Artist's rendition of future plans for VA Medical Center
  • Artist's rendition of future plans for VA Medical Center
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The troublesome parking situation at the VA Medical Center in La Jolla began to percolate about a decade ago; for a few reasons, it has now boiled over. Space remains finite. Most mornings, lines of employees’ and patients’ cars wind slowly up the hill from La Jolla Village Drive while drivers wait their turn to funnel into the lots. More than 6000 employees cannot park in the fewer than 3500 parking spaces.

Eddie, a third-floor nurse, told me, “I have to leave for work extra early from the South Bay or I don’t know about getting a space. And I can never leave work during the day for lunch or an appointment because, once I do — forget about ever getting another space.”

Patient parking is no better. The medical center’s patient population has grown over the past ten years, also making the fewer than 2000 designated patients’ spaces inadequate. For a 10 a.m. appointment this week, I knew to arrive by 9 a.m.; even still, when I arrived, drivers were already circling the lot. It seemed as though I was lucky enough to get what seemed the last available space.

Another issue is UCSD’s parking, which is available at a premium. Unwilling or unable to pay an annual parking fee of $732 or higher leads many UCSD students and staff to either look for spaces off campus or attempt to park on VA property, so the lots are guarded by security staff to ward off any scofflaws.

Medical center management is not blind to the situation; however, what they have been able to do only scratches at the problem. Most new employees are not provided with a parking permit. Another solution was to provide valet parking for patients; and another remedy was to compensate staff with bus passes.

Allison, a counselor, on many workdays finds it worthwhile to take a southbound express bus from home in Escondido to downtown San Diego, then another express bus back north to work in La Jolla instead of driving. Allison likes it that the bus ride is free and it saves her gas money plus miles on her car. She said any extra travel time spent on the bus is “much better than sitting in traffic backups. I really hate that. Plus, I get to read or use my phone.”

One creative management solution can be found in an unlikely parking lot four miles east of the medical center, on Miramar Road near Carroll Canyon Road. Employees and patients can leave their cars there and ride a free VA shuttle. Employees from North County areas have the option of taking the Coaster to Sorrento Valley, then a VA shuttle to work. Employees are also reimbursed for the Coaster fare as part of "Transit Benefits.”

A staff member who asked not to be named said the added benefit to using mass transit is that shuttle and train schedules don’t always coincide with work schedules, so some of the employees find the benefit of working reduced shifts by having to “conveniently” arrive late and leave early to make shuttle and train times. At least one other shuttle service also makes round trips from Mission Valley.

Future multilevel parking structures still remain on the medical center’s five-year plan; however, none are listed on the latest construction announcement.  When and if a parking structure does see reality, the loss of hundreds of spaces will be experienced during construction.

Work is forecast to begin in February 2013 on a new administration building, situated within a current parking area; this will eliminate 100 or more spaces.

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Comments

Visduh Jan. 4, 2013 @ 8:18 p.m.

Oh, great! I've had the need to go there a few times in recent years and the parking seemed very limited. The patient parking area is cramped and the parking slots are about as narrow as any I've ever seen. And now they're going to take away more spaces to build another building? Sheesh!

Can any of us park in the "five year plan?" Seems to me that if there's a plan to make more spaces available, we ought to be able to take advantage of the "plan."

Thank goodness that I can do most of my VA healthcare at the new Oceanside Clinic. It (so far) has no parking constraints at all. If I should have to go to VA La Jolla, I'll remember the Coaster and the shuttle connection.

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Javajoe25 Jan. 4, 2013 @ 10:26 p.m.

Another alternative is to park at the VA in Mission Valley and then take the free shuttle from there to the La Jolla facility. This is assuming you can find a space at the Mission Valley VA.

I've heard some are parking across Qualcomm Way at the K-Mart/Sears shopping center and then walking back. The whole situation is getting crazy. Maybe they should bring in Erwin Jacobs so he can come up with some loopy plan for a road that goes around the VA and then under the existing parking lot and coming up back where you started from...or some such. He seems to have the knack for that sort of thing.

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Bob McPhail Jan. 5, 2013 @ 12:33 p.m.

If you are able, another alternative is to park at the Old Town trolley stop and take the 150 express bus to the VA, which drops you right in front of the hospital. Plenty of parking in Old Town, and the bus trip on the 150 is only about 15 minutes.

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pjamason2 Jan. 6, 2013 @ 6:35 p.m.

As a regular rider of the 150 to UCSD I second big bob's suggestion. I see plenty of VA patients on the bus.

Some drivers may not have a viable public transit option, but for those that do, should we just keep building parking lots (with little space available) so they have a less-inconvenient commute than the rest of us?

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Visduh Jan. 6, 2013 @ 8:32 p.m.

Bad design, lack of planning, and the ever-present lack of respect for the veterans add up to a parking squeeze at one of the VA's prime hospital/medical center sites. If the voters really cared about the veterans, there would be no such issues at any VA facility. This one, serving a huge veteran population, should be a model for the nation. Instead it is in a confined spot, next to a big university in one of the highest rent spots in the nation, and has a parking problem, most of which is due to the staff, not the patients, who all drive solo to work when plenty of transit options are available. Are those staffers just too well paid to make them want to ride a bus? Yep, that's it.

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mngcornaglia Jan. 7, 2013 @ 11:10 a.m.

decades ago, san diego should have laid-out light rail lines (i.e., sacramento) alongside the freeways eliminating many present day traffic and congestion problems... san diego removed some trolley lines... can't turn back time... some excellent alternatives are offered in these comments, but few drivers are willing to give-up their car asses due to the inherent hassels of riding the bus...

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Javajoe25 Jan. 7, 2013 @ 6:38 p.m.

You are so right, MNG,

The need for some type of light mass transit is very apparent in SD. The roads are clogged; the rush hour delays are becoming increasingly worse. I think they should build the light rails on top of one of the traffic lanes on the highways. It would move a lot more people and reduce the traffic.

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