Consulting firm hopes to preemptively solve Carlsbad Village’s parking problems

Consulting firm hopes to preemptively solve Carlsbad Village’s parking problems
Parking in the Village has an unenforced time limit of three hours. Offenders face a $50 fine, although it’s currently not being monitored. Photo by Ellen Wright

CARLSBAD — While the Village may not have a huge parking problem yet, Urban Place Consulting Group is working to get ahead of any of those issues as the area goes under a resurgence.

The consulting firm was hired in 2012 to revitalize the Village. Their contract ends next year in March, Steve Gibson, president and founder said, so they’d like to leave a mechanism in place to improve parking.

“Parking will be an issue in the future, probably two, three, five years out but you want to get ahead of it. You don’t want to wait until you’ve got a parking problem and then try to solve it,” Gibson said.

The consulting firm held a meeting Oct. 30 to get input from the community and share the results of the parking study.

Gibson and Ashley Westman, Urban Place’s project manager, studied people’s parking habits in the Village every hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. one weekday and one weekend day during September.

Westman said September provided a representative sample because tourists are largely gone but enough are still present to reveal how they influence parking.

They looked at Carlsbad Boulevard, State Street, Roosevelt Street, Oak Avenue, Christiansen Avenue, Madison Street and five parking lots throughout the Village.

Parking turnover, occupancy and time limit abuse were measured to give the consultants a look at problem areas.

The city has a time limit of three hours between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., except on Sundays and holidays. The fine for exceeding the three-hour limit is $50, yet it is widely unenforced.

“In general, most people, on average, are staying less than two hours except for those few spots where they’re staying a lot longer,” Westman said, adding, “and then of course each block has its abusers that are staying longer than three hours.”

Gibson added that some of the “abusers” are people riding the Coaster.

“The important part in all of this is that those that are staying longer than three hours, those parking spaces are not available to customers. Those parking spaces are used for business owners, employees, and Coaster people,” Gibson said.

One of the suggestions he gave was changing the three-hour limit to two hours to increase turnover.

He also suggested changing the enforcement period to start at 10 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. since it’d be easier for the police department to assign someone to enforce parking on an eight-hour shift and because business doesn’t pick up much until later in the morning.

Another suggestion was to add parking space markers on North Roosevelt Street to ensure that no space is wasted.

Finally, he mentioned the delicate balance of charging people abusing the time limit.

“The whole idea is not to make money off this, it’s just to change behaviors so you’ve got open parking,” Gibson said.

They don’t have recommendations yet for the fines but he said it should be high enough to deter people from staying over the limit.

Also, a few in the crowd of about eight at the meeting said the revenue from fines should go into a special fund towards upgrading the Village.

Gibson and Westman are going to continue studying parking throughout the Village and talk with merchants and stakeholders to build a consensus.

They hope to have a hearing in front of the City Council in January or February of next year and put up signs in March or April.

Gibson said a grace period would be necessary to alert people of the new enforcements.

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