ENCINITAS — Fed up with the lack of available parking for customers, downtown retailers are growing increasingly frustrated with restaurants still occupying parking spaces with outdoor dining.
Last April, the City Council approved an extension of COVID-19 relief measures allowing restaurants to temporarily use public rights-of-way for outdoor dining through Jan. 1, 2024.
While many downtown businesses supported the council’s decision, several retailers feel the need for more parking has negatively impacted their businesses.
“Three years after COVID, we’re still seeing neighbors hit hard,” said Vicki Bass, owner of Encinitas Coin & Jewelry. “Last year was one of our worst financially. Our largest preventative to recouping our business has been the lack of parking for our customers.”
Bass is not the only local business owner who has struggled over the last few years since the pandemic struck in 2020. Raul Villamar, owners of Encinitas Barbers, also expressed concerns over the ongoing lack of parking for downtown businesses at the March 8 council meeting.
“We’re just hurting downtown, but nobody has come down to help us,” Villamar said.
While Bass and Villamar previously supported outdoor dining at the height of the pandemic, they both feel the city has largely ignored their concerns about the impact of ongoing relief measures.
Bass said she approached the City Council after contacting the Encinitas 101 MainStreet Association and Encinitas Chamber of Commerce about the need for more parking. However, Bass felt her pleas had fallen on deaf ears.
“As part of the Chamber’s mission, we listen to the issues and concerns of our businesses and advocate on their behalf,” said Sherry Yardley, Chamber CEO, in an email. “Being the community liaison, we have heard from and listened to business owners and conveyed the pros and cons of parking and the parklets to the city and other government entities.”
While business owners like Bass and Villamar feel the need for more parking is hurting their bottom line, local restaurants, city officials, and downtown visitors have enjoyed the outdoor dining spaces.
Last April, Mayor Tony Kranz said he also enjoyed outdoor dining spaces’ liveliness and was inclined to keep them around longer.
“Everybody has nice feedback from people, and the city has to take that into consideration as well,” said Maurizio Carbone, owner of Maurizio Trattoria Italiana, in an interview with Fox 5 San Diego last month.
At the most recent council meeting, Kranz said city staff would bring something forward within three or four months to address the downtown parking issue. However, city spokesperson Julie Taber clarified that staff would only bring something forward at the end of the year.
“They’re doing parking studies and looking at different options, but nothing is set to come forward until this winter,” Taber told The Coast News.
By then, the city’s outdoor dining extension will be set to expire.
Villamar said his barbershop wouldn’t be able to last that long without a parking solution.
I love the outdoor dining. We need to make it permanent. There is plenty of parking off Vulcan near the train and bus station. There will never be enough parking to satify everyone. Parking on 101 was bad even before Covid.
If I was king, I would
(a) trench the RR tracks like Solana Beach did.
(b) Build a multi-level public parking garage over the RR trench and existing parking lots.
(c) make the bus station the lower level of the garge.
(c) standardize and secure the parklets for outdoor parking so that diners are safe, rodents are eraticated, and the sidewalk is accessible.
Then people who want to dine downtown can park in the city lot, over the RR and bus stations, and enjoy our perfect year around weather.