Ballpark Likely to Squeeze Tight Parking Downtown
by RENE'E BEASLEY JONES
Enda Drayne is eager for April 2004, when Petco Park opens near the Gaslamp Quarter.
She owns The Field, an Irish pub and restaurant at 544 Fifth Ave.
The ballpark will draw thousands and Drayne hopes to cash in on the crowds expected to flock Downtown. But she's a bit concerned, too.
"When the ballpark opens up, there will be a big problem with parking," Drayne said.
Aside from 55,000 parking spaces already downtown and within walking distance of Petco Park, more will be available Downtown when the ballpark opens, said Donna Alm, a Centre City Development Corp. spokeswoman.
Tailgate Park between 12th and 14th avenues and Imperial and K streets will hold 1,060 spaces. It is expected to open with the ballpark.
Another facility, now named P1 after the parcel of land it's on, will open at the same time. It will contain 1,100 spaces, Alm said.
In July 2004, another 1,000 spaces are expected to open on another parcel near Petco Park.
And the Padres control two more parcels. Until those lots are developed, Alm said, they will be used for parking. The two combined offer nearly 500 spots.
Alm hopes public transit will figure into plans to attend Petco Park events.
"We always encourage more people to take public transit," she said.
Several years ago, the Padres approached North County Transit District about extending the Coaster commuter train's hours of service during ballgames, said Tom Kelleher, the transit district's spokesman. But the baseball team didn't ante up any supplemental income for the extra Coaster trips.
Until additional funding sources come along, the Coaster, which runs from Oceanside to San Diego, won't be available for evening games, Kelleher said.
"It's very difficult for us to have extra trains available at 10 o'clock at night in San Diego to bring customers north," he said.
The Coaster extended its Friday night service in September, Kelleher said, but only after the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce joined with several local businesses to sponsor the service for six months.
Also, talk of continuing the Coaster rail south to the Convention Center and Petco Park hasn't proved promising, Kelleher said. At one time, local leaders hoped a platform could be built in the ballpark area to drop off and pick up passengers closer to that activity hub.
A joint feasibility study showed several difficulties in placing a platform there, Kelleher said, so it's off the table for now.
Agencies Grapple With Parking Alternatives
Local leaders are moving to confront parking problems.
San Diego is starting a parking task force to consider meter rates, additional meter installations, new lots and structures, rates at city-owned facilities, employee parking, and residential parking permits.
City Manager Michael Uberuaga is accepting nominations for task force members from the City Council, said Don Mullen, senior policy adviser for 2nd District Councilman Michael Zucchet.
And on July 1, the Downtown San Diego Partnership launched a fiscal 2004 program that offers its members discounted monthly commuter passes for bus and trolley service.
The agency's members pooled their purchasing power to reap a 22.5 percent discount. Monthly passes must be purchased for an entire year in advance.
One Downtown company saved $15,000 alone on its 2004 transit bill through the program, said Kevin Casey, the agency's spokesman.
"Parking is really bubbling up right now," Casey said. "This is our No. 1 issue that we're working on with (Centre City Development Corp.)."
Public transit provides an alternative to driving into town and paying for parking.
Participating Downtown Partnership members include Golden Eagle Insurance Corp., the San Diego Convention Center, NBC 7/39 San Diego, SeaWorld San Diego, Sharp Healthcare, the San Diego Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the 6th Avenue Bistro.
Other businesses are still eligible to enroll in the program. For information, call Casey at (619) 234-0201.
, Rene'e Beasley Jones