DEL MAR — Despite opposition from one colleague and several residents, including 32 who signed a petition, council members authorized staff with a 4-1 vote at the March 17 meeting to move forward with plans to install six parking meters on the west side of Ocean Avenue adjacent to Seagrove Park.
Paul Heimgaertner, who manages the apartment complex at 1425 Ocean Ave., where he’s lived for 22 years, said many who signed the petition he circulated consider the meters a punishment.
“They feel that the atmosphere of Del Mar is kind of punishing the residents,” Heimgaertner said. “I have seen a lot of changes in Del Mar. This is one change I don’t see that’s really beneficial to the residents who live there. This is pushing into a residential area.”
Of the 22 apartments in his complex, only 10 have a garage. “So those people use those spaces,” he said. “People from Coast Boulevard use those spaces. Visitors use those spaces. I don’t think we should even penalize the visitors there because I see those visitors … using the park … and then I see them put their belongings back in their car and go into town where they spend money.”
Kevin Walsh owns a unit in the Vista Del Mar complex. “Some of the residents there don’t have garages,” he said.
“Some of them are relatively elderly people so they have to really scramble now to find a parking space,” Walsh added. “I think if we go ahead and add six more meters it’s going to make it even more difficult for some of the residents there.”
In the past 20 years, Walsh said, “the burden has been placed largely on people who live in the area as far as parking is concerned.”
The meters have the potential to increase the daytime turnover of parked cars, which would result in more public access to the park and beach. It would also create safer unloading for park visitors and beachgoers.
In a letter to the city, John Peterson noted the parking spaces are heavily used by people living on the east side of Ocean Avenue. He stated that if paid parking is installed, residents will park on other nearby street spaces, negating any net increase of coastal access.
The meters could generate at least $42,000 in annual revenue for maintenance of the city’s coastal accesses and amenities.
The west side of the street, which is zoned for public parks, is one of three areas council members considered when they discussed expanding paid parking in September.
The Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee discussed the issue and agreed to support the project in October.
The meters, which would take coins or credit cards, will allow parking for $3 per hour, with a maximum of four hours, similar to other beachfront meters. Cars are currently allowed to park in the spaces for a maximum of 72 hours.
The metered parking will be enforced daily from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. According to the staff report, the spaces are frequently occupied by vehicles for more than four hours and often for days.
“I can understand residents feeling resentful and really shortchanged,” Councilwoman Sherryl Parks said. “What troubles me so much is when I see photographs of the same car using that space like it is their parking space.”
“I have really mixed feelings about this because I think we need more parking,” Councilman Don Mosier said. “It’s unfortunate that residents will be impacted by this change.
“The nature of the objection is that because these buildings didn’t have enough parking capacity (when they were built), we now should provide on-street parking,” he added. “These are public spaces and residents have some expectation of having parking for guests in front of their residence. But I think taking only six spaces adjacent to a park when these people are already 20 some-odd spaces short is not a substantial change.
“I think this is a small increment that provides better access to the park,” Mosier said. “I’m inclined to support this although I understand the objections of the residents and it will wreck some hardships.”
“This is a residential community primarily,” said Councilman Terry Sinnott, who cast the dissenting vote. “The history is interesting. The apartment complex was there prior to Seagrove Park.
“I don’t think our problem is providing more convenient access to the beach,” he said. “I’d rather just leave it as is. … Even though this, in concept, I think is a good idea, when you get down to practicalities of who might be impacted … I think this is not where we need to put our meters.”
Staff will submit an application to the California Coastal Commission, which must approve the meters before they are installed.
In other news, council members directed staff to create an ordinance amendment that expands the definitions of smoking to include electronic cigarettes. Once drafted, that will be presented to council for a vote.
Council also agreed to send a letter of opposition to the California Coastal Commission in response to that agency’s staff requiring the removal of the boardwalk trail on the south side of the south overflow parking lot across from the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
With the restoration of that parcel currently under way, Del Mar officials recently learned the CCC staff indicated they may require the removal of the boardwalk, according to the Del Mar staff report.
“The Coastal Commission staff removed the existing coastal trail from that approved (restoration) plan with no discussion,” Mosier said. “And in fact it wasn’t even on the plan that the Coastal Commission approved.
“So this was a staff decision with no public input,” he added. “So not only is the move objectionable, but the process is objectionable.”