Eight council candidates weigh in on downtown parking

The eight hopefuls seeking three seats on the San Juan Capistrano City Council share their thoughts on downtown parking and ways the city can improve conditions for residents and visitors. Photo: Andrea Papagianis
The eight hopefuls seeking three seats on the San Juan Capistrano City Council share their thoughts on downtown parking and ways the city can improve conditions for residents and visitors. Photo: Andrea Papagianis

By The Capistrano Dispatch

In the Sept. 26-Oct. 9 edition of The Capistrano Dispatch, the eight candidates vying for three seats on the San Juan Capistrano City Council shared their thoughts on how to address the water crisis in the face of California’s drought, San Juan’s recently adopted rate structure and whether or not the city’s Groundwater Recovery Plant is a viable solution to future water worries.

For our third question, we asked the candidates:

The lack of parking in downtown San Juan Capistrano is becoming an increasing concern. What further steps do you think the city can take to enhance parking opportunities downtown? What potential solutions would you offer?

Below are their responses, printed verbatim, in the order their names will appear on the ballot.

Jan SiegelJan Siegel, Community Volunteer

Most of the time and certainly during the week days, there is not a parking problem in the downtown. What we have is an event problem. What we have is a weekend problem.

Several solutions can be taken right now to alleviate downtown parking:
1. Diagonal parking on Camino Capistrano and Del Obispo in front and across from the Mission
2. Reduce the red zone that is along Camino Capistrano.
3. Convert area along El Camino in front of the ROP property
4. Valet parking for the restaurants. Use places to valet park behind Los Rios Park

Long term options:
1. The City should consider purchasing back from the State the properties that the State took under the guise of the Redevelopment Agency and that currently have two public parking lots on El Camino Real.
2. The City should begin the process of erecting a downtown parking structure for public use as laid out in the Historic Downtown Master plan.
3. Work on the tri-city shuttle that bring visitors into town without cars.

There are solutions to both these problems and concerns. I have the experience and the fortitude to see these problems resolved.

Derek Reeve, Councilman/Constitutional AttorneyDerek Reeve

My opponents have intentionally created a parking problem by making downtown “pedestrian friendly.” Don’t be fooled, this is bureaucratic government code for forcing people to park far away and walk long distances. In 2011, I predicted the parking shortfall we now have. Now my opponents who created the problem are arguing for metered parking and taxpayer bonds to fix the very problem they created.

The solution is simple:
1. Reduce distance of shared parking between businesses from 1500 feet to 500 feet.
2. Reconfigure specific parking lots to add parking spaces.
3. Provide reduction of fees as incentives to downtown developers to add additional parking stalls, not fewer than required.

I further pledge to never vote for metered parking or a bond which must be paid by the taxpayers.

To make matters worse, the council majority is now pushing through the Spieker Development and Urban Village downtown hotel/residential project; These will not only reduce per capita parking capacity, but will also further increase traffic, urbanize our town and strain our water resources.

The Hippocratic Oath of Councilmembers is first, do no harm. Sadly candidates Kramer, Taylor, Frisch and Siegel advocate high density developments that will only further harm our town.

Pam PattersonPam Patterson, Constitutional Attorney/Businesswoman

Unbridled development is causing our parking concerns. Urban Village hotel project; Spieker/Laguna Glen high density community (controversial Armstrong Nursery rezone); Shops at Capistrano, as presently proposed, would eliminate existing parking areas, while creating the need for more parking, especially downtown. Spieker developer Troy Bourne would have us believe Laguna Glen’s up to 1000 new residents will not be driving, yet their EIR projects 1759 average daily trips of new cars on our roads. Undoubtedly a large portion of those will be heading downtown.

All three projects have been criticized for underestimating the parking needs they will create. City staffer Charlie View describes this as creating “great pedestrian activity” – translation: Park at RiteAid to have dinner at Sarducci’s. Yet our Council majority is eager to approve them.

Solutions: 1) avoid making the situation worse by carefully analyzing the impact of any proposed development on parking in town; 2) require developers to build a solution into their project, rather than be let off the hook by paying a “fair share” or “in lieu” fee heretofore allowed; 3) important not to piecemeal this situation, but to develop an overall plan in keeping with our General Plan.

John Taylor, Businessman/CouncilmemberJohn Taylor

Four years ago, parking was not a problem in our downtown. My wife Marianne and I would walk our dogs past the closed theater and shuttered stores at the Franciscan Plaza. It was depressing.

With my leadership in downtown revitalization, the town is now vibrant and alive. People have come back to San Juan Capistrano and now we have to deal with the effects of this downtown renaissance, specifically the need for more parking.

At our last annual city council retreat, parking was at the top of our list of priorities and we discussed several short- and long-term goals. First, we will implement immediate fixes such as re-striping and limiting overnight parking on downtown streets, which will free up hundreds of spaces. Next, we will work with local business owners to maximize parking while enhancing their customers’ experience in terms of walkability and convenience. Lastly, we are actively exploring a public/private partnership to build a parking structure with some of the top retail real estate developers in the nation.

We started the discussion and will continue to look for opportunities that will benefit our residents and visitors as they explore, shop, and dine in our historic San Juan Capistrano.

Rob_WilliamsRobert Williams, Architect/Business Owner

There are actually two issues at hand: Parking and traffic. To reach our vision of a walkable, accessible downtown we must address both. A comprehensive plan is not currently in place and the solution must be based on long-term thinking and planning under strong leadership.

We start by rolling up our sleeves to create a workable plan of parking and traffic flow. Only then can we effectively communicate, give direction and collaborate with developers to ensure their future participation in building parking lots/structures. Without a parking/traffic plan, all solutions are a short-term fix.

Our Town Center Master Plan is a good starting point providing viable recommendations along Del Obispo, Ortega and Camino Capistrano. It incorporates a rework of traffic along Del Obispo with a welcoming landscape median eliminating cross-traffic congestion. Traffic will flow better and beautify our major passageway. Another creative option which adds spaces with easy access is diagonal parking along Camino Capistrano.

I will respect input from caring and knowledgeable San Juan residents and provide the necessary leadership to marshal this talent to create real solutions. Let me bring my planning experience and leadership to preserve and protect San Juan for the next generations and beyond.

Stephanie Frisch, Independent Insurance BrokerStephanie Frisch

Downtown parking is one of the most important issues of my campaign platform. As the city’s parking study could take months, I recently wrote to the city council and suggested three immediate actions steps:

1. Form an advisory committee to study alternative parking strategies, district types, funding sources and provide a report and action plan to the city council within 90 days.
2. Bring the city’s parking policy current by incorporating ideas from the Historic Town Center Master Plan and updating parking requirements considering current projects.
3. Bring pressure on the California Department of Finance to define the parcels previously intended for parking as “government use”, which would allow the city to retain ownership. If this is unsuccessful, the city should consider legal action against the state to retain control of the parcels and/or develop a private funding source to purchase land for a parking facility and its construction.

To truly alleviate this issue, we need to add at least one parking structure. However, there are several short-term fixes to increase parking. Shorten red curbs that are too long; add diagonal parking where beneficial; and implement a plan for employee/volunteer parking to minimize impact on prime parking locations.

Kerry FergusonKerry Ferguson, Businesswoman/Educator

When do you have a problem parking? During the week? On weekends? During special events? For me, it’s on weekends and special event days. Even on weekends, I can find a place most of the time. Some have advocated new parking structures. I think WE CAN DO BETTER!

In the short term, minor adjustments would make a big difference. Re-striping the lots to diagonal spaces would yield quite a few new places. Replacing some red curbs with five hour parking would also help. The spaces across from the Mission on Camino Capistrano could also be marked with a five hour limit so they’re not used for overnight parking on weekends.

On special event days, lease trolleys like those in Laguna to bring visitors from business park lots. Have an OCTA shuttle between Dana Point, San Clemente and San Juan. Stick with our General Plan and resist re-zoning for high-density projects like the Spieker/Laguna Glen proposal, these solutions could suffice a long time.

Postpone large capital outlays until needed for weekday parking. Otherwise, a large structure would stand empty most of the time. Tuck a two-story structure between Sarducci’s and Mission Grill if and when needed. This is how WE CAN DO BETTER!

Larry Kramer, Retired Submarine CaptainLarry Kramer

During the weekdays, parking is usually not a problem. Parking can be difficult on weekends, particularly during weekend evenings if there are major events occurring downtown. Examples of these events are weddings, San Juan Summer Night Concerts in the park, and Mission San Juan Concerts.

We identified parking as a concern at the last City Council retreat. City staff was tasked to provide some short-term solutions. They presented a proposal that includes eliminating some red-curbed areas, assigning employee parking in public parking lots and prohibiting overnight parking on downtown streets. These are being reviewed at resident meetings. We could also implement:

1. Use of specific event valet parking.
2. Restriping of the parking lot adjacent to Sarducci’s and The Vintage.
3. Better signage about location of parking lots.
4. Requirement for a parking plan for special events.
5. Work to re-open parking lots that have been closed.

While the above might ease parking in the short term I believe there is a need for more aggressive long-term solutions. This might involve:

1. Construction of a parking structure.
2. Establishment of a downtown-parking district, which could help to pay for a parking structure.
3. Installation of parking meters at strategic locations.

In our next issue, complete with special election coverage, due out Friday, Oct. 24, we ask our candidates:

Why should voters choose you to help guide San Juan Capistrano for the next four years?

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