Parking spaces could get smaller in San Marcos district

SAN MARCOS — San Marcos’ long awaited Creek District will soon have new features that might drive SUV owners up a wall — slimmer parking spaces and more spaces for compact cars.

The City Council voted Tuesday to approve the first reading of an amendment to the Creek District specific plan that would allow developers to build parking spaces that are a half-foot less in width than the current code requirements of 9 feet and 8 1/2 feet for regular and compact spaces, respectively.

At the same time, the ordinance will allow 35 percent of a creek district development’s parking to be compact spaces, compared to the 20 percent maximum citywide.

The City Council, as part of the approval, also added language to allow the body to review the parking arrangement annually to see if changes need to be made.

“We know that other cities are doing it,” Vice Mayor Rebecca Jones said of smaller parking spaces. “But we could get it wrong.”

City staff said the change was pivotal to give developers incentive to build parking structures within the district, which would be necessary to accommodate the massive amount of growth the city anticipates within the proposed district.

The Creek District Specific Plan, approved seven years ago, encompasses a rectangular area generally bounded by Grand Avenue, San Marcos Boulevard and Discovery Street. City officials see the district as becoming the bustling downtown that the city has always lacked.

The specific plan calls for 2,300 residential units, more than 1.2 million square feet of retail space and 589,000 square feet of office space, outdoor cafes overlooking San Marcos Creek, 20 acres of parkland a trail system and a 150-seat amphitheater.

Villa Park-based Blue Band Enterprises, the developer of the proposed Main Street Plaza, proposed the change, which it said will give developers incentive to build the parking structures because it would drive down the cost per space.

The Main Street Plaza project is a mixed-use development that would feature 400 high-end apartments atop 60,000 square feet of office space on six acres near the Arco gas station on San Marcos Boulevard.

“To achieve the type of density the city is looking for in the creek district without subterranean parking structures is impossible,” said Michael Lipets, president of Blue Band Enterprises. “And subterranean parking is expensive. Without the proposal, it might be prohibitively expensive.”

As justification for the approval, Blue Band representatives pointed to a study that showed consumers are trending toward buying smaller cars.

The California New Car Dealers Association, according to its most recently quarterly data, said that eight of the 10 most purchased cars statewide were compact vehicles, and the most popular car statewide was the Toyota Prius.

“Whether that is a trend or if it is increasing or decreasing, I can’t say,” said Brian Maas, president of the new cars association.  “But the current stats show that the most popular new cars are mid-sized and smaller cars.”

A few cities in San Diego County allow smaller compact spaces than those proposed in the Creek District. In Oceanside and Coronado, for instance, compact spaces can be 7 ½ feet by 15 feet.

The City Council will have to approve and adopt a second reading before the change is finalized.


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