Randy Putland has lived in Imperial Beach for 30 years and is happy with waterfront parking. Changing the city’s approach now is “putting the cart before the horse,” he said.
That was the majority opinion of more than 50 people gathered Wednesday at City Hall to offer their views on permit parking for residents and possibly installing parking meters in the future on streets near the beach.
“In a small community like us, I mean you’re talking about putting 20 minutes and two hours [parking restrictions] down there,” Putland said. “I mean we don’t have the businesses yet.”
Imperial Beach isn’t busy like Pacific Beach or Coronado. Not yet, he said.
“People who go to La Jolla and those areas and there’s two-hour parking, I mean there’s clothing stores, there’s shoe shops, there’s a lot of commerce and unfortunately we don’t have that yet,” Putland said. “You guys are striving for that, cause you need the resources. I understand that. But we are many, many, many years from doing something like this.”
Disapproval of the idea was near unanimous. Others disagreed with some parts, but thought some kind of reform may be necessary.
A second forum to gather public opinion will be held 8:30-11:30 a.m Saturday at City Hall.
No decisions have been made, said Public Safety Department Management Analyst Dean Roberts, leading an effort by the city to consider permit or meter parking.
After exploratory meetings with business groups and residents, comments will be shared with the City Council who will decide where to go from there or whether to take any action.
The idea of increasing revenue through parking first emerged at a workshop meeting with City Council and city staff in March.
The current plan would break down beach parking into three categories: commercial, beach and residential parking.
Commercial: Seacoast Drive and street ends would have a mix of 20 minute, one- and two-hour parking limits.
Beach: South of Imperial Beach Boulevard on Seacoast Drive parking would be restricted to four hours to try and send more beachgoers further south.
Residential: Streets from Seacoast Drive east to 3rd Street, and possibly up to 5th Street would be limited to permit parking only.
See a map of proposed changes attached to this story for more information.
Residents would not be charged for permits, Roberts said, but residents would be charged a processing fee, a cost that has not been determined yet. The goal is to encourage more people to use often-vacant parking lots on or near the beach.
Depending on how parking restrictions on the waterfront are received, parking meters may be installed, Roberts told IB Patch last week.
New rules are being considered not to make money, Roberts said, but to increase parking turnover for area businesses and pay someone to enforce parking restrictions, which community service officers with the Sheriff’s Department now have little time for.
The cash-strapped City of IB currently cannot afford to hire more people for traffic enforcement, he said.
Restrictions will become more important as the new Pier South hotel and changes to commercial zoning draw more traffic to the beach, said Public Safety Department Director Tom Clark.
Bill Whitacre lives on Seacoast Drive south of Imperial Beach Boulevard. His condo has two parking spaces but his family has four cars and he’s concerned with where they could park under proposed changes.
Permits may be made available for South Seacoast residents, Roberts said.
“You’re talking about pushing beach access to South Seacoast, but there’s no restrooms down there. We have people urinating on the wall as it is,” Whitacre said.
Miriam Iosupovici said seniors and people with adult children who may need street parking need to be considered. She is concerned that permit parking may exclude South Bay fishers with little money to afford daily parking rates.
“We have a lot of people who use the pier who don’t have a lot of money,” she said. “They fish for food.”
More analysis should have been done before this was even presented to local residents, Iosupovici said.
“I’m appalled that this came out without a cost-benefits analysis for different plans. I think that makes this very difficult for us to evaluate,” she said.
The cost of permits, installation of parking meters, an increase in enforcement and other expenses have not yet been considered, Roberts said.
The city should stick with what it has now, Iosupovici said, “perhaps with some tweaking.”
“I have this feeling that you’re kind of waiting for people to get tired of it and then the city will do whatever it damn wants,” she said.
Speaking as a private citizen, Councilman Jim King said he thinks some restrictions can be made for businesses on Seacoast Drive but not elsewhere.
King narrowly lost a re-election bid Nov. 6 and will no longer be a councilman after Bobby Patton is sworn into office Dec. 5.
“This is kind of like one of those deals that you tell a story to somebody, they tell it to somebody else and they tell it to somebody else,” King said. “Pretty soon the story is so distorted and so huge and so fantastical that nobody knows what the hell the story was in the first place.
“As I recall what precipitated this whole thing was a question about access for businesses on Seacoast, and suddenly the net has expanded,” said King, who has decades of experience in city planning in San Diego.
The net expands when city staff is given a vague goal: comprehensive approaches are considered before going back to City Council for direction.
King agreed with Putland that further restrictions may be necessary once more businesses come to the area. Maybe some changes should be made in time restrictions in the commercial area, but other beach cities with more traffic than IB seem to get by without permits, he said. To go any further with these plans would be a huge waste of staff time and city money, he said.
“Down the road from now there will probably be a need if we get a lot more businesses, but we have physical restraints in our commercial areas,” King said. “We don’t have enough lots to warrant this kind of move and a lot of this takes away from the residents of this community, and I think that’s wrongheaded.”
Gary Klopp lives a block from the beach and moved to Imperial Beach after retiring from the military. Parking meters may not be the answer, but he says he wants to see some kind of change take place.
Many of the people he heard comment Wednesday live further from the beach than he does and don’t want to inherit the problem he regularly faces now.
Fishers will park for more than four hours, bring their own food and don’t spend a lot of time shopping. Meanwhile most of the time there’s nowhere for him or his friends to park near his home and lots where you can park all day for $2 go empty.
He doesn’t want to see beach access become exclusive, but as a homeowner and taxpayer he would like to see permit parking or some sort of change that will allow him to park on the street near his house.
Klopp finished his comment by emphasizing that the city needs more money, and this may be one way.
“We need to bring money and revenue into this city,” he said. “The Port Authority does a lot for us. If they shift that money to National City or Chula Vista and they’re fighting for the money, what happens then?”
Lifelong resident and owner of Pacific Realty on 3rd Street and Palm Avenue Gary Trieschman believes the concerns of residents near the beach like Klopp should be taken seriously, but there are other issues to consider.
Trieschman was the only professed business owner to speak at the public forum. The city spoke with business groups before this week’s public forums for residents.
“I feel we don’t have a parking problem now,” he said.
If there have been any parking issues lately, it comes from recent street improvements. That may be good for ADA [disabled] compliance and public safety, but it led to fewer parking spaces.
“We kind of created our own monster,” Trieschman said.
Permits may create another problem.
Like Randy Putland, Trieschman said he is concerned that residential permits from Seacoast Drive to Third Street will just move any parking issues from Seacoast Drive into neighborhoods beyond permit areas.
Trieschman and Councilman King would like to see closure times at street ends changed so older people like himself can park there in early mornings and enjoy the beach.
Kim Miller is disabled and worried about her ability to park and go see her grandchildren if permit parking is implemented in residential areas near the beach.
Michel Dedina shares Miller's concerns about handicap parking, but for different reasons.
"Does the system lose if handicapped folks like myself park without paying for as long as they like for as long as they need. Have you figured that out?" he asked.
"How much will it impact local businesses if people have to pay to park? Will there be fee increases as the city's financial situation becomes more dire? I can't answer that one but I imagine there will be," Dedina said.
Residents who are unable to comment at the meeting Saturday are encouraged to send an email to email@example.com or mail a letter to 825 Imperial Beach Blvd.
What do you think about the idea of permit parking or installing meters near the beach? What do you think about comments made at the meeting Wednesday? Share in comments.