Few residents say they want more traffic and congestion, but the Downtown Specific Plan Update, which is nearing approval by the Planning Commission, may lead to that. And after asking downtown merchants, the part of the plan that could lead to that doesn’t seem to be designed to help businesses either.
A key element of the plan is to reduce the amount of parking required to be provided by businesses from the current standard of four or 10 spaces per 1,000 square feet of building—depending on how much traffic the business creates—to a one-size-fits-all scheme of three spaces per 1,000 square feet. Since the parking required of high traffic businesses would become the same as parking required by low traffic businesses, and since high traffic businesses pay more rent, the likely result will be an increase in businesses that generate more traffic. This change also means that buildings in the downtown could be substantially increased in size without building owners being required to add parking. With more or larger businesses and no additional parking, there may be more people trying to park in the same number of spaces.
To see if merchants think this will help them, two residents surveyed 20 downtown businesses. 75 percent felt adding stores, bars and restaurants to the downtown without adding more parking would hurt their businesses.
So, the residents may see traffic and congestion grow as businesses that generate lower levels of traffic are replaced by businesses that generate higher levels of traffic, and the existing businesses may suffer as their customers have a harder time competing for a parking place since more people will be looking.
While retail shop owners are saying they are struggling, this element of the plan seems more focused on helping building owners fill vacancies than it is on helping the existing merchants.
All-in-all, blended parking is not a good idea for residents and will simply make the current retail business condition worse until the pressure builds for another confrontation about the need for the city to build a new parking structure. If this change is not good for residents, and if 15 of 20 businesses surveyed said it would be bad for their businesses, why is it in the plan?
John Thomas, Laguna BeachView Our User Comment Policy