Parking Changes: Laguna Beach

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 Why Not In Laguna?

Our guest columnist suggests parking changes to make Laguna more pedestrian and bike friendly.- By G. White

Lately, I have been wondering: Why not provide more revenue-generating parking? How do we do this?  How do we do this? Convert the open space on the corner of Laguna Canyon Road and 3rd Street and build a multi-level parking structure for 400 to 600 cars. Landscape the area with trees, vines and shrubbery to cover the structure, which will also block the view to the city’s work yard. It could be developed as a joint venture between the city and a private developer, resulting in more parking revenue and less gridlock in town. The location would increase foot traffic at the northern aspect of the village for local businesses. Encouraging owners of local business parking lots to open them up during off-hours and insert parking meters or another form of revenue generation would further enhance parking.

Once the new parking configuration is in place, close off vehicle traffic on Forest Avenue between PCH and 2nd Street to Mermaid (62 parking places). Convert Forest Avenue to a pedestrian area, and allow the restaurants to offer al fresco dining, thus increasing the much-needed dining capacity for locals and tourists. Every Saturday morning, close off the north end of Ocean Avenue to cars and parking and set up the farmers market in the street—it would be great for the other retail shops in that area of the village. Opening up these spaces would encourage the community to gather outdoors in a relaxed atmosphere.

Along PCH—perhaps between Blue Bird Canyon and Myrtle—remove street parking and create bike lanes. The additional revenue from the 3rd Street structure and local businesses would more than make up for it. Keep the shuttles running year-round with seasonal variation. Charge 50 cents to use the shuttle in order to fund it.

Many cities around the world embrace and promote cycling as a way to get around, provide pedestrian streets and seasonal al fresco dining. Copenhagen has been a bicycle- and pedestrian-conscious city for decades. Voted No. 1 by the United Nations for having the happiest people in the world, Copenhagen has redesigned city areas for decades to allow more pedestrian- and bike-friendly streets by zoning out auto traffic in specific areas. As noted in copenhagenize.com, 40 years ago Copenhagen was just as car-clogged as any large city, but now 37 percent of commuters ride bicycles each day. That number rises to 55 percent in the city proper. They use over 1000 km of bicycle lanes in greater Copenhagen for their journeys. Copenhagenizing is possible anywhere.

Montreal also promotes healthier communities through biking and pedestrian streets. Through the works of Vélo Québec, the city is now one of the most imitated for its city biking scheme. Once the cold winters pass, the sidewalk cafes are brimming with people who have more than 1000 outdoor seating restaurants to choose from.

Laguna may not be a city where people bike to work like in Copenhagen or Montreal, but it could join the ranks of those that accommodate more biking. London, Montreal and New York, to name a few, have gone a step beyond by approving bike rental stations throughout the cities where locals and visitors can pay a small fee to rent bikes. When they are done, they park them at specific stations for someone else to use. This option of bike stations for rentals may be a little out of reach for Laguna; perhaps we don’t have such a need, but the point is, cities that have a far larger population and greater traffic problems can innovate, redesign and promote a healthier environment for locals and visitors through walking, biking and open street spaces—why not Laguna? LBM


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