Parking in Laguna Beach will get pricier — and maybe a little easier — as a result of increased citywide parking rates the City Council unanimously approved Tuesday.
In an effort to improve parking capacities and relieve congestion in the downtown area, the city adopted a comprehensive parking management plan in 2013 that was rolled out over the past five years, including improvements in parking technology, signage, public outreach and marketing, walkability and developing a comprehensive trolley system as an alternate method of transportation. But parking congestion remains at similar levels, a city staff report said.
At peak occupancy between 11 a.m. and 7 p.m., parking areas downtown and along Laguna Canyon Road were at 100% capacity in summer 2013. In 2019, peak occupancy dropped only to 97%, the city said.
Current rates for parking in the summer are $4.50 per hour in the downtown area and $1.50 an hour outside of downtown. In the offseason, the average rate for parking citywide is $1.75 per hour, according to staff.
Laguna Beach offers 3,016 parking spaces, with about 70% of them in the downtown area. During the summer, the city leases four peripheral parking lots that provide an additional 400 spaces.
City staff recommended an immediate $1-per-hour increase for all parking meters and lots in the non-summer months, with no increase for the following two years, then increases of up to 25% annually, though not to exceed 50% over a rolling three-year period.
For the summer, staff recommended an immediate 25% increase for all downtown meters and lots, with a maximum 25% increase annually, not to exceed 50% in a rolling three-year period. Non-downtown meters and lots would remain at the non-summer rate.
The council approved those recommendations, in which parking rates could go as high as $5.60 an hour in Laguna Beach during summer 2020.
Councilwoman Toni Iseman requested that rates for parking at the Treasure Island garage and surface lots be raised to $4 an hour year-round and that the Act V parking lot retain its current flat-rate pricing of $10 on weekends and $7 on weekdays for the summer.
Mayor Pro Tem Steve Dicterow added that staff should be sensitive to possible spillover parking in neighborhoods adjacent to Coast Highway and develop mitigation efforts.
Staff projected the fee increases could lower parking occupancy and net $3 million in revenue.
The revenue is expected to be put toward continued funding of the trolley system, acquisition and construction of parking facilities and programs, providing peripheral parking lots and marketing to encourage use of alternative transportation within the city, staff said. It also may be allocated toward the city’s wildfire mitigation and fire safety efforts and to renovation of downtown streets to be presented as part of the Downtown Action Plan later this year.
“The fact that we are raising rates for people who choose to pay as opposed to choose to access our city for free is a good thing because it allows us then to do some of the improvements ... including the free trolleys, including additional parking along the way and including the downtown renovation stuff that we’re going to see,” Mayor Bob Whalen said.
The approved rate structure will go to the Planning Commission for issuance of a coastal development permit, slated for Dec. 4.