Laguna Beach wants to end one of its most vexatious cultural norms: visitors and residents alike circling the block, hunting for an open parking place. In fact, city officials are inviting anyone with ideas on how to make better use of existing public parking in downtown and along Laguna Canyon to present their solutions in a community workshop on Wednesday, July 18.
The 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. meeting to gather public input at the Susi Q Senior-Community Center kicks off a year-long effort to draft recommendations to solve a seemingly intractable problem: making better use of finite spaces for cars in the town’s principal shopping district and near its three art festivals.
Parking and traffic along with a lack of affordable housing and preventative health care were the only four areas where Laguna Beach’s citizens rated their town below national norms in an opinion poll released last month.
Innovative ideas such as peak demand pricing for parking meters, tapping private lots for public use, bike sharing arrangements and pay-by-phone apps to avert expired meters are among the sorts of concepts and new technologies that will be evaluated as part of the study, according to the proposal terms.
The issue of how to better cope with Laguna’s continuing popularity during peak tourist season is a problem other cities wish for, the city’s principal planner Monica Tuchscher pointed out. “The reality is we don’t have transportation issues in non-peak season,” she said.
Residents, merchants, employees and visitors vie for the 2,000 existing public parking spaces in the downtown and canyon area, but as any local motorist knows parking demand varies dramatically with the season and weather conditions. The management plan is envisioned to contain components that are responsive to such fluctuations in demand, Tuchscher said.
The current evaluation excludes altogether the village entrance, which, in its last iteration in 2008, was to add 556 parking spaces to a five-level, $15.5 million structure near City Hall. Analysis showed the project to be a money loser except in summer. It’s been mothballed since.
The village entrance traffic study, though, and other previously accumulated parking data will serve as a foundation for the current analysis conducted by Irvine’s RBF Consulting over the next year, Tuschsher said. The consulting firm tapped two experts familiar with cities such as Portland, Ore., she said, known for progressive transportation policies that de-emphasize vehicular travel, including bike and skateboard paths.
The City’s website provides a link to additional information on the parking management master plan.