Proposed paid parking program for commercial district gains momentum in Pacific Beach

Garnet Avenue between Ocean Boulevard and Fanuel Street would be included in a proposed paid parking program.
Garnet Avenue between Ocean Boulevard and Fanuel Street in Pacific Beach would be included in a proposed paid parking program.
(Milan Kovacevic)

A one-year paid-parking pilot program proposed for Pacific Beach’s Garnet Avenue commercial district is gaining traction.

The program, including metered parking, was proposed by the Pacific Beach Community Parking District to help relieve congestion on Garnet between Ocean Boulevard and Fanuel Street and on stretches of Cass and Bayard streets. The idea is to increase turnover of parking spots in popular areas and provide a stream of revenue that would stay in Pacific Beach to fund local projects.

If approved, the pilot program could start as soon as the spring.

But first, it needs to be approved by the San Diego City Council.

Discussions about parking meters on Garnet Avenue and illegal fires on the beaches highlighted the Pacific Beach Town Council’s September meeting.

The city has five designated community parking districts, or CPDs: Downtown, Mid-City, Old Town, Pacific Beach and Uptown. According to the city’s website, the CPD program was established “to help bring parking management solutions to the city’s neighborhoods most adversely impacted by parking.”

In Pacific Beach, the 12-member CPD advisory board includes members of the Pacific Beach Planning Group, Pacific Beach Town Council, Discover Pacific Beach and Beautiful PB, in addition to at-large representatives of each of the neighborhood’s quadrants.

According to the CPD, revenue from the parking program could reach $100,000 annually, depending on the amount charged. Pricing has not been set, but it would not exceed San Diego’s cap of $2.50 per hour.

A map shows a proposed paid parking program in Pacific Beach, taken from a Community Parking District presentation.
A map shows a proposed paid-parking pilot program in Pacific Beach, taken from a Pacific Beach Community Parking District presentation.

Revenue from the project could be used, for example, to fund a circular shuttle, aid pedestrian and cyclist safety and fund commercial district landscaping. The long-awaited Pacific Beach trolley station is scheduled to be completed in 2021, and proponents of the paid parking program have argued that the money could fund a shuttle between the station and the business district.

Joe Bettles, whose family owns Kono’s Cafe and Konito’s Cafe on Garnet Avenue, said he supports the program. Bettles also is a member of the Pacific Beach Community Parking District advisory board.

“If we have parking meters, we can afford to have an all-electric shuttle that allows people to move around PB without a car, and maybe most importantly, would allow PB residents to connect to the trolley that’s opening up in a year. Because as of right now, it’s on the other side of the freeway and I don’t see a lot of people walking there. There are going to be people who bike, but not everybody is up for biking under a freeway,” Bettles said.

Bettles believes the revenue from the program could elevate Pacific Beach to the level of other neighborhoods that already have implemented paid parking.

“Little Italy is obviously the shining example,” he said. “This community that’s under a flight path, that used to be parking lots and car rental centers and a couple of pizza places, is now this beautiful, vibrant place that everyone wants to be. That should have happened in Garnet. ... We are so ripe for that kind of development, and it just hasn’t happened.”

Regina Sinsky-Crosby, chairwoman of the parking advisory board, presented the plan at the Nov. 11 Pacific Beach Planning Group meeting.

“The parking pilot is exciting and full of potential. Change tends to make a lot of folks in PB nervous. That’s why we’re only proposing a year-long pilot,” Sinsky-Crosby said in an email. “If it doesn’t work at the end of a year, it’s gone. Pacific Beach is an urban beach community with a hundred thousand visitors every weekend. Contrary to popular belief, this is not a small town or suburb. PB has significant transportation and parking issues, and that’s before the trolley starts bringing even more people to our community. Business as usual or ‘back to normal’ are not acceptable approaches. It’s essential to try something new.”

Karl Rand, chairman of the Pacific Beach Planning Group, said some residents’ initial reaction to the proposal was negative, but the more the Planning Group worked to educate the public, the more support it received.

“A big part of our function was to be part of that education process,” Rand said. “Even if something has some community opposition, if we believe that it’s what’s really best for the community, the future of the community, then that’s the standard that we should follow.”

Erica Hansen (left) and Suzy Wilkinson eat under an umbrella outside Our Green Affair at Cass Street and Garnet Avenue.
Erica Hansen (left) and Suzy Wilkinson eat under an umbrella outside Our Green Affair at Cass Street and Garnet Avenue in June.
(Milan Kovacevic)

Kevin Vincent, who has lived on Felspar Street, a block from Garnet, for about five years, said he also is in favor of the pilot program.

“One, I think it will increase the turnover of spots in the business district and make parking easier. And the other main reason is it will allow the community to raise dedicated funds to improve our business district,” Vincent said. “That type of funding isn’t going to come from the city, so this is the main option that we have available to us.”

Vincent said he recognizes the concerns of some of his neighbors that paid parking on Garnet might cause people to try to park on the already-congested residential streets nearby.

“From what I’ve seen, people are already parking in the neighborhoods, and I don’t think it’s going to increase it all that much,” he said. “I don’t own those spots outside my house. ... They’re community property. So I’m OK with that.”

Sara Berns, executive director of Discover Pacific Beach, the area’s business improvement district, also supports the program.

“There have always been complaints about parking and traffic in the beach area, whether it’s perceived or real,” Berns said. “There’s this attitude that there’s no parking at the beach. We did a survey through the parking advisory board a few years ago, and there was an extraordinary amount of people who said they choose not to frequent a business and/or have friends that choose not to come into Pacific Beach because they perceive that there is a parking issue. ...

“We want people to feel like they’re going to come into Pacific Beach, find a parking spot in our business district, and that it’s a hassle-free shopping experience or dining experience. And there’s a lot of research that shows that you achieve that through a properly priced parking system.”

To those who still oppose the program, Bettles said he invites them to get more involved with the board to get a better understanding of the plan.

“We have open seats. You can attend our meetings,” he said. “The one thing that I request is that they come in the spirit of working together and for something, because I think that there’s room in this to accommodate all concerns. But if the goal is to just shut things down, that I don’t know how to work with.

“All I can say is it is a pilot program. ... We’re giving it a chance. And my sincere belief is that a lot of these fears are not going to come to fruition.”

As for what happens next, Sinsky-Crosby said the parking advisory board “continues to gather residential feedback as we approach a board vote on the pilot. If it passes, the pilot heads to the City Council for approval. If it passes the City Council, the [advisory board] will work with the city and parking experts on the type of meter used, hours of operation and how much parking will cost.”

The public can send comments about the proposed program to or use the form at