Summer has come to Laguna.
If one has any doubt, the hordes of tourists and their too-many
autos is proof. Laguna’s No. 1 problem is traffic congestion and
parking to accommodate our visitors. We can’t do a lot as a city to
alleviate traffic congestion on the two main traffic arteries, Coast
Highway and Laguna Canyon Road. Both are state highways.
I have just returned from several weeks in Innsbruck, Austria. The
historic old city has a beautiful “old town” restricted to
pedestrians. Merchant deliveries are allowed from early morning to
about 10 a.m. Thereafter it is for pedestrians only. I sat under an
umbrella at sidewalk cafes on several occasions eating or drinking
and envisioning this for our Forest Avenue. Think of Forest Avenue as
a pedestrian mall from Coast Highway to 3rd Street -- bisected (by
necessity) by vehicular traffic on Beach and Glenneyre Street. What a
way to preserve our village personality. To accomplish this requires
addressing our parking problems first.
We have to get people out of their cars and walking. We need to
moved the City Yard to the Act V lot in the canyon. Then, instead of
a Village Entrance project that embraces cafes, retail stores, etc.,
we need a very large, multi-level parking structure built in to the
hill. It could be disguised by hanging plants, vines, trees and the
like (a structure that should not be obtrusive to the residents on
the hills above it). There could be a bridge across Laguna Canyon
Road to the Festival and Playhouse and maybe tennis courts on the top
level could complete this parking structure.
How many parking places are needed? How many places are removed
from Forest Avenue by the project and how many more places are
utilized in town on a normal Summer weekend or holiday.
Maybe 500 to 750 places are needed. They should be offered at a
very reasonable rate for all-day parking. Increase the parking meter
rates in the Downtown business zone to some high figure that rewards
people to park in the new structure. Provide free trams from the
parking structure to points around town (as we do now, and which are
being used heavily this summer).
Will it work? Look at the Act V lot in the canyon this past
weekend. It was full, and people love the trams. They are unique.
They are “Lagunan.”
How would it all be financed? Revenue bonds is the first answer
that comes to mind. We did it for our Main Beach Park, so why not for
this project to preserve the personality of “Village” Laguna? There
may be grants available and other means of financing as well.
It is sure nice to dream of a Laguna Downtown as I have depicted,
but unless a large parking structure can be built on the land now
occupied by the City Yard, forget the dream. Roger von Butow raised a
good question in his article last week about the questionable ability
of the subterranean ground to support any structure of size. A good
engineering study by the city is in order first to determine if it is
feasible to build any structure of size at our city entrance.
There is a song from the 1950s sung by the songstress Patti Page,
“I can dream, can’t I?” Dreamers had dreams of a Main Beach Park, and
that came true. James Dilley had dreams of Laguna Canyon remaining
wild. His dream came true. I guess that I’m just another dreamer.