By Claire Harlin
Parking in Del Mar Village isn’t as nonexistent as it may seem — it’s just very inefficient.
Del Mar officials have been looking long and hard into the complex issue of parking in the Village and that’s what extensive assessments indicate, Del Mar Planning and Community Development Director Kathy Garcia said March 5 at a workshop to discuss how to address parking issues as the city moves into major Village revitalization.
“If we were to define our problem, our parking is a problem because it’s not efficient,” said Garcia, who has been holding a series of revitalization workshops during regular Del Mar City Council meetings. “It’s not that we don’t have the parking, but a lot of that parking is not usable, especially when it’s needed.”
There are 323 public parking stalls in the Village available for public use, including Camino Del Mar on-street stalls, the City Hall lot, metered parking and side streets. There are about 873 spaces within commercial areas.
According to a parking inventory study conducted in 2000, parking demand is inconsistent across the Village, possibly adding to the inefficiency. On a weekday in the Village, stalls north of 12th were at 79 percent occupancy or above, while stalls south of 12th Street hovered around half full. A busy Saturday saw stalls north of 12th Street at 87 percent full, and stalls south of 12th Street at 64 percent full. Private parking averaged from 50 to 65 percent, except for in the Del Mar Plaza garage, which averaged 85 percent occupancy and was full on many days. Parking from 15th to 13th Streets on Camino Del Mar is also usually full at peak periods, according to the study,
“Our target occupancy is 90 percent,” said Garcia. “Ninety percent means there’s usually a parking space on every block, but we don’t have acres of asphalt that is vacant and acting as a heat island.”
The city is looking into a number of options, including incentives for businesses to build parking and utilizing shared-use and “park once” models. Council members were not unified in their support for any particular solution, however, they agreed that more community input and assessment is needed.
“This is a complex issue,” said Deputy Mayor Terry Sinnott. “I’m worried we may be doing too much at one time.”
He added that it’s important to keep the process simple and keep it in phases, especially because this is the crucial time when officials can reassure residents they are doing everything possible to mitigate and prevent negative impacts on residential areas.
The current approach to parking involves small private lots that city officials say are inefficiently laid out and difficult to park in. They also display warning signs that cause fear of getting towed and therefore patrons may have to move vehicles from place to place, adding to traffic congestion, instead of walking.
A “park once” strategy would incorporate strategically located pockets of parking structures, surface lots and curb stalls. It would also encourage businesses to convert their private parking into public spaces, opening up more parking opportunities for everyone. The plan also presents the possibility of charging “in lieu” fees to help fund garages.