Letter: Parking Problem Not Well-Defined


The City Council is tentatively scheduled to review and adopt the Parking and Transportation Demand Management Report at its June 13 meeting. This report contains rewritten recommendations and funding strategies that differ from what was presented and discussed at the May 10 public workshop on the issue.

While parking is clearly a hot topic in Laguna, there is a very real question of perceived need versus reality.

Recall that the City’s recently adopted Downtown Specific Plan says: “Despite the large number of parking spaces in the downtown, there is a perception that parking is deficient.” However, “The study results show that the existing parking supply of public and private parking spaces exceeds the actual parking demand throughout the downtown.

A stroll around downtown Laguna this recent holiday weekend offered a perspective on the gap between perceived need and reality. While it was a grey day, there was plenty of car and foot traffic. But at Sunday midday – in the middle of the busy three-day Memorial Day weekend – the start of summer in Laguna – walking around revealed many available parking spaces downtown on the street, in public lots, and underutilized private lots.

What exactly are we trying to accomplish? The Report focuses largely on adding supply but never specifies how many parking spaces are needed. Where are the data? How can we solve a problem if the problem is not well-defined? Are we solving a problem that we don’t really have? If the idea is to reduce visitor and employee parking impact on the neighborhoods, is there any assurance that adding capacity will reduce parking in neighborhoods? Why should the City divert scarce resources or increase residents’ taxes to add supply if there are plenty of downtown parking spaces available on most days, even on a busy holiday weekend?

The parts of the Report that address making better use of what we already have largely make sense. But adding capacity just because some may have the perception that we need more offers little benefit relative to the cost. To improve our parking situation, let’s focus on the low-hanging fruit, such as: canceling some of the 300 special permits that take spaces out of the pool of those available to the public; urging employers to incentivize employees to carpool; reducing grandfathering concessions; improving pricing strategies; and finding ways to reduce demand instead of increasing supply.

John Thomas, Laguna Beach

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