“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.”