Paid parking proposal in Pacific Beach commercial district faces opposition
A proposed pilot program for Pacific Beach’s Garnet Avenue commercial district that would include metered parking has yet to go to the City Council for a vote. But a growing chorus of residents who oppose the program have taken issue with the way it was presented to the public, even going so far as to say that those who oppose it are being silenced.
The one-year paid parking program 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.
Regina Sinsky-Crosby, chair of the Parking Advisory Board, said the pilot proposal and the budget have been sent to San Diego officials and the board is waiting to hear their suggestions before the City Council vote. The proposed budget includes a “wish list” of things that Pacific Beach needs, she said.
“When we look at what we’re going to spend parking funds on, what is screaming for attention in Pacific Beach? And for us, that’s pedestrian infrastructure, specifically along the more dangerous routes, which happens to be our commercial corridors,” Sinsky-Crosby said.
“You look at the data annually for pedestrian collisions and Garnet — it’s just where the people are. So we really look forward to hearing back from the city. They’re going to say, ‘Here are our suggested changes to the pilot.’ We don’t know what those will look like yet.”
Items on the wish list include a circular shuttle, pedestrian and cyclist safety projects and 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.
Sinsky-Crosby said that because the Parking Advisory Board is made up of people from beautifulPB, the Pacific Beach Planning Group, DiscoverPB and the PB Town Council, the voices of many are being represented.
But some residents disagree.
Gordon Froehlich lives in the impact area of Pacific Beach and is a member of the Parking Advisory Board. He said he is opposed to the program for a few reasons, but his main concern is that the voices of many residents are not being heard.
“One of my biggest objections is the people of Pacific Beach don’t want parking meters,” Froehlich said during a phone interview. “We had a survey back in 2017 — 36 percent of the people that answered that survey said nope, they do not want parking meters in Pacific Beach.”
Froehlich also said that paid parking would have a detrimental impact on residents in adjacent neighborhoods.
“My second thing is about the impact on the neighborhood where I live. And not so much even on my street. I have my own off-street parking,” he said. “But the people down the street from me, they’re going to really be suffering because there will be people in their neighborhood all the time parking in their spot trying to avoid the parking meters.”
Resident Tom Page also opposes the idea of parking meters and paid parking.
“This issue has been raised numerous times in the 30 years that I’ve lived there, and each time it’s been shot down basically by public opinion, neighbors realizing that the overflow traffic in the affected areas within three to four blocks of Garnet” ... will affect them adversely, he said.
The virtual meetings put on by the Parking Advisory Board leave little room for dissenting voices, according to Page.
“I’ve sat in on some of the meetings on Zoom and you can definitely tell there’s an agenda and it’s about money,” he said. “And whoever holds the gavel controls the meeting and it’s, in my opinion, a very one-sided point of view that they put out — and when a dissenting voice comes, you basically get two minutes to speak your piece and that’s it, in a two-hour meeting.”
Pascale Hayem echoed Page’s comments.
“What is happening today is, I joined a few of those Zoom meetings and it’s really difficult to express yourself if you’re not in favor of parking meters. Any time I try, I am cut off very quickly,” she said.
“I feel like it’s a little bit forced down our throats in a time of COVID where nobody can really discuss it,” Hayem added. “And they tried to pass this in a hurry. I know we’ve been talking about this for a long time, that there were so many people against, that it has been put to the back burner. And all of a sudden, it’s coming back and it’s passed and everybody voted for it. Well, I didn’t, for sure.”
The fact that the program is a one-year pilot program doesn’t seem to sway many opinions.
“They say, if it doesn’t work, they’re going to take it down in a year,” Page said. “They’re gonna get money. Some money is better than nothing, right? So I guarantee you, I’d put my mortgage on it, that once this ‘pilot program’ gets in place, kind of like the camel’s nose under the tent, it ain’t coming back. It’s not coming out.”
Froehlich agreed that although proponents claim the program is a temporary program, he feels there aren’t going to be plans to remove it if it isn’t successful.
“Who decides whether it’s successful? They do,” he said. “I think they’re already planning on it being successful. They’re talking about a two-year program for a shuttle. Well, that’s more than one year. So they’re planning on this not being temporary.”
Sinsky-Crosby disagreed with the claim that the majority of residents oppose the program. Several community groups have voted to support it, she said.
“The thing is, we can’t be afraid to try new things in Pacific Beach,” she said. “Our city government is in a budget crisis. We want nice things in Pacific Beach. We want to have a safe community. We want to have beautiful mobility options and infrastructure. We’re not going to get that unless we start saying, here is the money.
“And the thing is, we’ll never know if we don’t try. This is a year pilot. If it doesn’t work, it’s gone. So I know that there are people who don’t like it and I definitely hear their concerns, especially about free parking people looking into the neighborhoods, but we don’t know what that’s going to look like until we try.”
Froehlich, for one, wants the board to hear from more of the people who will be impacted by the program.
“I was the only person on this advisory board that does actually live in the area that’s going to be affected,” he said. “I would think that if you’re going to have a committee, you’d have more people that are actually living in that area that can get their opinion out and have some influence about what happens where they live.”
Sinsky-Crosby said they are always looking for voices from the community. She advised concerned residents to get involved.
“I would say this: we have open meetings, we have an email comment form on our website. We are constantly hoping for feedback,” she said. “We would love people to attend our meetings. ... This is PB’s money. This is money raised in PB and money that’s going to be spent in PB. So we really would love to have everybody’s opinions.”