By Claire Harlin
Each year around Thanksgiving, free holiday parking in the Village comes before the Del Mar City Council, and the city officials approve dates and locations for free parking as requested by the Del Mar Village Association (DMVA). Once again on Nov. 19, the council approved free downtown parking for the weekends leading up to New Year’s, but this time it set the measure in stone.
“So you don’t have to keep coming back, let’s codify it and make it permanent,” said Mayor Carl Hilliard.
Since 2008, the city has granted the free parking along 15th Street, under L’Auberge and on Camino Del Mar from 15th to 4th streets, increasing it from six days in 2008 to 13 days in 2009. The measure now and permanently will contain 16 free parking days: Nov. 22-25; Dec. 1, 2, 8, 9, 15, 16, 22, 23, 24, 25, 31; and Jan. 1. The city estimates a loss from parking revenue of about $750 per day, but officials hope the increase in tax revenue from shopping will outweigh that loss.
City staff came up with an alternative proposal that placed free parking days during the week surrounding Christmas instead of on the weekends, however, DMVA Director Jen Grove said the priority should be counteracting the negative perception that getting a ticket on the weekends is nearly inevitable in Del Mar.
“We’re trying to change perception that Del Mar is not friendly to people coming in and shopping and eating,” said Grove. “We have a lot of competition around us now, such as Flower Hill, UTC and the Highlands. That’s originally why those weekends were accepted for free parking.”
The city, in its report on the matter, stated the alternative proposal, which was declined by the council, was brought forth because there has been shopper confusion in the past, from drivers who either thought parking was free every day or free all over the city. Other motorists, according to the report, have thought there was no enforcement of any parking and therefore parked dangerously.
The council pointed out that a major problem with free parking days is that Village employees abuse the measure and occupy the spaces, when they should be available for shoppers.
“Employers should not let employees use these free spaces,” said Councilman Don Mosier, adding that employers should provide adequate parking and take responsibility for their employees.
Parking spots affected by this code will be marked with white bags that indicate free parking.