Pedestrian mall can work for Downtown

Don Knapp

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.