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Del Mar works to decrease summer impacts on Beach Colony

DEL MAR — With input from about 60 residents, city officials are moving forward with some suggestions to ease the impact summer visitors have on those who live in the Beach Colony.

Gatherings were held at five homes throughout February to discuss what went well last year — lifeguards received high marks — and areas where improvements could be made.

In a report presented at the March 3 meeting, the issues were grouped into eight categories: law enforcement, traffic, parking, beach issues, street maintenance, drainage, summer rentals and private property construction. Citing a rise in vehicle break-ins, vandalism and traffic enforcement, residents said the presence of law enforcement needs to be increased. One of the biggest concerns is cars and bicyclists running stop signs on Coast Boulevard, especially at night.

City Manager Scott Huth said he is already talking to the Sheriff’s Department about the issue.

“We’re going to put effort behind that,” Huth said. “All the comments on traffic were right on the dot because we walked out of one meeting and watched a guy drive right through a stop sign at 8:30 at night at 35 mph. So it was very obvious there’s an issue.”

Other traffic concerns include driving the wrong way in the alleys, speeding and double-parking while loading and unloading. Residents said motorists also don’t yield to pedestrians crossing Coast Boulevard and Camino del Mar.

There were numerous issues regarding parking, including employees parking in the Beach Colony neighborhood, problems during drop-off and pick-up times for camp participants and vehicles circling around the neighborhood to find an available space.

City staff members are working to find a solution for employee parking in the beach and downtown commercial areas. They are also researching a suggestion to install signs indicating that on-street parking is full and directing drivers to alternative locations.

Staff will also re-evaluate the pick-up and drop-off locations for the camps to possibly find better solutions to the current situation. A variety of concerns were raised about beach use, including trash, kelp removal and too many youth camps, dogs, tents and shade structures.

Huth said he would return to council in one of the next two meetings with an evaluation of the number of camps currently allowed and possible solutions.

Before summer, using existing funds, additional trash receptacles will be installed and the first phase of more aesthetically designed trash containers will be placed at street ends and Powerhouse and Seagrove parks.

Between 50 and 60 concrete containers are needed to replace rubber trashcans throughout the city at a cost of about $40,000, so the project might be done in phases.

Councilman Don Mosier said he has concerns about increasing the number of receptacles.

“If you put in more trashcans you’ll collect more trash,” he said, noting that is contrary to the city’s zero waste goal. “We’d like to reduce the amount of material that goes to the landfill. … The more you put the more you encourage people to not haul off their own trash.

“When you put a lot more trash cans you’re just encouraging behavior I think we want to discourage,” Mosier added.

Huth said he would work to determine the appropriate number of cans needed and the possible use of larger recycling bins. According to the staff report, lifeguards and park rangers will be directed to enforce existing regulations that apply to the size of allowable tents and shade structures.

Council members said staff should look into limiting where and when dogs are allowed on beaches.

They also said they support a recommendation from Mosier that property owners be responsible for noisy parties at beach rentals.

“If you own property and you rent it and the sheriff has to be called for a noise complaint, then the owner of that property is responsible … up to and including being fined for behavior that disturbs the neighborhood,” Mosier said.

“I think that would help,” he added. “I think it’s something that we need to investigate … because what we’re doing now isn’t working.”

Mosier said staff should find out what has been successful in other cities. He acknowledged it has been an ongoing problem for years.

“I’ve heard quite a few (complaints) since I’ve been on council,” he said. “And sometimes I don’t have to hear the complaint. I can hear the party.”

As for street maintenance, potholes will be repaired as part of an upcoming project. French drains will be installed to alleviate drainage problems at intersections, according to the staff report.

Beach Colony residents also asked that council consider converting some streets in the area to one-way travel only and changing parking restrictions on certain sides of the street for particular days of the week and/or times of day.

Council members said they don’t support those recommendations, especially since they could “open up a bigger can of worms” with the California Coastal Commission, Mayor Lee Haydu said.

Overall, council members said they appreciate the input.

“I’ve heard loud and clear that something’s broken and we need to fix it,” Councilman Al Corti said.