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Laguna Beach plans to move forward with parking rate increases

The Laguna Beach City Council voted to approve raising the rates at metered parking spaces.
The Laguna Beach City Council voted to approve raising the rates at metered parking spaces as part of a five-year coastal development plan. It will raise rates at all locations except the meters on Cliff Drive at Heisler Park.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

The Laguna Beach City Council voted unanimously at its Nov. 17 meeting to approve a plan to raise the rates of public parking lots and metered parking spots over the course of the next five years.

Laguna Beach has not seen an increase to its public parking rates since 2014, but city staff said that the proposed rate hikes can help address issues with parking availability and provide revenue for services that benefit visitors.

“The additional revenue will help reimburse the city for the existing costs of serving visitors and provide funds for future parking spaces, parking programs and other visitor-related services,” Assistant City Manager Shohreh Dupuis wrote in an email. “The increased revenue, in normal times, would be expected to generate about $2.6 million a year.”

Dupuis added in a report to the council that the city would ideally like to have a public parking occupancy of 85% to reduce traffic congestion and impact to the adjacent neighborhoods.

A plan for public parking rate hikes was previously denied by the California Coastal Commission in July. Environmental justice was a primary concern because the rates were anticipated to disproportionately impact underserved communities.

The city has provided a free trolley service in the past, which allowed visitors to reach the beaches and downtown area from free or lower-cost peripheral parking lots. Due to the coronavirus pandemic, the trolley service has been suspended since March 20.

The five-year parking rate structure plan calls for an initial increase of $1 per hour for metered parking spots and $1 per day for flat-rate lots during non-summer months, outlined in the proposal as Labor Day to mid-June. The meters located on Cliff Drive in Heisler Park currently charging $2.50 per hour, will not be subject to a rate hike.

The Laguna Beach City Council voted to approve a plan to raise the rates at metered parking spaces.
The five-year parking rate structure plan calls for an initial increase of $1 per hour for metered parking spots and $1 per day for flat-rate lots during non-summer months.
(Don Leach / Staff Photographer)

Summer rate increases would not go into effect until 2022 and are subject to the operation of the trolley service, Dupuis said.

Between 2022 and 2025, the city could impose a maximum rate hike of 10% during the summer months.

The city has a tiered parking rate structure between the downtown business district, the festival zone and the coastal zone.

“In the coastal zone, the rates are the lowest and will continue to be the lowest of the three zones, and that’s with the purpose of enhancing coastal access,” Director of Community Development Marc Wiener said. “We also have 770 free spaces that enhance coastal access.”

Councilwoman Toni Iseman expressed concern that free parking in neighborhoods next to the coast could translate to a deficit of available parking.

“If you don’t have metered parking, if you don’t have a time to move, you end up with actually no rotation of these spaces, and it doesn’t do anything in terms of allowing additional people to utilize space,” she said.

Laguna Beach Mayor Bob Whalen said that the parking rate hikes would help provide funds that go toward services that provide a good experience for visitors, including for trash pickup, marine safety and beach patrol by law enforcement.

Whalen offered further support of the coastal development permit in saying, “You don’t find much free parking along the coast. I think we probably provide more than perhaps any other jurisdiction along the coast, given what we’ve done with our peripheral lots.”

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