Solana Beach is trying a new way to control its downtown parking problem — requiring more indoor workspace for employees.
The city has proposed an ordinance that requires office buildings to have a minimum average workspace of 125 square feet per employee.
That may seem like a wealth of space for an office worker these days, when a typical 6-by-6-foot cubicle provides 36 square feet. But the idea is aimed at parking and not at the comfort of employees.
“We have a lot of old buildings used as office space that unless they are torn down and rebuilt, they will never have enough parking,” Mayor Mike Nichols said during the City Council’s discussion last week.
The proposed ordinance offers a way around that through municipal code enforcement.
The worst offenders appear to be large commercial buildings that rent space to businesses for use as “call centers,” and bring in large numbers of employees to sell stocks, securities and other products by telephone. When the building’s parking lot is full, the additional employees park on nearby residential streets.
“The overflow of vehicles parking in our neighborhood is excessive,” said Barbara Avenue resident Burt Nielsen, one of three people who spoke to the council in support of the ordinance.
In recent years, the city has applied conditions of a minimum workspace or prohibited call centers in some individual new buildings as they were approved. However, the proposed ordinance would also cover existing buildings.
Some residents suggested using a minimum workspace of 200 square feet to further reduce on-street parking. However, the council stuck with the 125 square feet suggested by the city staff.
Available work space is to be calculated including the maximum number of people working at any one time, and the total enclosed area of the building including storage space and corridors, but not restrooms and common areas such as elevators, stairways and hallways in multi-tenant buildings.
The only opposition to the ordinance came from Councilwoman Ginger Marshall, who said the move seemed “heavy-handed” and that she had a lot of concerns.
“How would we regulate this?” Marshall asked. “What about fines and enforcement?”
Staff members said those details will be worked out before the ordinance returns to the council for final approval in December.
The proposed Solana Beach ordinance is modeled after one the Del Mar City Council approved in 2008 as part of its efforts to revitalize its downtown commercial area.
Solana Beach held a series of community meetings in 2014 to discuss ways to solve its downtown parking crunch.
More valet parking, shorter time limits for parking and roof-top parking for new buildings were among the suggestions at the time.
– Phil Diehl is a writer for The San Diego Union-Tribune