By Amanda Lee
When it comes to parking structures, bigger is better. Or at least, that is what some seasoned officials might say to San Dimas as the city prepares for a new Gold Line station.
San Dimas could learn a lot about the impact and challenges of having a station from cities that have gone before.
Back in 2016, Azusa was one of five cities in the San Gabriel Valley to celebrate the long-awaited grand opening of the 11-mile Foothill Gold Line Extension. City officials were excited about the prospects for new development in and around Azusa’s new transit district.
But it did not take long before Azusa’s two Gold Line stations encountered a significant blip. Within the first month of opening, both of the parking garages were filling up to capacity. Soon, overflow commuters began parking in nearby neighborhoods, creating an even bigger issue for city residents and commercial properties located close to the stations.
Azusa Mayor Robert Gonzalez reflected on the parking issues the city faced, saying, “In hindsight, if I knew then what I know now, I would have gone for a larger parking structure.”
As construction of the Gold Line – also known as the L Line – continues on four new stations in Glendora, San Dimas, La Verne and Pomona, there has been no shortage of concerns raised by local residents. From parking to quality of life and public safety, a new light rail station in San Dimas will have a big impact on the community.
To better understand what the impact could be, we took a closer look at how cities between the Sierra Madre Station in Pasadena and the APU/Citrus College Station in Azusa have handled changes that the new stations brought to their cities. What we learned was that new stations can be a boon for local business development, but they can also cause headaches when it comes to issues such as parking.
A boon for development
Officials managing the Foothill Gold Line Extension development project say there is a clear economic impact on many of the cities that have welcomed new Gold Line stations since construction began in 2003. According to a 2016 study commissioned by the Foothill Gold Line Construction Authority, more than 12,500 housing units and 3.6 million square feet of commercial space were built within a half-mile radius of where the 18 Gold Line stations have been established or planned since 2003. That has resulted, the study authors write, in $6.7 billion in private investments and $50 million in annual tax revenues to Los Angeles County.
Much of that development happened well before any construction began in San Dimas, and it is unclear if some of the more far-reaching Gold Line cities will see an economic boom similar to bigger cities, like Pasadena, that are closer to Los Angeles.
The extension of the Gold Line from Glendora to Pomona is currently scheduled to open in 2025. Stations running from Arcadia to Azusa opened in 2016, and many of these cities have since seen some positive results.
City officials who witnessed the opening of Gold Line stations since 2016 say they have some reason to be hopeful.
Victoria Rocha, assistant to the city manager and public information officer for the city of Duarte, explained how the Gold Line has benefited locals. In an email to San Dimas Community Post, she wrote that the station “has improved access to regional transit and the ability of our residents to commute.” Anticipating growth brought in by the station, officials revised a development plan for the 19-acre Duarte Station Area, which currently includes plans to build housing with nearly 700 residential units, a parking structure and mixed-use commercial offices.
Azusa Mayor Robert Gonzalez said that the Gold Line has led to positive growth around the city’s two new stations. An important example is The Orchard Azusa development, which is expected to be completed early next year. The project aims to add 163 residential units and roughly 23,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space as well as a four-screen movie theater.
One of the struggles cities have faced is limited parking.
For Azusa, Gonzalez, who was a city council member at the time, said they were not expecting the parking spots in the two designated garages to fill up so quickly. In response, the city created a permit parking program to keep commuter cars off the street. The permit system took a lot of work to get right, but once the permit system rolled out the city “saw the impact almost overnight,” Gonzalez said.
In addition, LA Metro began charging for parking in all of their station lots starting June 2019 to further prevent parking issues encountered by Metro and the cities. Prices have varied from $3 for daily parking to $59 for monthly parking, while monthly carpool parking is $25.
Gonzalez recommended the current extension cities between Glendora and Pomona increase their parking options to prevent the overflow issue Azusa and other cities faced after their stations opened.
In San Dimas, the parking plans are not final because officials are still figuring out where the parking spots will be located. After the Construction Authority scrapped the 400-plus-space parking garage off of Arrow Highway for a 275-space flat lot, San Dimas City Manager Chris Constantin presented a proposal to use a city-owned Park & Ride off of Railway Street for Gold Line parking instead. That proposal drew ire from local residents who said they were concerned about how the increase in traffic would affect pedestrian safety and quality of life in their community.
San Dimas officials have proposed this new plan, in part, because the Construction Authority’s parking plan would force the city to relocate a municipal lot that is currently being used by the city’s Public Works Department. At a town hall meeting over the summer, Constantin estimated the relocation could cost more than $23 million and said taxpayers would be affected by the extra costs.
During an Oct. 26 Gold Line meeting, Foothill Gold Line Project Manager Chris Burner said an environmental impact report to study the new parking proposal is underway. A draft of the report is expected to be released in March 2022, after which there will be a 45-day public comment period. The final report is estimated to be completed as early as June 2022, and a decision about the final parking plan for San Dimas will follow.
Residents who use the Gold Line echo the concern that parking infrastructure is a critical part of station development.
Christine Lin, a resident of Temple City, which is close to two Gold Line stations, uses the train to commute to work in downtown Los Angeles and take trips to Little Tokyo and Chinatown. She said that even with the permit parking option it is still tough to find spots at the Arcadia Station. If you want to pay the daily rate to park there, she said, it is unlikely you will be able to find a space. As a result, Lin has opted to use the Sierra Madre station in Pasadena despite it being farther away.
In time, San Dimas residents will be able to experience for themselves the benefits and challenges of having their own Gold Line station.
To learn more about the plans for the San Dimas Gold Line Station, contact San Dimas Public Works Director Shari Garwick at [email protected] or Foothill Gold Line Chief Communication Officer Lisa Levy Buch at [email protected].
Disclaimer: Isabel Ebiner, managing editor for the San Dimas Community Post and daughter-in-law of San Dimas City Councilmember John Ebiner, edited this story for AP Style.
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