By Kristina Houck
Valet parking, timed parking and rooftop parking are possible solutions to Solana Beach’s parking problems along Coast Highway 101 and the Cedros Design District, council members said during a special meeting July 16.
Concerned about the city’s limited parking spaces, residents and business owners have explored possible solutions during three community workshops over the last several months. Hosted by the Highway 101/Cedros Avenue Development Standing Committee, the workshops were led by council liaisons Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner and Councilman Mike Nichols.
During the special meeting, council members discussed the top four ideas and asked city staff to study them and report back to the council. The ideas included allowing business to use valet services, setting time limits on some parking spaces and allowing rooftop parking in some sections of the city.
Workshop attendees suggested starting with three 20-minute spaces along Highway 101, near the UPS store, Mitch’s Surf Shop and Pizza Port. Additional timed spaces are being identified for the Cedros Design District.
Although they asked staff to study every idea presented during the meeting, council members were the most divided on rooftop parking.
Some workshop attendees suggested rooftop parking along Cedros Avenue and Highway 101. Currently, the Highway 101 Corridor Specific Plan prohibits rooftop parking in the South Cedros District and Plaza District.
“If we go down this road, it’s really going to, I believe, change the character of some of these business districts,” Mayor Thomas Campbell said. “I do not want to see big-box buildings built.”
Some council members suggested allowing rooftop parking in parts of South Cedros Avenue, but Campbell said the city would have to explore whether this is legal or if it would be considered “spot zoning.”
In addition to valet parking, timed parking and rooftop parking, the council discussed easing parking requirements for new restaurants that open in older buildings on Highway 101, in order to support new business while preserving the existing character of the corridor.
During the city’s $7 million renovation of Highway 101 last year, parallel parking spaces were replaced with angled spots, creating 57 additional spaces.
Councilman Mike Nichols said the new spaces could be used to ease parking standards for new restaurants along Highway 101. Program participants could possibly pay in-lieu fees or use valet services to offset requirements, he said.
“The economics of the properties along Highway 101 is changing fast due to the streetscape project. These properties will become more desirable for development and they will turnover and new projects will come forward, most of which will probably likely want to tear down these older buildings and want to build new ones,” Nichols said. “This is an attempt to try to encourage a delay of that process, or to have a set place where some of these existing buildings can find new life.”
After hearing the top suggestions, a few residents argued the proposed solutions would not solve the parking problems in Solana Beach.
Tracy Richmond said the city should not ease parking requirements for new restaurants on Highway 101 because doing so would not only increase the need for parking, but also eventually change the character of the community.
“Currently, Solana Beach is a low-key beach town … but the secret is out,” said Richmond, who noted he doesn’t want the city to “lose its beach character” as has happened in other towns.
“There’s a lot of pressure on you to allow more development in; I’m asking you to keep your finger in the dike.”
Also concerned about preserving the character of the community, Gary Martin spoke against rooftop parking.
“It does encourage bigger, taller buildings that are possibly out of character with what we are looking to preserve in the community,” he said.
With direction from the council, City Manager David Ott said staff would explore the proposals and return to council for further discussion.
“There is pressure. ‘The secret is out,’ as Mr. Richmond said,” Deputy Mayor Lesa Heebner said. “People are coming here to develop. If we don’t do something that is creative and out-of-the-box, what we’re going to see is a lot of boxes, because people are going to buy these spaces, tear them down, build to the max as much as they can and provide underground parking for their parking requirements.
“We have to do something. That’s why we’re here talking about all these different ideas so that we can maintain the fabric of our beach town.”