Plan for parking meters in Pacific Beach gets initial OK from San Diego City Council

San Diego City Council tentatively approved plan for parking meters in Pacific Beach's Garnet Avenue business district.
San Diego City Council tentatively approved a one-year pilot program to put parking meters in Pacific Beach’s Garnet Avenue business district.
(Milan Kovacevic)

The Garnet Avenue business district in Pacific Beach may soon have parking meters as part of a one-year pilot program.

The San Diego City Council voted unanimously July 20 in favor of the creation of the Pacific Beach Community Parking District, which will work with the city and parking experts on the type of meters used, hours of operation and the rates that should be charged for each spot.

The City Council takes a second vote on the issue Aug. 3. If passed again, the parking meter program is expected to take effect within 30 days.

“This project is marking an important milestone for Pacific Beach,” said City Council President Jennifer Campbell, who represents Pacific Beach, at the meeting. “Community leaders and local
businesses have advocated for parking meters to help with parking turnover and provide parking improvement to the business areas.”

Pacific Beach’s Parking Advisory Board will oversee the pilot program. During that year, the community parking district will monitor the funds that will be raised, how traffic trends are influenced, and maintain community feedback through an ongoing survey.

Regina Sinsky-Crosby, chair of the Parking Advisory Board, said the program would keep funds localized to the beach community.

“This pilot has full support from PB community groups and the businesses,” Sinsky-Crosby said. “If PB doesn’t do this under the community parking district, the city could put in paid parking any
time, anywhere, and we wouldn’t get any of that money.”

The Parking Advisory Board has delegates from PB Planning Group, PB Town Council, the business improvement nonprofit Discover PB, beautifulPB, and four at-large neighborhood representatives.

The San Diego City Council to take final vote Aug. 3 on plan for parking meters in the Garnet Avenue business district.
The San Diego City Council will take a final vote Aug. 3 on a plan for a one-year-pilot program for parking meters in the Garnet Avenue business district.
(Milan Kovacevic)

Streets proposed for meters are: Garnet for about six blocks from Mission Boulevard to Fanuel Street; Cass Street between Grand Avenue and Emerald Street; and Hornblend Street between Mission Boulevard and Bayard Street.

One of the goals of the pilot program is to mitigate congestion, especially in places where business traffic is the heaviest, proponents said. Lsyundra “Sunny” Lee, executive director of DiscoverPB, which will cover the cost of insurance and office space for the community parking district, said that by having strategically placed metered parking, local businesses would see better customer turnover.

“The parking meters will be in the most dense business areas and help generate turnover in prime parking spots,” Lee said. “You’ll have customers that can get closer to the business. It creates more opportunity for our businesses to have more customers each and every day.”

As part of the budget and plan for the 2022 fiscal year presented to the City Council’s Active Transportation and Infrastructure committee, meter revenues would be used to provide residents and visitors with “new mobility options” to travel around PB. One possibility the advisory board is considering is a shuttle to reach the Balboa trolley station, which will be completed this fall.

The light rail station will connect Pacific Beach to the MTS trolley system that runs to Tijuana. The shuttle system is a concept intended to offer transit passengers a direct line to and from the trolley station and the beachfront business center.

SANDAG and the city are working together to provide start-up funding for the shuttle program to provide transportation to Mid-Coast Trolley users and others into and around Pacific Beach.

“This is an opportunity to work closely with SANDAG, especially the managers of these projects,” Sinsky-Crosby said of the shuttle project. “This is an opportunity to work with the city to ensure that when the trolley comes in, people are able to get to and from the beach community, commercial districts and parks safely while mitigating traffic.”

Long before the idea of the one-year pilot, opposition from residents stymied other proposals for metered parking in the area. Resident Warren Barnett recalls the last time the concept was presented to the District 2 representative.

“This happened about five years ago. What happened was they tried to slam it through, and the word got out on Facebook,” Barnett said. “Everybody from the community bombarded the previous council representative’s office with emails opposing this.”

Gordon Froelich, who lives two blocks from Garnet and is one of the four representatives at large on the Parking Advisory Committee, has positioned himself as an opponent of the current parking pilot.

“The last time this board was having [non-virtual] community meetings was in 2017,” Froelich said. “They decided to do a survey after so many people showed up in opposition.”

This 2017 survey, which predates the pilot program, asked participants how likely it was that they would support a variety of hypothetical parking and traffic programs, including a permit program and valet parking. The survey collected 830 responses on paid parking meters in portions of the business district.

Of that total, 483 of the respondents said they were unlikely or extremely unlikely to support it, 300 respondents said they were likely or extremely likely to support it, and 47 said they were neutral or had no opinion. Pacific Beach is a community of over 40,000 people.

A common criticism by some residents is that parking meters could push parking further into the residential areas surrounding the business district, where parking is free.

Advisory board members said they plan to collect data in a new survey, specific to the parking pilot, that will gather community feedback before, during and after the program’s implementation.

Jane Nobbs, PB Town Council representative on the advisory board, said the survey will help them assess any potential challenges that arise from the program.

“There will be data generated by the parking meters that will be very helpful in assessing the parking situation,” Nobbs said. “If there are problems for the residential areas, there are plans to step in to try to relieve that. However, it is unlikely that people will park that far from the businesses if there is parking available so close.”

Pacific Beach is a growing community that must address the thousands of visitors that come each weekend, Sinsky-Crosby said.

“I understand that kind of hesitancy, but at the same time we are an urban beach community in the sixth largest city in the U.S.,” she said. “We need to start acting like it. We’re not a small town.

“SANDAG has designated PB as a transit-priority area,” she added. “That should tell you all you need to know about how many people are coming here as opposed to other areas. [With the trolley station] this is a priority now in a way that it wasn’t in the past.”

Other programs that could be indirectly helped with the funds raised by the parking meters include trash collection and sidewalk cleanup in the business district, according to the pilot. City Council policy dictates that the community parking district cannot use their funds for anything except addressing parking and mobility issues, meaning that cleanup is not something they can fund directly.

Because DiscoverPB covers the cost of insurance and rent for the parking district, funds raised by parking meters could help offset the nonprofit organization’s costs, leaving more room in their
budget for beautification projects, Lee said.

“Now that we’re sharing that time and the operational costs with the parking district, any time spent or material spent on parking will come from the parking district funds,” she said.

“That may alleviate some funding for DiscoverPB, depending on how much time and materials are spent. It’s going to be a one-year pilot and there’s going to be a lot of unknowns in this first year, but if it does alleviate funding, that money can be used for additional cleaning or other projects the community needs.”

Sinsky-Crosby stressed that the first year is exclusively a pilot program, and that if it proves more trouble than it’s worth, it may be undone.

“This isn’t indefinite,” she said. “If it proves to be unsuccessful, then it’s gone. The city has taken a large percentage off the top to install paid parking, because at the end of the year they would have to remove it if it doesn’t work.

“We have one shot at doing something that is profoundly helpful in improving parking and mobility. We have to try. We can still be PB, we can still hold onto what makes this a good place
to work and play, but do it with resilience and growth in mind.”

If the pilot program receives final approval Aug. 3, the Parking Advisory Board plans to release their survey to collect community feedback throughout the year.