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The corner lot at the intersection of Encinitas Boulevard and Quail Gardens Drive is now empty of BMW vehicles after several nearby residents complained, and the city discovered that that the lot was done without city permits. Photo by Tony Cagala
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Encinitas looks to expand vehicle storage space

ENCINITAS — Encinitas officials said they are looking at ways to increase the space available to car dealerships to store overflow inventory in the wake of shutting down a local dealership’s illegal lot last week.

But the dealership’s general manager said he’s skeptical the city will follow through and called the city unaccommodating to the dealership’s needs.

BMW Encinitas graded a corner lot at the intersection of Encinitas Boulevard and Quail Gardens Drive and filled it with cars over Thanksgiving break. After several nearby residents complained, the city discovered that that the lot was done without city permits and issued seven citations to the property owner and the dealership and ordered them to shut it down.

The property owner, George Krikorian of Krikorian Premiere Theatres, told the city that he had preliminary discussions with BMW representatives about using the land to park cars, but only if the dealership received the proper city permits. Krikorian is also seeking civil remedies against the dealership for trespassing and property damage, city officials said.

“In my career I’ve never seen something like this before by a business like this on someone else’s property,” city Interim Planning Director Manjeet Ranu said.

BMW Encinitas, which is one of three new car dealerships in Encinitas, has been warned twice before for parking its overflow vehicles on property where such a use is prohibited. The city issued warnings, but Ranu said the city was working with the dealership to remove the cars so fines were not imposed.

The difference between those cases and the current case is the illegal grading, which posed an immediate environmental threat, Ranu said.

“If there isn’t an immediate health and safety or environmental concern, we will continue to work with the offender as long as we know they are working on resolving the issue,” Ranu said.

BMW general manager Darrin Fetterolf, who described the incident as “a misunderstanding,” spoke critically of the city’s handling of the dealership’s space needs, which have been growing.

“Clearly our business has expanded, and we have been looking for someone to help us park cars,” Fetterolf said. “We understand that things are zoned certain ways and we are willing to work through things but the city doesn’t give a (sic) about tax dollars. In other cities there has been a much easier transition.

“They are not trying to accommodate anybody,” Fetterolf said regarding the city. “We try to do the right thing in the community, and we would like to stay, but it doesn’t look like that is going to be able to happen.”

Ranu said staff has discussed potential ways to amend the city’s zoning code to allow temporary storage in underutilized commercial areas. Currently, the city’s zoning code only allows for such storage in semi-public and publicly zoned areas outside of the coastal zone. There is only one location in the city that meets these parameters: the former county landfill site, which Encinitas Ford uses for its overflow inventory.

Ranu assisted the city of El Cajon with a similar code amendment while he was an employee in their planning department. The big difference between the two cities, however, is the coastal zone, which will require an additional layer of permission through the California Coastal Commission.