March 4th, 2014

 UTI1753892_t730Hang on to your quarters, Mr. and Ms. Gaslamp-goer. It’s going to be a (more) expensive night.Beginning next month, parking meters in downtown San Diego’s restaurant-and-bar packed “Hospitality Zone” will be enforced between 10 a.m. and 8 p.m., instead of the current dinner-friendly hours of 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Notices are being posted this week. Warnings will be left on windshields through Feb. 28, and parking violators will receive fines beginning March 3.If it’s any consolation, fines for the two-hour meters haven’t changed. Neither have the meter fees. A quarter will still buy you 12 minutes, and Sundays are still free. And while the change may involve precious chunks of asphalt, it’s not written in stone. The new rates are part of a one-year pilot program to increase parking-space turnover in these clogged urban spaces, so if the plan ends up causing more problems than it solves, the city reserves the right to put it in reverse.“What we are hoping for is to get a second turnover in our parking at night,” said the aptly-named Jimmy Parker, executive director of the Gaslamp Quarter Association, which worked with business and residents groups to come up with the changes. “You’ll have someone coming to a restaurant at 6 and then leaving at 8 or 9, rather than having someone coming in at 5 and staying all night. The key is turnover. And if it doesn’t work, we can always move back.”The new enforcement rules will affect more than 700 spaces in an area that runs from First Avenue to Seventh Avenue and from Broadway to Harbor Drive. So whether you are popping into Taste & Thirst for a Devil’s Cider shot and a plate of wings, tucking into a whole steamed live Maine lobster at Blue Point Coastal Cuisine or just looking for cheaper game-night alternative to the Petco Park lots, your free-parking window just got smaller. And the Gaslamp’s reputation as a parker’s purgatory just took another hit.“I think this could make people think twice about coming down here for happy hour. They might just stay in their own area instead,” said Beverly Weber, a server and bartender at the Local bar and restaurant on Fourth Avenue. “Whenever I ask my friends if they want to go downtown for dinner, their first answer is, ‘No.’ They don’t want to pay for parking. It’s a hassle.”For locals used to San Diego’s car-friendly sprawl of suburbs and malls, free and ample parking feels less like a privilege than a civic right. Like sunshine on Christmas and no need for long underwear ever. And just because our SoCal neighbors in, say, Santa Monica or Beverly Hills have to deal with metered parking after dark doesn’t mean we should have to.“Parking is personal. If your parking space is there when you need it, there’s enough parking. If it isn’t there, or it’s expensive, then there’s not enough,” Parker said. “I think we are a little spoiled here. For a long time, we weren’t victims of space. We grew up with the suburban model, where everything came with parking. But we are getting to the point where that’s not practical.”


Article by UT San Diego – By Karla Peterson