23 Aug 2014
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Why Spend Money on Parking Studies for Unneeded Lots?

Columnist Barnes says city officials should use caution in adopting expenditures assuming Measure A will pass.

Why Spend Money on Parking Studies for Unneeded Lots? Why Spend Money on Parking Studies for Unneeded Lots?

Someone asked me what my role is in San Clemente as the permanent political columnist for San Clemente Patch. 

My role will be that of a watchdog, vigilant and aware of what is going on and to sound the alarm when it is needed.  I will not be a lapdog, a toady to the powerful political groups in town.

Nor will I be an attack dog lashing out indiscriminately against anyone or anything.

 Because of the high interest in the March 8 election, I have focused on the issues surrounding the vote on Measure A. A journalist, especially a political columnist, stays with a hot button issue until it is resolved. In the future, I will be voicing my views on all facets of local politics in San Clemente, especially after the Measure A vote is taken. 

In my role as a watch dog I see some real problems with the way the city council and city staff have behaved regarding the controversy over Measure A.  Instead of being neutral in this battle between two opposing forces, they have lent their considerable weight and influence to the “Yes on A” campaign.

Letters to the voting population from the mayor, city staff members displaying political signs in their yards, and a city website that is mostly a puff piece for the LAB are a few examples.

Not exactly illegal acts, but certainly, as the British would say, bad form. 

It is obvious that the city council’s judgment has been impaired by their slavish devotion to all things LAB. Recently, they made a strange allocation of funds when they voted 3-2 (Bob Baker and Tim Brown dissenting) to spend $392,000 on parking study.

San Clemente is awash in parking studies but here comes another one. 

 This particular study is for the area north of North Beach to get an appraisal on the county flood control channel.

The objective is see how much it would cost, and how it would be engineered, to convert it into a parking lot. 

The money will also be used to design parking for the city-owned Marblehead site located even further away from North Beach. Because the lot on the flood control channel is “iffy,” presumably, the money may be used for transforming the City Yard into what will be called the Pico Lot— beach parking

Justification for this expenditure as voiced by the council majority block of Mayor Donchak, Jim Dahl, and Jim Evert is that the city will need additional parking in the North Beach area in the long run.

The “long run”has not been defined by the council majority; but as economist John Maynard Keynes once commented, “in the long run we are all dead.” 

It looks like the council majority is trying to get a jump on developing North Beach for the LAB project, even before the votes are counted on March 8.

Could it be that this action is an attempt to influence the vote in the Special Election to favor the project?

Supporters of the project can argue that money has already been spent for the parking studies so residents might as well vote for the project. This rush to judgment is premature because if Measure A is defeated on March 8, there will be no immediate need for additional parking.

The existing 330 spaces south of El Camino Real seem to work just fine for now and in the immediate future. The city staff has indicated it is enough parking until the year 2035. The year 2035 is almost a quarter of a century away.

Advance planning is good but advance planning 24 years in the future when many things can change is overkill. 

Even if Measure A passes, an shaky proposition at best, there are other issues that have to be dealt with before the digging begins and the asphalt is laid.

The transformation of North Beach by building the LAB project (called Playa del Norte) will still have to go before the California Coastal Commission, a state organization that often has misgivings about private development on public land.

There are so many holes in the LAB project that it is unlikely it will escape the sharp scalpel of the CCC in its present form.

Another reason that money should not be spent on a parking study at this time is the elephant in the room that everyone seems to ignore—the Miramar.

The most important issue in the revitalization of North Beach is doing something about the Miramar theatre. Parking studies for the LAB project have nothing to do with the Miramar, and the referendum election on March 8 has nothing to do with it either.

For more than 25 years, it has sat there in a derelict state, "Waiting for Superman” to restore it to its former glory.

Although the seats were cozy and the lobby small, it was a great experience to see a film at the Miramar. The majesty of the large screen and the curtains opening is something most modern theatres lack. If it can be brought back in any incantation it will be a plus for the city.

 Retired Councilman Wayne Eggleston may be just be the person to get something done.

He announced that his new project is to form an organization to focus on the revitalization of the Miramar.  Eggleston’s track record for getting things done in the past includes his work on behalf of the pier bowl area, Semper Fi Park, and Casa Romantica.

Not a bad track record.

It is rather surprising that council members Donchak and Evert, who ran as fiscal conservatives, are so quick to spend taxpayers money on parking studies that may not be needed.

What’s the rush?

True fiscal conservatives would not waste money on a project (the LAB) that may never happen.  They certainly would not spend money on a project that has not been approved by both the voters and the Coastal Commission.

For complete information on North Beach go to the website:  northbeachgreenalternative.com

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