The City Council Tuesday unanimously approved a plan to ban curbside parking along Fifth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter on Friday and Saturday nights, and to permanently restrict the parking of oversized vehicles along San Diego streets.
The Fifth Avenue parking prohibition could be the first step in a major overhaul of how vehicle traffic is regulated throughout the popular nightlife-oriented district.
A tow-away zone will be instituted on Friday and Saturday nights between 8 p.m. and 3 a.m., along Fifth Avenue between Broadway and Harbor Drive. Nearly 125 parking spaces will be lost, according to city staff.
One of the main reasons behind the idea is to help drivers quickly load and unload passengers without double-parking and congesting traffic, according to a city report.
"I think it will be a game-changer for the Gaslamp -- it's already a really cool area," said Councilman Todd Gloria, who represents the area.
"It will make it a lot safer for folks who want to go down there on Friday and Saturday nights," he said. "My suspicion is it will be so successful that we're not just going to close it for parking, we'll close it for vehicles. But at least for the time being, this is a great step in the right direction."
The Downtown Community Parking District, the Gaslamp Quarter Association and the San Diego Police Department suggested the plan to:
-- improve traffic and pedestrian safety by clearing the streets of vehicles circling the blocks looking for a parking space;
-- provide safe and efficient circulation for pedestrians, transit, taxicabs and other vehicles; and
-- give police officers and paramedics more room to deal with in emergency situations.
Less traffic congestion could also reduce public safety response times, according to supporters.
Parking restrictions will be implemented on a trial basis, effective for two years after signs have been installed. A representative of the Gaslamp Quarter Association said at a prior meeting that the group will run an outreach campaign to make area businesses, patrons and residents aware of the changes.
At the earlier meeting, Gloria suggested vehicles could some day be kept off Fifth Avenue entirely on weekends to create an atmosphere similar to the Santa Monica Promenade -- a vehicle-free area of upscale shops and restaurants in coastal Los Angeles County.
Another plan, which would establish angled parking along streets near Fifth Avenue, could come before the council in the next month or two.
With council approval, the overnight parking restrictions on large vehicles like campers, boats and trailers -- which were in effect on a trial basis -- will become permanent.
Owners of such vehicles more than 27 feet long and 7 feet high need to obtain a permit before parking them on a street overnight. Such vehicles are also not allowed to be parked within 50 feet of an intersection at any time.