Opinion: Outside In

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The Best Things in Life are Free

By David Weinstein

I drive to Moulin for my morning latte. This time, however, instead of Newport Beach, I drive to the one in Laguna Beach. I circle the streets surrounding Forest Avenue looking for a parking space. There are several nearby, but they require that I parallel park. Unlike my Laguna friend Martha, who claims that parallel parking is her special superpower, it is not mine. Typically, when I’m done parallel parking my shoulder aches from all the back-and-forth maneuvering, and as I walk away the car looks more like it has been abandoned than parked. Worse, it is anything but parallel to the curb. So, this time I decide to walk the extra block and park near the digester building where I can head-in. I will spend $4 on parking to buy a $4 latte.

I consider this a fair trade on this particularly beautiful day because, for a moment, driving to Laguna above the sandy beach in Crystal Cove where the sea crashes into the cliffs, I feature myself Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief driving along the French Riviera. The spell is only broken when I look to my right and there is no Grace Kelly.

I order my coffee at Moulin and settle in to do some people-watching. I could have parked for free in Newport but I would have missed all this. Parking in Laguna, where demand regularly outstrips supply, is a complicated issue. Invariably, someone is disappointed, and often everyone. There are just too many competing interests, especially on a summer weekend. Residents argue that concrete parking structures encourage crowds and ruin the ambiance and charm of the City. Businesses demand convenient and reasonably priced parking for customers. Beachgoers holler that affordable access and the opportunity to enjoy the beach is a given right and not a privilege. Workers are forced to hunt for the few free spaces within walking distance to their jobs downtown or spend their hard-earned dollars to pay for close-in parking.

There are no simple solutions. Peak demand pricing, more parking structures, shuttle buses from outlying lots, trolleys, and bus service, they all have their proponents and opponents. It is a difficult balancing act for the city staff and politicians. I do not envy their job, though they seem to be trying their best.

So, for those of us who are not lucky enough to be able to walk or ride our bikes to downtown or the beach and must doggedly search out an acceptable parking spot, please remember, the best things in life are still free (the view from Heisler Park, a stroll along the boardwalk at Main Beach with your sweetheart at sunset), but sometimes you have to pay for parking.

David lives in Newport Beach and did not opt for the self-parking option on the new car he just bought and is wondering if they still sell curb finders.

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