Along the 101 in Encinitas, 175 parking spaces have been kidnapped! Count ’em — 175 public parking spaces! These parking slots have been allotted to restaurants to augment their outdoor seating for customers.
This came about because of the COVID-19 pandemic and was considered a safety issue to allow a fresh air environment and distancing to curb the spread of the virus. It also allowed restaurants to continue to keep their businesses afloat and survive the pandemic. They have thrived very well. Commendable action for the time. But now, the pandemic is over.
The conundrum is this: Other local businesses in downtown Encinitas — particularly service businesses that we all rely on — have lost valuable parking for their customers and they and we are hurting because of that. And, frankly, almost all of these restaurants already had outdoor seating on the public sidewalks.
They can reinstate and enhance that original outdoor sidewalk seating and still have a profitable business. People can now eat inside comfortably and safely again. Meanwhile, other local businesses that have been sacrificing customers and losing money can hopefully have a chance to return to normalcy and recoup some of their losses.
For these small local businesses, it has been a game of musical chairs — whose customer will find a parking spot and which one will be out of both the customer and the money.
For example, Kim’s Alterations, which has been in business on the 101 for over 30 years, estimates her family has lost 15% to 20% of their business because her customers have told her they drive around and around and cannot find a parking space, so they leave.
Raul Villamar owns a barbershop that has been in his family for three generations and is a business leader. He has requested that Mayor Tony Kranz and the City Council put this issue on a city agenda. He has submitted petitions signed by over 300 businesses and customers asking for relief from this parking nightmare.
Kranz and Councilmember Kellie Hinze, when meeting with business owners, have already indicated that the infused profit is more important to them. I suggest they rethink that stance.
Niko Sougias, owner of Charlie’s Foreign Car Service, which occupies space between the 101 and Second Street, has definitely felt the loss of parking spaces. He sees the domino effect as harmful to the Second and Third street businesses and all the alphabet street businesses from D to I streets due to the overflow from lack of parking on the 101.
Access to critical resources at CRC and the Health Clinic on Second Street is restricted. Niko says, “It is time to make it FAIR for all businesses again!”
Kranz’s original statement on the parameters of this interim situation was that by 2023, these segmented outdoor infringements on public parking spaces would be ended. Then, the mayor and council chose to extend it until January 2024.
The State of California has now said, basically, the extension could go until 2026. However, there is a choice and that choice is up to our city representatives to choose small businesses over profit extended to a single for-profit business, which in a time of crisis was needed, but is not now warranted.
What’s ahead for downtown Encinitas? Financial charges for using these public parking spaces? Discussing angled parking on Second Street to try to activate a few more parking spaces?
What would that accomplish except a very crowded and narrow road already crowded with delivery trucks and overflow parking? How about returning to pre-pandemic normalcy and restoring all business sectors to the right to thrive and serve the public?
Please attend the Encinitas City Council meeting on Dec. 20 at 6 p.m. at 505 S. Vulcan Avenue.
Sheila S. Cameron is a former mayor of Encinitas.