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Council OKs valets to ease parking at plaza

DEL MAR — Parking at Del Mar Plaza, especially on peak summer nights, should get easier with City Council’s unanimous decision at the Sept. 21 meeting to allow the use of valets to satisfy an increased parking requirement.
In July, Council members approved a request to expand restaurant service at the site, resulting in a need for 58 additional spaces. They deferred a vote on the use of valet parking to meet that requirement until more information was available and the public had a chance to weigh in.
Existing restaurants currently use approximately 10,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space and about 5 percent of the public area for food service. According to the voter-approved specific plan, they are permitted to use up to 14,400 square feet and 25 percent of the designated public plaza area.
Interim Planning Director Brian Mooney said staff determined the requests were consistent with the requirements of the specific plan, so council approval was not needed. However, he said, “when staff determines there’s something conforming with the specific plan (that’s) a little out of the ordinary, we bring it before council.”
When presented at the July 27 meeting, the plan was to valet all vehicles in the parking garage, but council members were concerned that would limit opportunities to self-park. Michael Harth, president of Sunset Parking, which provides service to the plaza, said patrons can continue to self-park. When that fills up, the valets will dense pack around them.
Once the garage is full, valets will use the Del Mar Village Association lot, where 70 additional vehicles can be parked. There was concern that scenario might cause some inconvenience, given the distance between the two areas, but Harth said it wasn’t an issue.
“You’d be amazed how far guys run,” he said. “That’s what they get paid to do.” Harth said he would schedule extra staff during peak times, such as opening day at the race track. Valet service will not be provided full time.
Harth said the plan will likely eliminate the need to post signs stating the parking garage is full. There are 403 spaces in the garage, but it can accommodate about 100 more cars when they are parked by a valet.
Jonathan Rood, speaking on behalf of the plaza owners, said he is also negotiating a reciprocal agreement with St. Peter’s Church, which uses the plaza lot on Sundays and holidays. He said valets would likely use that area first since it is closer.
Councilman Don Mosier said that lot is already being used by plaza employees, whom he has seen putting on uniforms after parking there. “I’d like to see some control of employee parking,” he said.
The plaza parking requirement is one space for every 100 square feet of service area. In other parts of the city, the mandate is one space for every 90 square feet, except for sidewalks cafes, which are not required to provide additional spaces.
Walt Beerle, president of the Del Mar Village Association and the only member of the public to address council, spoke in favor of the plan.
“With our focus on the revitalization of downtown, this would fit in very nicely because of the underutilization of the parking right now,” he said.