Saturday, September 7, 2013

10 Opportunities for parking in the very crowded Five Points area of San Diego

Head-in parking can help create more space in the area of Five Points, San  Diego.

Despite it sitting right next to the I-5 freeway, and despite it being a tiny strip of (mostly) historic buildings, the area known as Five Points in San Diego is a HUGE destination for locals and beyond.  It's marginalized setting belies its attraction points; it is an area that many people travel to from all over San Diego county, and in fact, the world. This is because it has some of San Diego’s oldest and most famous wining and dining spots.

To wit, many people say that as soon as they land at San Diego's Lindbergh field, they bee-line straight over to Five Points for either the rolled tacos at El Indio, or a craft beer at the Regal Beagle.  Others say they want fresh Pacific seafood from Blue Water Grill, and still others say they are craving the chicken from Saffron Thai. Yes, it's pretty much San Diego's International Restaurant Row!

So, at certain times of the day, especially on weekends, parking is absolutely horrendous. Frankly, the area becomes one giant parking lot.  Both the volume of parked cars, and then the circling traffic looking for parking makes it like the COSTCo/Ikea lotin Mission Valley.  And of course this parking-lot-atmosphere gives one a sense of more marginalization, and quite degrades the entire neighborhood, which is the gateway to Mission Hills.

One time my parents who live in Scripps Ranch drove over to meet me on a late Sunday morning.  They had been in Coronado at dog beach and fancied some oysters at Blue Water Seafood and Market Grill.  (Their seafood is very FRESH!)  They swung by and picked me up in Middletown.  We drove along India, looking for parking.  It was probably 1pm.  There was NOTHING.

We circled.
We circled again.
And then circled again.
After about 20 minutes, we decided I'd drop them off, and return home to park the car and then walk back to meet them.  I did, and the parking problem was solved.  Essentially no parking = walk, if you live in Middletown.

But what if you don’t live close by?  What if you were driving in from Poway, or from the mesa of Mission Hills or Hillcrest?  What if you had just landed back in San Diego after being out of the country?

I posed that question to some friends.

The Poway friends said, 'well because it's so far, we would probably just keep circling until we found something.'  This was pretty much what I expected.  As pointed out above a lot of the traffic conditions in the area are made up of drivers circling, waiting for parking spaces to open up.  This creates a lot of unnecessary traffic, air pollution, noise pollution, danger for pedestrians and drivers, flared tempers etc.

The locals from up on the Mesa of Mission Hills said, 'we don't go. It's too hard to find parking.'  They added that if they are really craving San Diego's best gelato, they 'strategically go'.  In other words, they go off hours, or place an order for pick-up so they can run in and get it.  This is what I do too.  I only ever agree to meet friends in the area during non-peak hours, and if it is peak hours, I suggest somewhere else.  

My friend who works for the Marines, and lives in Indonesia said he'd park way up in the neighborhood and walk into Five Points. (He’s a lifelong fan of El Indio’s Mexican food and it’s his first stop every time he comes home!) That’s pretty typical too.  The residents in the surrounding area have long complained that the overflow from Five Points impacts them negatively, affecting their own parking abilities.  I mean, how do they invite guests over when there’s not parking?

Long story short: parking is bad in Five Point.  Having safe bike lanes leading in and out of the area will mean local people will travel by bike, freeing up parking spaces.  And, business will increase because more people can get there.

If I were a business in Five Points, I would want the City to maximize parking by doing 90-degree head-in in the following areas:
  1. Chalmers (both sides, 2 blocks)
  2. California (as much as possible, both sides)
  3. Winder (both sides, 1 block)
  4. Columbia street at the top of Chalmers intersection
  5. I would also like to see head-in parking all the way along India to Glenwood on the east side.  This would calm traffic as it would narrow the lanes.   (And I would put a STOP sign here too, but that is for another post.)
  6. Beyond head-in parking opportunities, there is room for a 'striped parking island' on the corner of Winder and Columbia,that if done right could allow for 2-4 more cars.
  7. On the corner of Glenwood and India, there is a used car lot. Someone on the BID should find out if that is private or city land.  If it's City land, the BID should buy him out of his lease, and work with the city to get a parking lot built there.  (In my opinion.)
  8. Next to the Shell on India, before Upas, there is another empty lot that could be built out for parking.  Again, the local BID could work with the City to put something there.  If anything, the parking created could be simply for employees of the area who represent a huge amount of the required parking spaces
  9. I thought this one was smart, and it is not my idea; it actually came to me by way of an Urban Planner.  The area at the base of Washington on the north side, across the street from the Palomar Market parking lot to the east, there is a pump station for storm water.  There is a lot of very nasty invasive arundo growing here.  I think this area is a prime area for a parking lot also.  It would probably require an elevated metal structure over the pump station, or maybe we could just put in bioswales to capture storm water on India to eliminate the pump station, but it could easily fit 5-8 cars in this area.  I am not sure how cars would access it – perhaps through the Palomar lot, or perhaps a small road could be built off Washington, but again, it’s a great spot for employee parking in the area.
  10. Last, but not least, there are private businesses in the area who are not open for business on the weekends however could open up their lots to the public for parking. On the corner of SD Avenue and McKee, there is a lot with 30 spots, that could easily help with overflow from the Five Points area.

Overall, it would increase business right away.  In the long-run, due to growth, and density planning, parking spaces would end up filling up again, but maybe by then better public transport options would be in place?  The valet parking currently in place is working extremely well.  (One biz owner mentioned it had increased their business 20-25%!)

Obviously, the bike lanes will help too.  

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