Council Votes To Turn Off Parking Meters

LA MESA -- Endeavoring to share the pain of Village merchants living through the streetscape construction zone, the City Council voted 3-2 Tuesday to offer two free hours of parking to shoppers.
The change won't begin until at least mid-October and will only last 60 days at first so the council can gauge whether the meter vacation is judged useful by merchants who must also demonstrate support for the effort if it is to continue.
The decision ran counter to the advice the city's Parking Commission gave the council members. Speaking for the commission, Jim Wieboldt (in photo above) said the commissioners judged the free parking will result in motorists tying up spaces for long periods and making it more difficult to find spaces in a time when many spots are being blocked by the construction zone.
"None of the merchants have asked us for this,'' Wieboldt said. "None of the shoppers either.''
Mayor Art Madrid and Council member Ruth Sterling agreed with their parking commissioners and opposed the shift.

Three residents addressed the council on the issue with two supporting the parking meter moratorium and one saying the shift would cost the city money and will confuse motorists.
Council members Kristine Alessio, Mark Arapostathis and Ernie Ewin supported the change, though both Ewin and Arapostathis said merchants would have to come forward during the first 60 days to demonstrate their support and to partner with the council in developing ways to promote commerce in the city during this challenging time.
Construction crews for much of the next year will be moving down La Mesa Boulevard in phases, replace sidewalks and curbs, adding new landscaping and lighting as well as other amenities. The $5-million project is being paid for with a mixture of grants and other city money, including more than $1.5 million in parking meter funds that the city had amassed.
That was part of the reason why neither Sterling nor Madrid wanted to turn the meters off.
"We need that money to maintain the beautiful things this project is going to bring to the street,'' Sterling said. The funds are also used to pay the employees who enforce the parking rules, Madrid pointed out.

Arapostathis said he has heard how much the merchants are suffering as customers stay away from the challenging terrain they need to cross to get into some stores these days. 

"There has to be some gesture of good will that needs to be done here,'' he said.

Turning off the meters throughout the downtown Village for the next year could cost the city nearly $500,000 in parking revenue, though Alessio pointed out that declining sales will cost the city in sales tax if business dies out.

The city staff will now be scrambling to figure out how to bag the meters and arrange for signage for the new parking rules that would take effect as soon as mid-October.

In other council action, the council members voted to select James Newland, a local resident with a long record of service with the La Mesa Historical Society, to fill a vacant seat on the city's Planning Commission. The Planning Commission assignment can be a stepping stone to elected office in La Mesa and this opening drew interest from a strong cast of residents.

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Tags: City Council, Government, La Mesa Today, La Mesa newspaper, Parking Commission, Streetscape project

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Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on September 11, 2014 at 10:31am

Hi Barry,  a clarification: the free parking is not unlimited.  Two hour time limits will be enforced, but you won't have to pay for it.  The parking enforcement officer will be checking to make sure people are not staying all day.  This means that while traffic management is enforced, shoppers have a real incentive to visit the Village.  That's a win-win for everyone! 

Comment by Kevin G George on September 11, 2014 at 9:45am

Thanks Chris for backing up my contention that the parking structure is no closer to being built than it was in 2011, all the ifs and maybes that are present in that article still exist, yet this nebulous future project is used as an excuse to not solve a current and real problem. 

The point of my original comment which has been lost was that I agree that there are good arguments against this proposal, but saving money for a an uncertain project is not one of them.

And thanks for the suggestion Gene. We own a business and live in downtown La Mesa. I can say in all honesty that I can go weeks at a time never leaving the City limits. 95% of my shopping is done within a one mile radius of City Hall. We walk to the restaurants and bars of Downtown, so I think we're doing our part, thanks.

Comment by barry tarvin on September 11, 2014 at 9:23am

FWIW, I commend the appointment of Jim Newland to the planning commission. I can't imagine anyone knowing more about the effects of good and poor community planning.

Comment by barry tarvin on September 11, 2014 at 9:20am

The first time I saw this proposal, I thought it was counterproductive. From this article, it seems that I am aligned with Jim, Art and Ruth. Parking meters are used to raise money, but from all the arguments I've seen at our city council meetings it had been argued frequently that they also served to keep one car from plugging up a a parking space. For those who believe that "no fees" is the way to go, how is that going to help our Village Merchants? It is very difficult to find an open spot now, and with no real reason to force parkers to leave within two hours, I see no reason parking circulation will get better. If they must go the free parking route, why not give a free 30 minutes, and use a "meter person" to enforce the 30 minutes?

Comment by Kristine Christensen Alessio on September 11, 2014 at 7:22am

Agreed Gene.  I've always shopped in the Village, I am down there everyday!  Instead of a Starbucks, buy a book, some earrings, a pretty serving dish, some incense, an antique, a card, some clothes, something unique and wonderful from Hand Full of Wildflowers.  Have jewelry or a clock that needs repair?  Go to Blumenthals, Golden Artistry, Time and Treasures.  Then dine at any of our wonderful restaurants or grab a glass of wine at San Pasqual.

Comment by Gene Carpenter on September 10, 2014 at 7:20pm
How about some of the folks that are constantly complaining about everything and anything stepping away from their Computer Keyboards for a few minutes and going downtown and buy something from these struggling Merchants, AKA put your money where your mouth is! Then you come back feeling you've contributed to the solution.
Comment by La Mesa Today on September 10, 2014 at 6:39pm

Kevin, Kristin,

You can CLICK HERE to see an earlier story on the parking garage issues. Just another service brought to you by La Mesa Today, your best local source for news.

The Editor

Comment by Susan Taylor on September 10, 2014 at 4:09pm

I'll bring some brown paper bags and do it for free.  If this isn't implemented before mid October at the earliest that will mean it took 3 months to do this thing - a ridiculous delay for a simple benefit for the city and it's folks.

Comment by Kevin G George on September 10, 2014 at 3:31pm

Yes Kristin, that was a portion of the bandying I mentioned. It was also talked about being in many places including the old PD property for a while. 

I do not see the sense of holding money for a future possible project when we have a current real  problem.

Comment by Kristin Kjaero on September 10, 2014 at 2:40pm

Kevin, there is a conceptual plan for a parking garage on land owned by the city that was funded by a SANDAG grant, for the NW corner of 3rd and Lemon Ave (currently a metered lot and thrift store). The City would have the plan if you asked, and I saw it several years ago on the SANDAG website.

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