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City says less parking is OK

DEL MAR — In an effort to enhance downtown revitalization and meet San Diego Association of Governments Smart Growth criteria, City Council directed staff at the March 28 meeting to move forward with plans to amend parking ratios in the central commercial zone.
According to a June 2010 report on parking strategies for SANDAG Smart Growth, “inflexible parking requirements can force businesses to provide unneeded parking that wastes space and money.”
While those requirements are the norm, they are a barrier to better development, the report states.
Del Mar’s parking standards, which require a set number of spaces based on square footage and the type of business, were adopted more than 20 years ago and are a typical example of those inflexible requirements, according to the city staff report.
During the past few years Del Mar has relaxed parking standards by adopting shared-use, off-site and in-lieu parking programs. Additionally, a two-year pilot program to use valet parking as an alternative was authorized in April 2010.
During the past five years, “an abundant record has been developed containing substantial evidence showing that lowering parking standards will enhance downtown revitalization without a significant effect on the environment,” the staff report states.
“This isn’t the end all but it’s a start in moving it in the right direction,” Councilman Mark Filanc said, adding that, like the addition of sidewalk cafes, “this will also encourage more investment in downtown, which is sorely needed.”
According to the staff report, the resulting analysis shows any potential impacts to traffic and parking caused by additional uses can be minimized by the parking management strategies already adopted and by maximizing the available parking facilities with valet parking during peak evening hours.
Mayor Don Mosier said he talked to several residents who opposed a current proposal to expand Interstate 5 because they believe building wider freeways will attract more cars.
“The same logic applies to parking,” Mosier said. “That’s a real disconnect.”
Mosier said residents can no longer live in the mindset of the 1950s when “gas was 29 cents a gallon and it was a fun time to have a car.”
“That’s not where we’re at now,” he said. “We can’t keep pushing this problem off into the future. The time to act is right now.”
“We’ve kicked the can down the road with respect to difficult issues such as parking,” Councilman Carl Hilliard said, adding that former interim Planning Director Brian Mooney recently conducted an extensive survey of available parking in the downtown area that indicated there was ample parking that was not well used.
Jen Grove and Linda Rock of the Del Mar Village Association spoke in favor of amending the ratios.
“We really want to see increased reinvestment in downtown,” Grove, the organization’s executive director, said. “We support your efforts.”
Board member Rock said she was delighted to see council members “taking some concrete measures to move forward.”
“The economic equation as it is now just doesn’t work,” she said.
Resident Ralph Peck wrote to council stating his opposition to parking ratio amendments and the valet parking pilot program, calling the changes “attempts to gain revenue for the city at the expense of residents.”
It will take anywhere from 18 months to two years for any changes to take effect since the amendment will require approval from the California Coastal Commission and Planning Commission and is subject to review under the California Environmental Quality Act.
“It is time for the Council to cut through the argument, speculation and outdated studies and decisively deal with this issue,” the staff report states.