DEL MAR — Residents of San Diego County’s smallest city will see paid parking costs increase for the first time in roughly seven years, with the maximum for hourly parking increasing by $1 and daily parking increasing by $5.
The California Coastal Commission conditionally approved proposed changes to Del Mar’s paid parking program on Feb. 9, allowing increases in maximum hourly rates from $3 to $4 and maximum daily costs from $15 to $20.
Del Mar’s proposal focused on increasing hourly parking rates in 422 existing paid parking spaces at prime coastal access points, including Via de la Valle, Camino Del Mar and 17th Street, to encourage parking space turnover and generate revenue to help the city recover costs of coastal public safety programs such as lifeguards.
However, the Coastal Development Permit approved by the commission was less than what the city staff hoped for. Del Mar officials initially requested raising the daily maximum from $15 to $25 — except the Trailhead Lot, where a maximum daily cost would be $20 — which the commission ultimately rejected.
The commission claimed that the city’s proposed costs were too high.
“Fees should generally be comparable to those charged at similar public facilities in the region; however, an analysis of parking prices in other Southern California cities reveals that Del Mar’s proposed increases are substantially higher,” a commission staff report read.
The state body also claimed the proposed rates were not consistent with the growth based on inflation since 2015. Increasing costs by the city’s proposed 3% CPI metric from 2015 to 2023 would bring the $3 hourly maximum to $3.80 and the $15 daily maximum to only $19.
“The Commission’s main concern regarding paid parking programs and restrictions on parking hours is that the operating parameters of such a program should not unreasonably interfere with the public’s ability to access the shoreline or discourage the use of public visitor and recreational facilities.”
The paid parking program changes required a Coastal Development Permit because they are related to public coastal access. Del Mar officials said they would comply with the permit conditions but disagreed with the reasoning, claiming that they host far more visitors per year than other jurisdictions like Solana Beach, which the commission used as a comparison.
“The City of Del Mar hosts an exponentially higher number of beach visitors annually and has a much greater overall capacity of free parking than Solana Beach,” Principal Planner Amanda Lee said. “The Del Mar beach accommodates millions of visitors year-round, and most of Del Mar’s approximately 3-mile shoreline is easily accessible due to the capacity of free beach-level, on-street parking and beach access at each street end.”
Lee added that the city’s proposed rates are much lower than that of nearby state beaches such as Torrey Pines.
A 30-cent fee will also be added to all credit card payments for paid parking, and costs will be allowed to increase by up to 3% each year based on inflation. The commission also required the city to have variable fees to keep parking costs below the maximum during the off-season and various holidays.
The conditional approval also struck down the city’s proposed four-hour limit on parking at the trailhead, except during special events at the Fairgrounds, and their request to be exempt from making and submitting paid parking monitoring reports.
The city must submit plans for its parking monitoring program and free beach parking program for low-income individuals to the commission before the city can implement the new costs, the commission said.
The proposal did not include changes to the existing 580 free parking spaces throughout the city or the addition of any new paid parking spaces. However, the commission required a small amount of existing paid spaces among Via de la Valle to become free spaces.
Del Mar’s revenue from paid parking, anticipated to total $1.35 million in the next fiscal year, is used to fund not only lifeguard operations but code enforcement, trash services, access management and facility maintenance and cleaning at the city’s beaches and parks, and various city capital projects, Lee said.