DEL MAR — In an effort to improve what many call the “northern gateway to the city,” council members agreed at the June 3 meeting to negotiate a lease with North County Transit District for a 29,280-square-foot parcel at the northeast corner of Jimmy Durante Boulevard and San Dieguito Drive.
Leasing the lot would also allow the city to improve access to the San Dieguito Lagoon and Coast-to Crest Trail and establish a walkway along San Dieguito Drive.
“There is also an opportunity to provide education with interpretive signage,” assistant City Manager Mark Delin said.
The site was previously the Waste Management recycling buyback center but it has been vacant and unused since 2010. NCTD lined the entry with boulders to prevent unauthorized parking.
Based on a recent appraisal, NCTD is requesting $2,550 annually in rent plus half of any net parking revenue. The agency is also requiring reimbursement from the city for the $4,000 appraisal and $7,000 site survey.
“I did attempt to talk them out of it but they say that’s their policy,” Delin said.
The appraised value includes the entire parcel even though about 4,000 square feet is underwater in the San Dieguito River, and an additional 14,500 square feet is in a designated wetland area so it cannot be developed.
According to staff estimates the city will likely have to spend an additional $20,000 for improvements such as parking equipment, gravel, striping and signs, as well as $5,000 for environmental assessments, for a total of $36,000.
The lease will be for 30 years but is cancelable with a 30-day notice.
The city will not be required to pay the rent until it has recovered its capital costs but NCTD would still require 50 percent of the parking revenue.
In a conservative estimate Delin said the city could make about $3,250 a year, slightly more than the cost of the lease payment.
Delin said the proposal could be self-funding with parking revenue charged during events at the fairgrounds. A nominal fee would be imposed during the offseason.
As the lease is negotiated the city will move forward with plans to install diagonal parking spaces along the city-owned parcel and right of way on San Dieguito.
Speaking as a member of the San Dieguito Lagoon Committee, resident Bill Michalsky said he was glad to see the city moving forward with the project.
“The committee has a slightly different vision,” he added. Michalsky said the group would recommend a different parking layout, with the majority of the property left as open space.
The committee prefers park-pay-and-display meters from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. for a maximum of three hours to discourage use during fairgrounds events. He said diagonal parking could “get in the way” of future plans.
“I would ask that we be involved in this process,” Michalsky said.
Because the parcel is in the lagoon overlay zone, the city is required to maintain a 100-foot buffer from the wetland. In this case that would encompass the entire paved area.
The lot would then be limited to only recreational pathways and viewpoints. The 100-foot buffer may be reduced with a recommendation from the Department of Fish and Game to no less than 50 feet.
Councilman Don Mosier sees that as a potential problem.
“I have real concerns about that strategy because we want the 100-foot buffer on the other side of the river for sure,” he said. “So when we start asking for a 50-foot buffer waiver I think that puts us in a very strange place with some other entities.”
Mayor Terry Sinnott said he would support any property owner being granted a 50-foot waiver if it was for recreational, educational purposes that benefit the entire community.
“There’s not much that we could do there that wouldn’t be an improvement,” Councilman Al Corti said. “It is a gateway into the community, and all four corners there, one’s worse than the other depending on how you look at it so I think we can set an example.”
Corti said he was concerned the city could spend $36,000 for improvements and the lease could be canceled with a 30-day notice.
Staff was directed to continue negotiating with NCTD to possibly lower the $11,000 cost of the appraisal and survey.