DEL MAR — A proposal for parking changes that would be part of the specific plan to revitalize downtown received a lukewarm reception from council members and residents when presented during a workshop at the March 5 meeting.Parking wasn’t considered a key element to the village in the 1976 community plan, Planning Director Kathy Garcia said.
“However, it was definitely identified … that we have some parking issues associated with the corridor, primarily at the northern half of our downtown, and that we need to look at parking much more comprehensively,” she said. “We’ve taken this to heart as we move forward.”
There are approximately 1,200 stalls in the specific plan area between Ninth and 15th streets, including public metered spaces under L’Auberge Del Mar, but excluding parking for L’Auberge and Del Mar Plaza.
According to surveys conducted in 2000 and 2012, most convenient on-street parking is used by visitors and some employees. Most off-street parking facilities, particularly south of 11th Street, are significantly underutilized.
The analysis indicates there are currently areas where the need for parking exceeds available capacity and areas where parking is readily available.
“We have a parking problem because parking is not efficient,” Garcia said.
Parking lots are narrow. Private parking is not available for general public use. There is not a continuous stream of on-street parking.
“It changes from parallel to diagonal and with curb cuts and interruptions … we’re losing a lot of space,” she said.
“We heard very clearly that some of the business parking is impacting the local neighborhoods,” Garcia said.
“Many of the businesses want additional front-door parking, as close to their business as they can. Some of the employees are parking off-site and this can have an impact in the residential areas.
“Many people felt that the parking requirements were actually too stringent to see any commercial revitalization,” she said. “And there is the perception that there is the lack of parking stalls.”
Garcia introduced a park-once strategy, which allows public parking in private spaces. This would encourage users to park regardless of their destination and walk between establishments. Over time this would develop a pool of publicly available parking that can be shared.
Garcia said a friend recently came to Del Mar and parked once to visit one store, moved her car to go to another establishment and parked a third time to meet Garcia for lunch.
As an incentive, businesses that allow public use of their parking would be given less stringent parking ratios.
Garcia also noted it takes about 10 minutes to walk the approximately 2,000 feet, or two-fifths of a mile, from Ninth to 15th Street. That’s about the same distance between J.C. Penney and Bloomingdale’s at Fashion Valley Mall or the Museum of Man and the rose garden in Balboa Park
The proposal also calls for construction of either a public parking lot or structure and reconfiguring Camino del Mar to two lanes with angled parking, which would add about 50 spaces.
Overall, council members and residents supported the park-once strategy. But when visitors, beachgoers and employees park in residential neighborhoods, property owners and their guests have nowhere to park. This was an issue, they said, that should be resolved before moving forward.
The Traffic Parking and Advisory Committee is working with residents to create a solution, including possibly implementing a permit program.
There was also a suggestion to build a public parking structure first and possibly fund it with a bond that could be repaid with in-lieu fees.
Some residents feared the parking issue would pit residents against business owners.
“I don’t want to see a good plan fail because of the impact on residents, and that impact might be heightened,” Mayor Carl Hilliard said.
Council members hope to have a more interactive parking workshop before any final decisions are made.
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