Pay or Plague
Only a prolonged plague would solve Laguna’s persistent parking problems. A new garage near the downtown bowl certainly isn’t going to do it. Nope, that garage is intended to solve a specific problem associated with all the business owners, customers, and employees parking in adjacent residential areas.
The homeowners and their visitors never have a chance to park in front of their houses. The streets are always full of parked cars.
This garage will only get the custom of the business associates if we do one other thing—make it so you can’t park a car on the street in Laguna Beach without paying for the privilege.
The residents already pay. They buy a shopper’s permit. Otherwise, you feed the meter—unless you park in a meter-free residential area and walk a couple blocks to your destination. The beach perhaps?
That has got to stop. All the tourists that visit us, exercising their constitutional right to visit the coast, have got to start paying the cost of the impacts they create.
Our police department is at least twice as big as is usually found in a town our size. We’re #1 in DUI arrests. How much does each one of those cost us?
Then there’s the millions of pounds of trash we collect from our beaches and parks—not forgetting our lifeguard services, with countless rescues and first aids that the locals rarely need. It all costs us around $30 million a year.
One way to collect from these tourists is to use license plate-reading technology for collecting a visitor’s parking fee. No need for any more meters or meter readers. We can hire the TCA to run the whole thing.
Once a car enters Laguna Beach, and its license plate is read, it has 90 minutes to be read leaving town, or a parking fee is incurred. If you have a permit, you won’t be charged. There could be all sorts of permits available—for residents, visitors, employees, or others. If you don’t have a permit, it works just like the toll road. You’ll pay, one way or the other.
We’re not saying, “You can’t come.” Just, “Pay for your mess.” Don’t want to pay? Take the trolley.
Let’s divide the 6.8 million tourists we get by three per car. That gives us about 2.26 million cars parking in town a year. Collecting 15 bucks from half of those cars could bring in around $17 million of new money a year. All of it from tourists. What’s not to like?
J.J. Gasparotti moved to Laguna Beach with his family when he was 11 years old. He has loved it ever since.