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City officially lifts ban on valet parking

ENCINITAS — City Council voted unanimously to approve an ordinance allowing valet parking on April 14. The law will now go to the Coastal Commission for review and final approval.
This may come as a surprise to many who regularly see parking attendants hustling through the maze of cars in tiny lots along Cardiff-by-the-Sea’s so-called restaurant row. “I had no idea you weren’t supposed to charge for valet parking,” said Shawn Dyer, who parked his own car at a popular eating establishment in the vicinity of South Coast Highway 101. “I don’t see the problem if people are willing to pay for it.”
The council agreed. In fact, the ban on valet parking doesn’t apply equally to everyone. City Planning Director Patrick Murphy said the Chart House restaurant
in Cardiff-by-the-Sea was allowed to charge for parking because its existence predates the city’s incorporation.
According to city records, at least two speakers requested the restriction be removed during a September 2007 City Council meeting. Several restaurants followed up with a letter that argued against the ban. In part, the letters stated that the state’s nearby seaside paid parking was double their own rates and enticed some beach patrons to use the restaurants’ valet services which were half the price.
The Planning Commission finally heard staff recommendation to modify the ordinance this February after almost two and a half years since the council directed staff to proceed with an amendment in November 2007.
Businesses that have never offered valet services to their patrons will have to apply for a minor use permit at a cost of approximately $1,600, while businesses with existing valet services are not required to obtain a permit.
Murphy said staff could not find any other coastal cities with a similar ban on fee-based valet parking. “We weren’t sure what the history was behind the ordinance,” he said.
The ordinance will undergo review by the state’s Coastal Commission to ensure it does not impinge on the public’s beach access. The process could take up to 15 months according to Murphy.
In the interim, some downtown shoppers worried that the city would become too valet-friendly. “I hope every restaurant doesn’t start charging for parking,” said Melanie Synder, as she ate lunch at a popular eatery on Coast Highway 101. “Can you imagine the traffic jams with people pulling over to wait for the valet guy to come and get your car?” she asked.
Murphy said that the minor use application process should properly distinguish between those businesses where the use of fee-based valet service would not have “spillover impacts to adjoining uses.”