Letter: Solution – Do Nothing About Parking

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Here’s what may be a radical solution to Laguna’s downtown parking problem: do nothing.

Rather than spend tens of millions of dollars on parking lots and structures, why not spend that money on other much-needed city-wide, resident-serving projects, such as improvements to St. Catherine’s?

One City Council member who’s all in on residents spending at least $30M (City’s own calculations) for the Presbyterian parking structure has doggedly declared that more parking will not bring in more traffic. But studies in the science of induced demand show exactly the opposite – that if you build it, they will indeed come.

Why must residents supply parking to anyone and everyone who comes to Laguna? Current research shows that the Coastal Commission has not mandated any replacement for the roughly 70 parking spaces lost to the promenade and parklets. (This is still being looked into and subject to verification.)

And a $79,000 IBI Group parking study the City commissioned stated that except for 5% of the time during the heavily traveled tourist season, Laguna already has sufficient parking. The study also shows that parking is never at 100 percent capacity.

 The question is: how many more visitors do we want to come? We already have 6.5M per year.

How much more is enough? Would someone on the City Council please tell us the magic number? Or is the sky the limit? If that’s the case, we’ll never be able to spend our way out of meeting that goal. A town has got to know its limitations. And its priorities.

While we may have occasions where the lack of downtown parking is a problem, that problem may be part of the solution. Locals might have to live with limited parking for a few months every year, but limited parking may serve as residents’ cost-free curb to overtourism; if we don’t build it, far fewer are apt to come.

If we are to do anything, it may be best to create mobility solutions such as trollies that bring visitors in from just outside of town without adding downtown parking structures that further congest the area.

Just as to a hammer, every problem looks like a nail, and so too to every parking and traffic planner; the solution looks like a parking lot or structure. 

Whether these ideas are applicable or not, let’s consider all of our options before shelling out millions for solutions that may only be looking for problems.

Jerome Pudwill, Laguna Beach

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