Let Us Walk in the Dirt
Like so many others, a town near mine has had to address major changes in consumer behavior during the last 10 months. In particular, parking behavior.
We’ll call it RPV, and it’s in the 73rd most expensive zip code in California, as stated online. I didn’t spend much time vetting my source, but this is a super-wealthy locale with or without online reporting.
I won’t sugar coat it: this place has a reputation for doing its best to keep out visitors. There’s a book of fiction written about its tribalism, and a movie based on the book, starring Jennifer Garner, was made in 2017. In some news reports over the past few years, I’ve read that local police have been accused of ignoring harassment and vandalism directed at non-resident beachgoers and their property.
RPV is in an area made up of three towns that it all have similar names and none wants to be confused for the other. If you don’t live there, you can never remember which is which. One has managed to keep out visitors entirely – it’s completely gated and the gate is staffed 24 hours a day.
RPV has some beautiful parks, nature preserves, beaches, cliffs, and hiking trails. Last spring, people from all over the region headed there for a break from stay-at-home orders. Social media alerted swarms of nature lovers and selfie takers.
The hiking trails were closed for a time. When they reopened, they were mobbed. Everybody and their aunt and dog needed a little sunshine and exertion. The parking areas were overloaded and the streets leading up to parks and trails were bumper to bumper for a couple of miles.
My family doesn’t hike, so this had no effect on us. We think walking uphill for hours is a punishment, not a pleasure. We like nature, but our own neighborhood is green enough, and the beach is a better destination for our preferences. We have addressed our pandemic malaise by ordering takeout, crying in the bathroom (kidding) (OK, sometimes), going for walks and drives, and watching lots of TV.
The leaders of RPV have made some adjustments to deal with the influx.
A new parking app is going online this month to ease parking congestion and traffic. In my opinion, its main function, as applied by the city, is to minimize the number of outsiders entering the city and partaking of its natural resources.
I’m asking myself if my skepticism of the RPV’s intentions is justified. Other aspects of the adjustment, in addition to the area’s reputation for exclusivity, gave me pause:
1- The city first discussed charging $25 for three hours, but settled on $10. The $10 is temporary.
2- While approving a new mobile app and deciding on hourly rates, the city also implemented a $110 parking ticket amount for roads leading up to the parks and trails, as well as any parking within its neighborhood parking permit program. It also implemented a no-parking zone along the corridor toward the nature reserve.
3- A shuttle program was discussed, but briefly, and will take months to explore further.
4- One local, the president of a homeowner’s association, said three hours is enough for people to enjoy the area. She also touted the online reservations option saying it will keep people from just showing up.
I’m glad I don’t live next door to a school, because I wouldn’t enjoy the surges in traffic occurring morning, afternoon, and some weeknights. I’m glad I don’t live near a park, either, because I’d rather not have strangers parking in front of my house all day. Of course, the houses near our local schools and parks are valued measurably higher than mine. And that’s the agreement you make when you buy near desirable locations and landmarks. The same thing that draws a buyer to a home is the same thing that will draw others to the neighborhood, as well.
I don’t doubt the traffic and parking issues going on in RPV were negative experiences for the residents. They have every right to expect parking to be controlled.
However, the measures taken will reduce access by more than 50 percent. And that’s a lot of people who won’t have the opportunity to hike or walk or find peace in the hills and brush.
In the near future, when the rush on this city’s hiking trails dwindles back down to regular numbers, people from outside the area will still find less parking at a much higher cost.
Parking regulations applied to public resources should balance the needs of the residents nearby and the people who want to visit. Parking control is necessary, but when parking control severely limits access to public areas for non-residents, that’s a different kind of control.