New beach parking meters are in the works for Del Mar

The city of Del Mar will create 149 new metered parking spaces in the North Beach area, and adjust parking fees and hours, under a plan approved Tuesday, Feb. 21, by the City Council.

The plan required approval by the California Coastal Commission. Parking fees charged by the new meters, as well as 243 existing meters, will vary from $1.50 to $3 per hour. The range is the same as the current fee structure for existing meters, according to a city staff report.

However, once the new fee structure is in place, visitors will pay a maximum of $15 per day for beach parking. Currently, city officials said, there is no daily maximum, and visitors must pay hourly for their entire stay.

The North Beach area, also known as Dog Beach, is across Camino Del Mar from the Del Mar Fairgrounds, and north of the mouth of the San Dieguito Lagoon. The new parking spots will be primarily on the east side of Camino Del Mar, north of the lagoon, and on the south side of Via de la Valle, said Kristen Crane, management services director.

Another change is that signs prohibiting parking between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. near North Beach will have to be removed, and parking will be allowed overnight. 

City Manager Scott Huth said city staff tried to convince the Coastal Commission to allow a prohibition on parking in that area between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., but the panel turned down the request. Huth said cars will be allowed to park overnight to allow beach access, but sleeping or camping in cars parked at North Beach will not be permitted.

Mayor Terry Sinnott said the city should challenge the Coastal Commission regarding the overnight parking issue, but other members of the council wanted to approve the overall parking plan. The council voted 4-1 to approve the plan, with Sinnott opposed, on Tuesday.

One reason to move forward, said council members, is to resolve potential parking signage and permit violations by the city. According to a city staff report, Coastal Commission officials felt that Del Mar had expired permits and sign violations, and the new parking plan will resolve those issues.

“I think it’s important to be in strict compliance with the Coastal Act,” said Councilman Dwight Worden.

Councilman Dave Druker also was concerned about allowing overnight parking near North Beach.

“We have to monitor this closely and get back to the Coastal Commission immediately if we have problems,” he said.

Other areas of the city will continue to have parking prohibited between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m., according to the staff report. Overnight parking will be allowed on Coast Boulevard from 15th to 17th streets, as well as North Beach.

Druker also questioned the $15 a day limit on parking fees.

“It’s antithetical to why we have parking meters, to have turnover,” Druker said.

Responding to questions by council members, city staff said they are looking into ways to reset the parking meters if someone leaves the space, so that a newly arrived visitor would have to pay parking fees. One official told the council that parking officers could reset the meters if they observe that a car has left a space with time remaining on the meter.

The staff report estimated that the revenue from the new parking spaces and other fee changes will total more than $100,000 per year. Under the agreement with the Coastal Commission, the money will be designated to pay for existing services and maintenance at the beach, along with new coastal projects.

The permit will last for five years, and the city will then have to reapply. In addition, the city will have to monitor its parking program, to demonstrate to the Coastal Commission that there were no impacts on visitor access to the beach, said the staff report.

A Coastal Commission staff report included with the city’s agenda materials contained a chart comparing parking fees charged at a number of beaches in the region. Fletcher Cove, La Jolla Shores and Newport Beach had no parking fees, while San Clemente State Beach charges $2 per hour and a maximum of $15 per day during peak season. Corona Del Mar State Beach charges up to $4 per hour and $15 a day during peak season.

According to its website, parking fees at Torrey Pines State Beach, just south of Del Mar, range from $3 per day on Monday through Thursday in the winter, to $6 for one hour on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, with a maximum daily fee of $15.

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