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By Mayor Debra Lewis
Parking in Dana Point is a contentious, difficult topic. Nevertheless, the issue must be addressed now, during development and redevelopment of Town Center/Lantern Village, Doheny Village and the Harbor, not after completion.
The 2008 Town Center Plan specified the use developer fees to acquire public parking facilities prior to development. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The proposed Doheny Village Plan calls for high density housing but also rejects public parking lots. Eventually, the plan says, neighborhood streets will be built. Park there.
Adding to the urgency of our problem:
- Dana Point is not Berkeley; mass transit alternatives don’t exist here
- The Department of Transportation forecasts more registered vehicles every year through 2050
- The number of registered vehicles has been exceeding Caltrans’ projections each year
- More adult children live at home meaning more cars per household
- To afford housing takes more roommates meaning more cars per household
- Both residents and visitors drive to destinations in Dana Point
- Most Dana Point residents work outside Dana Point and drive to work
- Dana Point lacks affordable housing, meaning, our local workers drive here to work.
Consider two diametrically opposed parking approaches. “Park and Stay” is a park once model. Shared public parking facilities—whether owned publicly or privately and leased—are coordinated with city-wide transportation options. Park the car at the shared public parking lot convenient to the Harbor, Lantern Village or Doheny Village and then walk or utilize the trolleys, bicycles, Uber/Lyft/taxi, pedicabs, car sharing and bike sharing to travel anywhere within the approximate three square miles between them. This approach reduces traffic, pollution and use of neighborhood street parking, all of which enhance our quality of life. Developer in-lieu fees and parking fees defray the costs.
The other approach, “Don’t Stay Too Long,” relies on management of existing parking. The city’s parking consultant’s report says: “[N]ormally parking reform accompanies a new vision, including lower (or eliminated) minimum parking requirements, more shared parking and parking management.” The report tells us to impose time limits, vary parking fees. This will improve efficiency through turnover of the most popular spaces. The problem is this virtually assures increased traffic from people driving around looking for spaces. Short parking times also force those looking for longer parking periods or cheaper alternatives into the closest residential neighborhood.
The report also suggests shared valet parking. But unless businesses have enough dedicated spaces, valet programs guarantee neighborhoods become the parking lots.
Another alternative? Expand the number of leased parking spaces and improve signage so people can find them. The problem is, currently leased spaces are not convenient. They are sprinkled here and there throughout the city. Available dates and times differ. Do we want to send drivers on a scavenger hunt for a parking space only to find they are too late or too early to use it?
Parking planning and development is a real necessity that is not going away anytime soon, even with the emerging development of autonomous vehicles. Now is the time to pick an approach and work toward its implementation. Doing nothing only perpetuates the problems and increases the costs.