It seems as though we have been talking about parking problems in the Village forever. To be candid, it is probably because we have been. And I’m going to be talking about parking a lot in the coming weeks.
Honestly, it is inconvenient when you can’t find a place to park along La Granada when you want to quickly stop into the florist to pick up a gift on your way to visit a sick friend. It is frustrating for your business partner who had to park four blocks away from the restaurant for a lunch meeting. And it is definitely problematic when your mother says she skipped shopping at the jewelry store altogether because she couldn’t find a place to park.
After years of talking about parking, we are now focusing on what those parking problems have meant to the life of our Village. Lack of adequate parking for retail shops and restaurants has been one key reason why over the years we have seen many retailers close their doors.
Why do we care about retail? Retail creates a vibrant Village, bustling with shoppers and diners. Contrast that to sidewalks offering views of office windows or real estate postings. Without retail, our Village lacks “life.” Retail shops and restaurants provide energy, interest and entertainment for visitors who are staying at The Inn or visiting relatives in the Covenant. The draw of retail shops and restaurants can provide the foundation for what we all seem to agree is very important to us: Community.
There is no question that this is a multi-layered problem, and no one solution can address all the forces at work. The Association must look for ways to incentivize landowners to attract retail businesses. Any new retail business will need to show the county that they have adequate parking for their customers. Members must be retrained to shop in their own Village before looking. They — and all of us — will, if we can find parking. We can convince the retailers and restaurateurs who are here that we value them and want them to stay, if we can assure them that we can solve the problem of parking. And commercial business managers must take responsibility for the life of the Village as well and ensure that their employees do not monopolize the best retail parking places.
I assure you, the RSF Association board understands the importance of parking and we take the problem very seriously. We are convening the Village Master Plan Task Force this week to begin studying how planning, zoning, incentives and design can reconfigure the look and the life of the Village. Finding long-term solutions for parking will be a huge part of that project.
Meanwhile, we know that some approaches to parking problems can make a difference in the short term. We have already taken some important steps. First, we have increased the enforcement of parking violations. The RSF Association funds extra time for California Highway Patrol (CHP) officers to police the Covenant. While they focus on safety issues such as speeding and running stop signs, we have also asked them to increase the time they spend on parking enforcement.
Some curbs in the Village are painted green and designate two-hour parking. Did you know that if you get a violation in a timed space the ticket is $62.50? While the CHP officer is ticketing you for the timed violation, he might notice that you have an expired registration or another violation. Other violations may run anywhere from $37.50 and up. If your car is blocking a handicap curb cut (usually on a corner), that’s a whopping $342.50!
At our Aug. 6 meeting, the RSF Association board will discuss where we might want to ask the County to add green timed-parking curbs. We believe that the more timed parking we have, the more turnover we will have, thus making more spaces available for retail and restaurant patrons.
Those of you who work in the Village will play a very important role in solving the parking problem. If you are a Realtor stopping in to your office — even if just for an hour — please try not to take a timed place. Leave that for someone who might be a customer for you or one of your retail neighbors. If you work in the Village all day, ask your manager where you might park that will not interfere with potential shoppers and diners.
Be a part of the solution, not the problem. We all will benefit from a livelier Village.