Council gets first look at parking plan

Council gets first look at parking plan
An 85-page plan outlining strategies to improve parking in the downtown was presented at the Jan. 5 meeting. Two council members will further analyze the report before any action is taken. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — After more than 90 minutes of discussion at the Jan. 5 meeting, Councilmen Terry Sinnott and Dwight Worden were appointed to further analyze a nearly 85-page draft document that outlined a downtown parking management plan and report back to their colleagues in 30 days.

City staff was directed to begin working on a citywide plan to identify parking concerns and needs and create implementation strategies to address those issues.

To do so, they divided the city into five areas: the downtown commercial zone, the Beach Colony, the Del Mar Fairgrounds and north commercial zone, property south of 10th Street and west of Camino del Mar and the hillside.

The first report focuses on the downtown area from the railroad tracks on the west to Lunetta Drive on the east, L’Auberge Del Mar and Zuni Drive on the north to 10th Street on the south.

Staff presented six challenges that include a lack of accessible and convenient parking in high-demand areas, an overall lack of on-street spots, a surplus of underused off-street spaces and the impact of visitors and employees parking in residential areas.

The report estimates a need for about 140 additional spaces and highlights the current conditions for five groups: employees, business patrons, the in-lieu program, residents and recreational users such as beachgoers.

Staff recommended council members implement as soon as possible 21 top-priority strategies and presented another 15 that could be put in place in the future.

While council members said they appreciate the efforts that went into the report, they said there was too much information to make any concrete decisions immediately.

“It left me very confused,” Worden said.

Sinnott, who described the document as “very valuable and almost overwhelming,” criticized some of the language.

“I would really encourage you not to use meaningless words,” he said “’Facilitate parking’ doesn’t mean anything to me. Does it make parking easier for people?”

Mayor Al Corti said he still favors an “overriding plan that fits the whole community,” but the report was at least a start.

“I think this is still a good initiative,” he said. “I’m glad it’s finally on the table.”

Councilman Don Mosier agreed, calling it a “comprehensive start” but with too many options and no prioritization.

A few residents also weighed in on the report.

“To say this is like ‘Groundhog Day’ is an understatement,” Bill Michalsky said, noting that some of proposals “we’ve talked about over the years and they’ve gone nowhere.”

In an email to the city, Claire and Tom McGreal asked council to allow time for a community discussion and input before acting on the proposed changes.

Del Mar needs a comprehensive, well-integrated plan, they wrote. A neighborhood-by-neighborhood approach such as this “will not be well integrated and is likely to result in different parking rules for each of the five defined areas.”

With roughly 2,000 homes it should be possible to implement one set of rules and guidelines for parking throughout the small city, they added.

They also stated that the proposal to require paid parking throughout the business area is contrary to the city goal to revitalize the area to draw more visitors, shoppers and diners. It will also likely result in people seeking free parking in residential areas.

Many of their concerns were reiterated in an email from Nancy Stoke.

Following the analysis by Sinnott and Worden the report will be presented to the various citizen advisory committees for input as well.

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