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Out of the Blue: Parking structure? How about transportation hub?

June 13, 2013|By Billy Fried

Tuesday's City Council debate of the Village Entrance project was buzzing in impassioned discourse. Dozens spoke eloquently for and against the $50 million parking structure, local luminaries from business, arts and politics.

They made emotional pleas (to considerable applause) that either the council should slow down and let the public decide, or the council should speed up because the timing was never better to finally realize the additional parking so desperately needed. Some even intoned that this was the council that had "the stones" to get it done.

Despite the polarizing debate, the one thing they all shared in common was their age — none but Aaron Telerico was on the short side of 50. Many were prophesying they wouldn't be here by the time the 25-year loan was paid off. Which is perhaps why they just can't imagine a future without oil, let alone plan for it.

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Yes, there was the vexing question that went something like this: "What if the economy tanked and our parking meters could no longer service the debt?" We'd have to draw on the (gasp) general fund — our money, ladies and gentlemen.

But no one asked what would happen if the environment tanked and how 200 more spaces and $80 million (including interest) blown would solve the problem of dwindling oil supplies, or the ever-increasing need for disaster preparedness and evacuation planning. It's as if Katrina and Sandy never happened.

What if we build it and in 30 years nobody comes — because there's no more gas? And how will it help us when thousands of people need to get out of town immediately because of, well, name the disaster.

My buddy and fellow Transition Laguna board member Chris Prelitz and I were ruminating on this following the council meeting. And then we hit on it. If we just think a little bigger, a little broader in aspirations, the Village Entrance could actually be Phase 1 of a very comprehensive retrofit of our city that leaves a true legacy of urban planning and sustainability that will make our town more livable, less congested and certainly less oil dependent.

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