New restrictions promise better accessibility
By Desirae Holland
Walking up and down the streets of the Gaslamp Quarter at 9 p.m. on a Saturday, it is hard to not become encompassed by the fast-paced nightlife.
It is a scene of thrilling chaos, with tourists intoxicated by the bright lights of the city walking aimlessly around, overly-excited 20-something club-goers skipping in-and-out of bars, congested streets with creeping cars looking to find that “needle-in-the-haystack” parking spot.
In an effort to increase public safety and reduce traffic along Fifth Avenue between Broadway and Harbor Drive, the Gaslamp Quarter Association — in conjunction with the San Diego Police Department and the Downtown Community Parking District — is launching the “Fifth Avenue Nighttime Active Loading Zone,” a tow away zone that will restrict parking Friday and Saturday evenings between the hours of 8 p.m. and 3 a.m.
Spearheading the project is Michael Trimble, executive director for Gaslamp Quarter Association, and he is thrilled that the parking restriction is finally being implemented. In development for more than a year, the tow away zone went through many phases before finally being slated to start Friday, Sept. 2 trough Aug. 30, 2018.
“One of the major elements that creates traffic congestion along Fifth Avenue in Gaslamp Quarter is the parking,” Trimble said. “The active loading zone will help streamline staggering traffic.”
“It will eliminate the need for patrons to circulate the block looking for that magical parking spot,” Trimble continued. “On average, people wait in traffic for 30 minutes to move up one block due to people double-parked next to parked cars when dropping or picking someone up.”
The active loading zone will be similar to what is found at an airport. The removal of 125 parking spaces will be replaced with three-minute active passenger loading zones.
Besides creating an efficient passenger loading and unloading zone, the new tow away zone will help to improve pedestrian safety by clearing the streets of vehicles, which will increase visibility, space and reduce public safety and law enforcement response time to incidents.
Mary Micale, a promoter for one of the bars on Fifth Avenue, is excited about the parking restriction in the name of safety.
“I’ve been working down here for a while as a promoter and I often see encounters of people almost getting hit by cars because they are so distracted,” she said. “There definitely is a safety issue, so I hope the ban will help with that.”
The parking restriction will be based on a two-year trial with a 30-day grace period once the signage goes up, so citizens can get accustomed to the change.
“I will regularly check every week, or six months if I have to, to make sure the restriction is actually working and benefiting the community,” Trimble said.
While some are excited about the plan, Downtown resident Megan Kane is indifferent about the parking restriction.
“I don’t see the benefit of how removing 125 parking spaces will decrease traffic and increase safety,” Kane said. “It takes 45 minutes to find a parking spot now, so taking away available parking will only make it worse, unless they decided to build another parking garage.”
The tow away zone is one step in resolving mobility in the Gaslamp Quarter, Trimble said.
“We are reallocating those 125 less parking spaces and creating other ways to improve parking,” he said. “Future plans consist of parking spots for employees, a universal valet program and diagonal parking, to name a few.
“In addition, the overall plan will help promote alternative forms of transportation, such as public transit and ridesharing options.”
To learn more about the pilot program, or to submit questions, comments, and concerns, contact the Gaslamp Quarter Association at email@example.com or 619-233-5227.
—Desirae Holland is a local freelance writer. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @desirae_h_.