The Coast News Group
The fast-growing success of HealthFusion has resulted in an increase in employees parking in nearby residential areas. City Council directed staff to find solutions to address the problem. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
The fast-growing success of HealthFusion has resulted in an increase in employees parking in nearby residential areas. City Council directed staff to find solutions to address the problem. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

City working to address impacts of employee parking

SOLANA BEACH — In response to residents’ complaints, City Council directed staff at the March 26 meeting to create potential solutions to a recent increase in employees parking on residential streets.

Adopted plans will be applicable citywide, however, efforts will initially focus on the neighborhoods around North Rios and Barbara avenues,

In December, residents in those areas notified city officials that a rising number of employees, primarily from the commercial center at the corner of North Rios and Lomas Santa Fe Drive, were parking along their streets.

City Manager David Ott said he and other staff members met several times since then with residents and business owners to discuss long- and short-term solutions.

He discovered one reason for the increase was the success of HealthFusion, an electronic health records software company. The business has grown from seven employees to more than 100 and the owner provided limited parking for them.

Two-hour parking limitation signs, which have since been removed, were also installed illegally in the lot.

A city staff member conducted statewide research to find out how other jurisdictions handled the problem.

“We’ve got kind of a mix out there,” Ott said.

Some requirements are based on the type of business or the number of employees. Other businesses must provide one space for each worker. Del Mar uses a formula based on square footage per employee, which many council members viewed as a strong possibility for Solana Beach.

There were also suggestions to implement a residential parking permit program or temporarily restrict daytime weekday parking along certain roadways.

Staff will present the various options at a future meeting. Whatever direction council members choose to take, the parking lot causing the recent problems would be unaffected, at least at first.

The center was built before Solana Beach incorporated and adopted the current parking standards so it has grandfathered status for the number of spaces that must be provided.

The center has 70 spaces. If it were to comply with the current code, 126 would be mandated.

“We can’t require the existing property to increase their parking,” Ott said.

“What’s troubling me a little bit is that the existing businesses (are) not going to be subject to (a new policy),” Councilwoman Lesa Heebner said.

She suggested phasing in the increased requirements over time, as the city does when zoning is changed. Ott said that could be done, but some council members weren’t sure if they could support the plan.

“I certainly don’t want to create the impression that we’re trying to drive an existing business out,” Councilman Dave Zito said, adding that he didn’t favor a permit program either.

Zito said he could possibly support limited parking hours. “Some neighborhoods may not be amenable to that so that one I would have to think about.”

“Certainly I don’t want to drive out existing businesses also, but the reality is sometimes businesses just outgrow the community that they’re in,” Mayor Tom Campbell said, adding that the downside to success is an inability to provide sufficient parking.

“It’s not our fault,” he said. “We certainly do not want to sacrifice the character of our residents’ neighborhood and create a traffic nightmare for them. This is a tough issue to try to deal with and I think that we can come up with something long term.”

Councilman Peter Zahn suggested giving employers an option to subsidize public transportation for workers.

“We see that happen voluntarily,” he said, “but I’m just wondering in terms of having that as a way to conform to a regulation of the type that we’re talking about, that that might be a way to mitigate that type of requirement.”

Ott said it could be hard to verify whether employees are taking advantage of such a program.

“We’re talking about this one isolated issue right here, but really it’s not,” Councilman Mike Nichols said. “Cedros, up Rosa — there’s a lot of employee parking up that street and then on Granados both the north and south side.

“It still happens quite a bit,” he added. “So we need to kind of look at an overarching kind of policy here.”

Nichols said he doesn’t favor parking permits but he is open to hearing the pros and cons. “Don’t take anything off the table at this point,” he said.

Although no residents spoke during the public comment period, Campbell encouraged people to provide input.

“It’s very important that the community, the residents … communicate with council and the city manager,” he said. “Please send us emails … so we can get a sense of what the community and the residents feel about what’s taking place there.”

Meanwhile, HealthFusion provided employees with maps highlighting where they should and shouldn’t park.

“It seems to be working, at least for the first three days,” Ott said.

The city also repainted the parking stall lines near the business center to conform with current standards, adding about three or four more spaces.