Hillcrest may soon have new parking meters as well as new enforcement hours. Uptown Community Parking District chief operating officer Elizabeth Hannon said the changes may go into effect in the spring.
Established in 1997, the Uptown parking district is one of six community parking districts tasked with implementing solutions in areas with serious parking challenges (the others: downtown/Centre City, La Jolla, Mid-City, Old Town, and Pacific Beach).
The hope is that the change will encourage faster patron turnover for businesses, said Hannon. There are 18 parking meters being proposed for the 1000 and 1700 blocks of University Avenue — nine on each block, fronting the Hub and the LGBT Center, respectively; and eight at 422–510 West Washington Street in Mission Hills (across from Vons).
(The mayor plans to remove seven parking spaces for a bike lane on one of the blocks where Hannon is proposing nine new parking meters — the 1000 block of University. Hannon said she will be meeting with the mayor’s office soon to discuss this.)
Hillcrest enforcement hours are proposed to shift from 8:00 a.m.–6:00 p.m. to 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m.
Other strategies the district has implemented include free late-night DMV parking, $5 valet, and a free lunchtime shuttle.
Hannon said the proposed blocks have been zoned for meters since the 1970s. Currently there are 1464 meters in Uptown with 645 in Hillcrest and 96 in Mission Hills. The hourly rate will remain at $1.25 and each new meter will have a two-hour limit. The city confirmed meter rates can be up to $2.50 per hour.
Tim Gahagan of Uptown Planners (a community planning group representing Hillcrest, Mission Hills, Bankers Hill/Park West, Five Points/Middletown, the UCSD Medical Center, and University Heights) said he’d prefer to see time-limit signage go in before meters. He pointed to city policy 200-04, which states that signage should be tried before installing meters. Gahagan is most concerned about areas where there is higher usage by residents, such as in the area of the LGBT Center.
Mat Wahlstrom, also from the planning group, is mostly concerned about the later enforcement hours. “I've heard they're using the argument that this change will benefit residents because they’ll be able to stay parked from 8 p.m. to 10 a.m. This is a cynical attempt to distract from the fact that this change will punish residents, most all of whom work from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and will now be forced to move their vehicles and/or risk feeding the meter six nights a week. Even if there were any proof that changing these hours would benefit businesses, that still wouldn’t excuse forcing residents to have to pay to subsidize them.”
Hannon said that meters are better at enforcing the time limit than signage. “We did a duration study and found that people were parking on average four hours on each of the blocks we’re proposing to install meters. The smart meters have [red] flashing lights making it easier for parking enforcement to know when a car is in violation.”
Regarding the proposed change in hours, Hannon said, “We heard the public say they couldn’t find parking in the evening so we did a study. In this study, before 10:00 a.m. most spaces are occupied less than 70 percent. Between 4:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m., it’s above 85 percent. So the idea is to discourage longer-term parking in the evening. What we do know is that people are parking between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. at a meter and then staying until 11 p.m. for free. We need to open those spaces for patrons that need to access Hillcrest shops and restaurants every two hours.”
According to the city, Hannon’s proposal is within the city’s policy of setting hours between 7:00 a.m. and 11:00 p.m.
Hannon says it costs $600 to install each parking meter, with the cost split between the city (55 percent) and the Uptown parking district (45 percent). After expenses, they both keep the same 55/45 split with revenue. Hannon estimated the Uptown district's annual share as $1.5 million with $350,000 coming from Hillcrest.
According to the city, approximately 5700 parking meters are in San Diego with annual revenue of approximately $10.7 million (FY2016).
Chuck Mitchell lives and works in Hillcrest. “I think it’s awful that people might have to pay for parking in front of their own home. There should be residential parking permits.”
“They want to make money off the few businesses we have but most are closing. A lot has to do with parking. With other areas becoming more dense, more people are staying in their own neighborhoods. They’ve all they need there. Little Italy has really taken off — now they can eat there. Before, they had to drive to downtown or to Hillcrest. That’s what is really hurting Hillcrest.”
A January 9 meeting is scheduled to discuss the project and hear public testimony. According to Leo Wilson, Uptown Planners' chair, it will come before his group in February.