DEL MAR — Forgetful parkers, be warned: residents and visitors to Del Mar will see increased parking fees for expired meters and other violations beginning July 20, bringing the city’s fees closer to those of neighboring cities.
New rates, approved unanimously at the Del Mar City Council’s June 20 meeting, include a $7 increase to time zone and paid parking violations from $43 to $50. This includes infractions such as expired meters and exceeding a time-restricted spot.
Del Mar has historically had lower parking fees than the average of neighboring jurisdictions and state beaches, including Oceanside, Carlsbad, Encinitas, San Diego, Solana Beach, and Torrey Pines and Cardiff state beaches, according to a staff report.
“We found that for the most part, the city of Del Mar violations are on the low end,” said Community Services Director Jon Edelbrock.
City staff said their goal in increasing fees is to increase compliance with parking regulations, improve public safety and deter egregious violations. Del Mar has not increased its portion of parking fees in over 20 years, with operating costs for labor and citation processing rising in the meantime.
“While the city has seen significant parking citation revenue increases since then, the increases are a result of increases in violations issued, as the city has expanded parking operations and demand for parking has increased significantly over the years,” a staff report states.
The demand for outdoor space amid COVID-19 restrictions is also believed to have increased parking and citations. The city issued 27,412 parking citations in 2021, making it the highest year on record.
The city estimates the new fees will bring in approximately $180,000 in increased revenue annually.
While violators in Del Mar will pay more than in previous years, the most common fees will remain far lower than the high end of the regional range, which reach $72 for an expired meter and $97 for exceeding a two-hour limit space, according to city staff.
Fees were assessed within five categories: time zone and paid parking violations; general safety and nuisance violations; egregious safety violations, and miscellaneous.
Fees for general safety and nuisance will increase by $15 to $25, with penalties currently set at $43. This category includes parking in a no-parking zone, a passenger loading zone, outside of a marked space, on a curb, or parking incorrectly in an angled space or the wrong way.
Egregious safety violations, such as parking too close to a fire hydrant, on a crosswalk, in a bike lane, in a tow-away zone, within seven feet of railroad tracks, in a fire lane, or blocking a sidewalk or driveway, will all come with fees of $68. This marks an increase of between $5 and $25.
Some miscellaneous violations will also see increases. Fees for leaving a parked vehicle unattended with the motor running, illegal plates or tabs, improper display of license plates, and no gas cap will all increase from $43 to $58.
Parking on a hill is the only violation that will see a fee decrease from $106 to $68. Edelbrock said this is not a common violation in the city.
Late fees for unpaid citations will also increase on July 20. Currently, violators incur a late fee starting at $40 if they have still not paid their parking citation 14 days after it was issued, with the exact amount depending on the violation itself.
Now, all late fees will be equal to the original citation amount to account for the increased operating costs to the city when tickets are not paid on time.
“We found that the longer folks take to pay, our operating costs increase. For example, we have more communication via mail, more communication via phone, and then additional costs down the road,” Edelbrock said.
Around three-quarters of parking fees assessed in the city are related to expired meters and parking that exceeds time zones, according to staff. The city monitors 85 parking meters requiring payment for around 525 spaces.
Del Mar currently employs three full-time and nine part-time parking enforcement officers.
The new fees apply to all citations written by city staff, such as patrol officers, lifeguards and code enforcement officials, and San Diego County Sheriff’s deputies.