Del Mar should immediately halt the in-lieu parking program. It was ill conceived and harms the community. The program was created by the City Council to enable commercial properties to expand without having to provide the required onsite parking. It allows property owners to pay a fee for each additional required space that cannot be provided onsite. This fee is supposed to go towards building a downtown parking structure where those additional cars could theoretically park.
The first problem is the parking structure does not exist and may never exist. As a result, these cars will be parking in the surrounding residential neighborhoods, increasing traffic and noise, and taking spaces away from the residents. So far, the Planning Department has approved 18 in-lieu spaces, and can issue a total of 50. That’s a lot of additional cars looking for parking in a city that already has a big shortage of spaces.
The second problem is the program does not allow for input from the community and decisions can only be appealed to the City Council on narrow, technical grounds. There is a substantial fee for filing an appeal and the City Council must vote to hear it, which they rarely do. It is unconscionable that the City Council decided to silence the community. Del Mar has a rich tradition of community involvement in decision making, especially when it comes to planning issues. But in this instance the Planning Department and City Council don’t care what we think.
The third problem is the fee is too low. The fee for each space was set at $30,000, which is the current cost to build a space in a parking structure. But the City Council allowed property owners to pay this over 30 years at $1,000 per year. This is an interest free loan to the property owner and shortchanges our city. Thirty years of payments is worth less than $20,000 today and falls well short of what is needed to build a space in a parking structure.
The City Council needs to take a second look at the in-lieu program. At a minimum, the process should be revised to allow for community input and the annual fee should be raised to cover the true costs of building a structure.