ENCINITAS — Todd Stearman said that on any given night, you could look down Seacrest Way and see nothing but cars and trucks lining the half-mile stretch.
The congestion is so bad that cars will park on the corner of intersections and block crosswalks, wheelchair ramps and lines of sight for drivers trying to access the street.
“I’ve lived here since 2008, and it has gotten progressively worse each year,” said Stearman, who lives on the corner of Seacrest Way and Pacific View Lane. “All you can see is cars.”
Stearman and neighbors along Pacific View Lane and neighboring streets have been gathering signatures in an effort to petition the city to establish a residents-only parking zone on the three streets impacted by the traffic: Seacrest Way, Sea View Court and Pacific View Lane.
The district would be only the second of its kind in the city: Neighbors along Devonshire Drive near Scripps Memorial Hospital Encinitas had one established in the late ‘90s to deter hospital employees from parking along their street.
The city Traffic Commission will consider the petition at its July 13 meeting, at which time they will determine if there is enough evidence for staff to draft a resolution in favor of the action to forward to the City Council for consideration.
The traffic commission would vote on the resolution at a future meeting.
“I think that people who are living here are going to go through the hoops to get the permit, but those who can’t prove residency will not park here,” Stearman said. “I think it’s the best solution for our problem.”
City staff has been investigating the parking issue for the past few months, as residents’ calls for city intervention have gained volume and frequency. Neighbors have complained that in addition to the parking, other issues such as trash, drug paraphernalia and condoms have been found on the street, as some cars are parked along the stretch for days at a time.
Neighbors said they believe one of the chief reasons for the parking woes is the Essex Heights Apartments, a 262-unit complex that has a rear access onto Seacrest Way, which wasn’t open until a few years ago.
Opening the street has made Seacrest Way a more palatable parking option for residents who live in or people who frequent the complex but choose not to park there due to not having permits to park in the apartment stalls.
“There only used to be one entrance to the apartment, and that was on Encinitas Boulevard,” Stearman said.
According to emails between city staff and several of the neighbors, each of the residents in Essex Heights are given permits to park two vehicles, and additional vehicles without permits are subject to being towed.
Additionally, when ownership changed hands in 2008, neighbors said the parking stalls in the apartment complex were reconfigured and narrowed, so truck owners have been more reluctant to park in the tighter spaces, instead opting to use the public parking along the street.
“It’s been going on for years, but it has become quite difficult,” said Karen Atkins, a neighbor whose emails to the city traffic staff are included in the Traffic Commission’s report. “We don’t have a homeowners association, so neighbors are just beginning to get in contact with the city and work with the city on a solution.”
Residents said it isn’t just cars from the apartment complex though. Big commercial trucks use the spot for overnight parking. Neighbors said they also find trash from cars that will dock on the street due to its secluded nature. Other neighbors said they have found people engaging in illicit acts such as sex and drug use.
“We’ve found condoms, and we’ve seen people parked on the street having sex,” Stearman said. “That will stop if the city establishes a permit district.”
The City Council, according to city ordinance, can — after a public hearing has taken place — establish a permit district if it finds that the area affected is being used for a purpose other than residential parking and that the overcrowding is impacting the quality of life of the neighborhood.
Stearman and others said the mounting evidence supports these findings.
In addition to the trash and debris, neighbors said motorists turning onto Seacrest Way from Sea View Court are placed in peril due to not having clear lines of sight of oncoming traffic. Until recently, the apartment’s rear exit did not have a stop sign, and motorists leaving the complex would roll out onto the street without lines of sight as well.
City traffic engineer Rob Blough said that one of the key pieces the residents would have to prove is whether it is commercial or commuter parking that is causing the congestion, not necessarily residential parking from the apartment complex.
“This meeting will give us an opportunity to gather as much information as we can so we can make an informed decision,” Blough said. “All of the neighbors have been notified, including those in the apartment complex and the owners of the complex, because they will want to be part of this process as well.”