The Coast News Group

Del Mar prepares for summer

Although relatively calm now, beach activity in Del Mar will swell this summer. Efforts are ongoing to prepare for the estimated 5 million people who will visit the city and Del Mar Fairgrounds beginning next month. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek
Although relatively calm now, beach activity in Del Mar will swell this summer. Efforts are ongoing to prepare for the estimated 5 million people who will visit the city and Del Mar Fairgrounds beginning next month. Photo by Bianca Kaplanek

DEL MAR — Plans for general preparations, as well as peak activities on Fourth of July and opening day at the Del Mar Racetrack, were presented at the May 15 council meeting.

All departments prepare for and are impacted by higher service demands associated with the estimated 5 million people who visit the beachside city, which normally has a population of about 4,200 people.

Some preparations occur before summer begins, while others are ongoing through the peak season and into September.

The most apparent efforts are increased staffing for lifeguard stations and beach maintenance.

Behind-the-scenes preparations include cleaning and maintenance of the 21st Street sewer pump station so it is ready to accommodate peak wastewater flows, mostly from events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds.

City officials include the added summer costs into the annual operating budget.

Up to 20 additional part-time seasonal lifeguard employees will be added daily from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. through Labor Day.

One additional parking enforcement officer will be added on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, with increased staff planned for holidays and special events.

“I was really disappointed to see one additional officer on Friday, Saturday, Sunday and maybe holidays,” resident Robin Crabtree said. “Come on.”

Because it was a late addition to the upcoming budget, which will be approved in June, City Manager Scott Huth said an additional $50,000 for more parking enforcement personnel and to help the park ranger was not included in the report.

He said a “small part” of that will also be used for overtime for sheriff deputies.

Three more patrols will be added to monitor the impact of new parking areas near North Beach and on the south side of Via de la Valle.

Enforcement between 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. will be increased if personnel is available.

Huth said Del Mar has challenges hiring parking enforcement officers because they are part time and there is a lot of competition for those types of workers in the summer.

“We constantly feel like we’re recruiting and filling positions,” he said.

There will be targeted traffic enforcement in the beach area, downtown and near the fairgrounds, which will be asked to pay for any extra law enforcement needed as a result of events held at that state-owned facility.

The fairgrounds will also be required to have a traffic control person in the new roundabout to ensure people entering it from San Dieguito Drive can get out.

A motorcycle traffic deputy will monitor cars and bicyclists running stop signs, especially in the beach colony.

DUI enforcement will be stepped up in bar areas. The city will coordinate with the park ranger, area bars and restaurants and the California Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control to help reduce calls for service from those local businesses.

Huth said the city is also trying to find ways to discourage visitors to the downtown from parking in residential areas. In the past cars in those areas have been towed, but residents complained the tow truck was noisier than the patrons.

“Our strategy is avoiding the need for a tow altogether,” Huth said.

One solution is increased lighting on signs and having a call for bar patrons to move their cars to the underground lot beneath L’Auberge Del Mar.

The Senior Volunteer Patrol will be used to conduct extra patrols in identified “hot areas.” On designated peak days an additional fire engine company will be closer to the central area of the city, fire apparatus will be repositioned as needed and an extra ambulance crew will be at the fairgrounds.

The Public Works beach maintenance staff will expand to three members working 10-hour offset shifts daily from 6 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.

This summer a seasonal beach maintenance position has been budgeted to provide another 1,000 hours of time to focus on cleanup downtown, in the city right-of-way and at beaches and parks.

Also new this year is a facilities specialist who will address the facility maintenance program and lead the day-to-day operations of the department’s seven seasonal staffers assigned to beach maintenance duties.

Staff will also be added to maintain city facilities, including a worker to clean the outside patio and walkways adjacent to the Powerhouse Community and 17th Street Beach Safety centers and to clean, open and close public restrooms at both buildings.

A restroom attendant will be assigned daily at those facilities from 12:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Beach cleaning will be expanded from twice weekly to four times a week Tuesday through Friday.

In response to community input, more trash and recycling receptacles will be added to street ends in the beach colony.

“We wanted more trash bins but the other side of the coin is that those trash bins overflow and the trash is all over the beach and beach access,” Crabtree said. “We need more pickups … especially Friday, Saturday and Sunday.”

Huth said pickup is an issue.

“We’re looking at increasing that (and) trying to figure out how to get that extra service in there,” he said.

The city asked the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club to pay for more deputies July 16, opening day of the races, in the afternoon in the vicinity of 15th Street and Camino del Mar.

The city is also arranging for more traffic control at key intersections with stop signs to keep traffic flowing smoothly.

Historically, this was done at the intersections of 11th and 13th streets. This year, since opening day is on a Wednesday, it is also being explored for intersections with stop signs on Camino del Mar in the beach colony.

Although June 17 is considered the unofficial start of summer, Crabtree said the impacts are already being felt.

“It’s chaos and it’s not even summer yet,” she said, adding that in her opinion, the staff report outlining the stepped-up efforts was “a lot of fluff” with “no specifics.”

Mayor Terry Sinnott said the city should also be looking for ways to make it safer as people race around neighborhoods looking for parking.