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“December Nights” in Balboa Park kicked off with a lurch, leaving winners and losers in an all-night battle over parking. The two-day event opened Friday; a night to forget, according to a would-be attendee who gave the traffic situation “zero stars” in an online forum.

“I've been to December Nights many times before but never have I seen a more ridiculous parking situation as I have tonight,” wrote April O. on December 4, describing a two-hour traffic nightmare that finally sent her home.

Over 300,000 people attend December Nights, according to Balboa Park.org, which encourages drivers to “use the free off-site shuttles or take public transportation. Why drive around wasting gas looking for a parking space when the free shuttle or public transportation is quick and easy?!”

But the disgruntled driver, who carried a disability placard, couldn’t park to catch a shuttle. Every lot from City College to the zoo was full. She entered a lane for those with disabled placards, only to encounter an attendant “shooing me away before I even got to her.” The attendant suggested she try the zoo. But after following the signs, all the driver found were closed lanes, gridlock, and lots for permit parking.

“There's been no parking here for the past three hours,” another attendant advised her before offering two options: pay $20 for a slot “or make a U-turn.” The driver chose the U-turn home.

In 2008, another online reviewer blamed the shortage of parking for having missed the event (“tried last year, but failed”).

In a meeting on June 6, 2009, the Balboa Park Committee, a city-appointed volunteer advisory group, acknowledged the parking and pollution problems from circling traffic that accompanies special events. Despite several suggestions, including the use of off-site shuttles and basing parking-lot fees on daily turnover-per-space, the group concluded that December Nights comes with “parking and traffic congestion impacts that are impossible to adequately mitigate.”

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Comments

abbeyrd Dec. 7, 2009 @ 8:31 a.m.

another attendant advised her before offering two options: pay $20 for a slot “or make a U-turn.”

This is somewhat unclear. Was there actually parking available for those willing to pay $20, or was the attendant attempting to "sell" a free parking spot and pocket the money?

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PistolPete Dec. 7, 2009 @ 9:14 a.m.

C'mon abbeyrd...it's pretty obvious what took place. Look at today's economy. If I had been the attendant on duty, I would've been scammin' left and right.

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Susan Williams Dec. 7, 2009 @ 10:15 a.m.

Not only is the traffic situation bad for December Nights attendees, but it's also a nightmare for those of us living and dining in North Park and Hillcrest. Traffic was backed up on east and westbound University and Park Blvd south was jammed even north of University. It's absolutely crazy!

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abbeyrd Dec. 7, 2009 @ 6:08 p.m.

C'mon abbeyrd...it's pretty obvious what took place. Look at today's economy. If I had been the attendant on duty, I would've been scammin' left and right.

If indeed the attendant was pocketing money, she should be reported and that is the bigger story here. And Pistol Pete, remind me never to attend an event where you are the attendant on duty:) lol

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PistolPete Dec. 7, 2009 @ 6:35 p.m.

You can the boy out of Chicago but you can't take Chicago out of the boy. ;-D Sandy Eggo is one of the most corrupt cities in America. Why shouldn't the minimum wage workers get a piece of the pie?

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MadFriar Dec. 8, 2009 @ 6:01 a.m.

What parking problem? Sure there was traffic, but plenty of parking at the Zoo. We got there on Saturday at 3:00pm and found a parking spot at the Zoo with little problem. In fact, we were meeting my parents there and they found a parking spot right next to ours without waiting. We left at around 7:00pm and as we were walking to our car, we all commented on how many parking spots were available. We've gone to this event the last 10 years and have had to deal with traffic, but never a parking issue. Sure, if you need a prime parking spot right up front, it's not going to happen. But drive to the middle of the lot and it's no problem.

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abbeyrd Dec. 8, 2009 @ 3:27 p.m.

MadFriar, the author is writing about Friday night, not Saturday.

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qpodad Jan. 6, 2010 @ 1:11 p.m.

The parking attendant was not scamming, there is an option to pay $20 to get a premium spot. I believes the city allows Ace Parking to run this concession.

This use of public space for private profit is not okay with me. Some people can't afford $20 to park, so they have to wait in line, while a person who can afford it can show up much later and snag a great spot. These spaces are in the public lots in Balboa Park, not private property. The zoo cannot charge for parking because, unlike the lot at the Wild Animal Park (or Sea World, for that matter) they do not own the lot.

This same issue caused an uproar when the city allowed the The Prado Restaurant to cordon off a block of prime spots in the lot just west of Palm Canyon, which is also a public lot. Another private contract at the expense of all park users who did not want or could not pay to valet.

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