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New Village Entrance is a big disappointment to me

After decades of meetings, reviewing, and rejecting proposed plans for the long awaited Village Entrance – much disappointment for me. I stopped by on Saturday morning to go to Farmers’ Market and check the parking/walking area. My first concern was the area just past the electric vehicle recharging as there is some garden/concrete jutting out forcing the driver to swing a bit to the left – problem is that if a large truck parked in one of the first few spots to the left (which there was) it makes it virtually impossible to navigate unless you are in a golf cart. The other part is that if a truck is parked where it narrows and there is a smaller car parked next to it, it would be difficult for the driver in the parked car to pull out safely until they get past the tail end of the larger vehicle. But by then the driver of the car looking for a spot may not see the car pulling out of the parking space. Seriously, it is very narrow, especially if the moving vehicle is in a large car. (I was in a 4-door sedan but luckily haven driven a Porsche for 40 years, I was able to maneuver by the truck could be stuck.) The curves continue and depending on how considerate the person who parked their car is – it would be like driving Le Mans.  Next – it was difficult to see the stripes delineating each parking spot, especially the front end as the stripes are painted a dark maroon. I wonder how visible it would be at night especially when it appears that only two or three large poles provide lighting? What surprised me is that the driving space leaving the parking walking area was wider than the area for entering. This was a flaw, in my opinion, with the original parking area and I had met with staff several years ago suggesting that the parking/driving area should be distributed better for incoming as well as outgoing cars. I was assured that it would be.

I had hoped that there would be public toilets and there weren’t. I can understand that planners did not want people sleeping or sitting all day long in that area – but if people are taking trolleys or walking from the Canyon – the only place to stop is by the Bus Station or the beach. Would you find that convenient if you have a child or are elderly and need to use facilities? I mentioned earlier lighting – still have concerns about that in general especially with people with poor eyesight.

What brought these points up? After I parked my car another driver was pulling up next to me and clearly did not want her front end hit by a car pulling in opposite her. However, that left the rear of her car vulnerable (it was not a large car) as there was a widening of the “garden/cement curbing.” Just as she was thanking me for helping her, a truck did pull up to park opposite her and he made a comment about how bad this was planned. He had come during the week and found that his SUV was not easy to navigate this new area. He uses the truck to buy produce from the Farmers’ Market and was trying it out. He decided that he would not be able to drive either vehicle there in the future. I made a comment about parking at the orange stand where I buy oranges and several people came over to where I was getting input from others and gave me a similar story – it was not easy to navigate (several elderly people made this comment), others said that they were concerned about the striping and lighting, and what was the point of all the plants. The stone benches and sidewalk took up a lot of space and people figured that on hot days few would sit there but homeless individuals, who may find it more entertaining and easier to solicit handouts.

I had wondered why so few cars (including this morning where it was still “free parking”) were not using the new parking area. Perhaps those are some of the reasons.

At one of the city council meetings that I attended when the finalization inputs were being given, I recall a council member suggesting that several of the green areas be made bigger since people were going to be driving smaller cars. Not exactly – SUVs and large trucks and Jeeps are hot selling cars and have been for several years. People do not necessarily check how they are parked once they are parked – that is to see if they are within the lines (will they be able to see them at night?) or if they are sticking out into the driving area. I suspect that there might be more parking accidents, short tempers…and maybe that is the reason that the parking lot has not been as full as hoped. This morning more people were parking by City Hall and paying than going to the new area and not paying.

Let’s hope we give more thought to form and function than pretty and think that everyone is out walking around that part of town – still far from the business area and with the loss of so many parking spaces even that “close” that is less potential for business. Let’s give more effort to help our business and visitors by giving future projects more thought. 

I have suggested at that the City’s Maintenance Yard, which is where the recycling events are held, we build a multi-story building by digging down and creating several levels of public parking leaving the top floor to office space for staff and perhaps putting a helipad on the roof. With the number of accidents and our limited access both two-way traffic in the Canyon, having a helipad might save some lives. But we also need to go underground there – PG&E was deemed negligent on several catastrophic fires and they are seeking bankruptcy protection. 

We have many issues to face and being practical and cost conscience is the only way we can achieve this. What do you think? 

Ganka Brown
Laguna Beach