Del Mar’s paid parking program being modified

Del Mar’s paid parking program being modified
Parking rules in Del Mar will be changing after council members at the Feb. 21 meeting finally agreed to the conditions of a California Coastal Commission permit that has been in the works for more than a year. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Parking rules in the county’s smallest city are about to change after council members at the Feb. 21 meeting finally agreed to the conditions of a California Coastal Commission permit that has been in the works for more than a year.

“I don’t think we have any choice except to accept this,” Councilman Dave Druker said. “I just find that some of the things that they’re asking us to do I just can’t agree with.

“The $15 all day I think is going to be difficult,” he added. “It is antithetical to why we have the parking meters, which is to have turnover.”

Druker also said unrestricted overnight parking could be a problem.

Mayor Terry Sinnott agreed, saying said he would support challenging the commission’s requirement.

“I think that is just opening ourselves up for problems,” Sinnott said. “What we’re trying to do is make our beach community and beach area safer. … I think it just goes in total opposition to what we’re trying to do.”

The city submitted a permit application to the CCC in December 2015 to switch 243 existing paid spaces from a fixed parking rate to a variable one, depending on seasonal and daily demand.

The variable rate would also apply to 11 new pay stations that support about 150 new spaces along Via de la Valle and on both sides of Camino del Mar.

The additional spaces were created by a sidewalk and street improvement project that has since been completed in the North Beach area.

According to the initial application the purpose of the variable rate was to “ensure parking turnover in the prime beach area” of the city to “maximize public access opportunities to these locations.”

Del Mar was seeking to charge $3 per hour from May through September, on holidays and during special events and the fall thoroughbred horse racing season. The hourly cost would be $2 the rest of the year, with a year-round maximum daily fee of $15.

Paid parking was slated to be in effect between 5 a.m. and 11 p.m., with no overnight parking allowed during the nonpaid hours.

In July 2016 the Coastal Commission delayed a decision for 90 days so its staff could work with city officials to create mitigation for the request, which commissioners saw as a violation of the Coastal Act because it could limit public beach access and recreation.

The main issues were the overnight parking restriction and how the parking money would be used. Commissioners also wanted to add a monitoring requirement.

In November the commission presented a list of conditions under which it would approve the permit. The new meter revenue would have to be used for specific commission-approved coastal projects and services, which commission staff could change.

The permit would be valid for five years but could be renewed. Paid parking hours would be in effect from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Overnight parking would be limited to certain areas between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. This prohibition does not apply on Coast Boulevard between 15th and 17th streets and on Camino de1 Mar between Via de la Valle and the San Dieguito River mouth.

Sleeping in a parked car overnight in any area will still be prohibited.

The maximum daily rate would remain at $15. Additionally, monitoring must compare the impacts to free and paid parking in Del Mar and Solana Beach. New signs would be required.

According to the commission, Del Mar has been operating part of its parking program without proper permits and the new permit would bring the city into complete compliance.

Despite opposition to the conditions by Del Mar representatives at the November meeting, the commissioners held their ground.

They did, however, agree to a split on how the revenue could be spent, with 60 percent going toward existing services and maintenance and 40 percent being used for new public access projects.

In December, the city’s Traffic and Parking Advisory Committee recommended the City Council members accept the terms of the permit with the condition that if overnight parking results in problems they return to the commission for an amendment.

Councilman Dwight Worden agreed with the points made by his colleagues, but was concerned about how the city ended up with unpermitted meters.

“The practical reality is we need to clear the decks of what they contend are more significant outstanding violations,” he said. “We need to accept this permit.”

City Manager Scott Huth said based on a memo from the commission’s executive director, previous meter changes “were not significant enough to require a permit.”

“I strongly feel that the actions that the city took historically were in our purview” and city staff “did move in good faith based on that information,” Huth added.

It is estimated the parking fee changes will bring in an additional $100,000 annually. Huth said that amount “far exceeds” what Del Mar already spends on beach-related expenditures such as lifeguard services and maintenance.

Council members voted 4-1, with Sinnott opposed, to accept the terms of the permit, monitor the effects on the community and return to the commission if necessary.

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