Solana Beach tables decision on reverse-angle parking

By Claire Harlin

Staff Writer

The Solana Beach City Council postponed making a decision on restriping the front-angle parking spaces on the west side of South Sierra Avenue in front of the post office, which would convert them to reverse-angle — back-in, head-out — parking spaces.

The idea was presented to the council as a traffic-calming measure on Aug. 24, and even though councilmembers were welcoming to the idea for the sake of being progressive, the community so far has been overwhelmingly opposed.

The idea came about in 2005, said City Manager David Ott, when the city was working on a concept for Highway 101 revitalization. The San Diego Bicycle Coalition brought forth the idea as a safer parking arrangement for bikers and pedestrians because the driver has an unobstructed view of oncoming traffic when pulling out of a space.

The city did a pilot study of reverse-angle parking in 2007 on South Sierra Avenue behind the CVS, and those reverse-angle spaces are still there. The current recommendation would implement another pilot study that, if successful, could evolve into putting back-in spaces on Highway 101.

To gauge public opinion about whether to restripe the spaces in front of the post office and Las Brisas condominiums, the city put a sign on the post office door for six months. About 35 community members responded, and only one was in favor of the idea. Concerns cited include the difficulty of backing in, the possibility that drivers would make illegal U-turns to park head-first, the danger of pulling out too quickly, and the confusion that could result from the change.

Peter House, president of the Solana Beach Civic and Historical Society, said after spending much time researching the concept, he is against it.

“It’s not traffic calming when you have to drive very slowly to see what spaces are open because of the angle,” he said.

It’s also “alien to people,” he said, something that’s “not taught in traffic school.”

The Condominium Organization Of South Sierra Avenue (COOSSA) also decided at its recent board meeting on Aug. 18 to oppose reverse-angle parking.

In a statement, the group expressed concern that people may hit the gas and lunge straight out of spaces.

“With standard ‘front-in’ parking, cars have back-up lights to alert cars, pedestrians and cyclists,” read the statement.

Tom Ryan, COOSSA chairman, said, “People who might wish to experience reverse-angle parking can do so on South Sierra Avenue behind CVS. It’s not an entirely comfortable experience.”

City Councilmember Mike Nichols, who has a background in landscape architecture, said he likes the back-in parking idea.

“It could be considered a fad,” said Nichols, who is meeting with the San Diego Bike Coalition next week to discuss the matter further. “But we could be tapping into a new way of parking. It’s a good idea and it has its place.”

Mayor Lesa Heebner said she was really excited about the possibility of having back-in parking, and it would really “add to the feel of Solana Beach.”

“But my job is to listen,” she said. “And I heard, and they said ‘no.’”