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Adding parking meters could yield new revenues

DEL MAR — The city could take in about $435,000 more each year by putting meters on 177 spaces in the downtown area that currently offer free parking, but it’s not a move council members are ready to make without a comprehensive parking plan in place.

Mark Delin, assistant to the city manager, presented a report at the April 21 meeting outlining potential parking revenues in the village that could be used to fund a parking structure that has been discussed for the City Hall site.

In 2013 the city received $600,000 in parking revenue and $523,000 from parking fines. All parking income goes into the general fund.

“Paid parking has been good for the city in general,” Delin said.

His analysis included spaces along 15th Street and on Camino del Mar between 11th Street and just north of 15th Street.

It assumed a five-month summer season during which meters would be in effect from 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily with rates set at $2 per hour for prime locations and $1 an hour for less desirable areas.

The seven-month winter season assumed half as much use, with all rates dropped to $1 an hour. Delin said he “may have been excessively conservative” with the winter numbers.

If a 200-car parking structure is built, 70 spaces would be free for City Hall use.  If the remaining 130 spaces were metered with rates at $1 an hour, Delin estimates the city could take in about $187,500 annually, assuming an occupancy rate of 70 percent in the summer and 35 percent during the winter months.

Another $1.2 million in revenue could be generated if 40 spaces were designated for the in-lieu program, which allows businesses to pay for rather than provide required parking.

With the money generated from additional paid parking the city could borrow between $9.5 million and $9.8 million to fund the parking structure.

“If we do things with parking in the central core and don’t address the residential issue at the same time we’re going to have unintended consequences and it’s going to cause problems,”  Councilman Terry Sinnott said, adding that he had concerns about building a parking structure that depended on money from paid parking to fund it.

“I don’t want to go there because there have been many cities that have built it and they did not come,” he said.

Councilman Don Mosier said he supports paid parking over the current free, two-hour limit because enforcement “is a lot of work” and “creates a lot of ill feelings for people who stay here two hours and two minutes and get ticketed.”

Mosier said he preferred pay-and-display parking rather than meters because the visitor is in control.

“I think that putting the parking customer in control of their own fate is a positive step,” Mosier said. “But I am concerned that we do this in a coordinated way so that if you put in meters then you don’t chase all the people, including the workers and visitors, into the neighborhoods.

“You’ve got to have a comprehensive parking plan to make this work,” he added. “A comprehensive parking plan has to deal with the neighborhood spillover at the same time you make any changes to the commercial district.”

Councilwoman Sherryl Parks called the presentation “a good start.”

“It’s good information, but I would just take it as that, as a good foundation for helping us make some plans in the future about revenue,” she said.

City Manager Scott Huth said the report was strictly informational at this point.

“We wouldn’t want to put something forward that has a balloon effect that squeezes people out of one area into another,” he said.