turn to multi-modal mobility to alleviate traffic congestion.
It’s true that a new space means a “new vehicle trip,” agreed Wilson. “That’s why we prefer to manage existing use and to use peripheral lots.” At the same time, he said, better management of the on-street spaces reduces the congestion per space. As for multi-modal options, he said it is important to determine to what extent Laguna can switch people to biking, walking and using transit, and consider that in any planning decisions.
Whatever parking revisions the city finally signs off on, the consultants highlighted the importance of consumer education, through signage and potentially through technology, such as apps. Most important, there should be signage at the entry points to town letting people know where parking is available, particularly remote lots, before they hit the center of town. Lots might also have signs posting real time availability. And any event fliers should include information on parking options, the consultants said.