By Kristina Houck
The Del Mar City Council agreed to move forward with Del Mar’s in-lieu parking fee program after it determines how to allocate the revenue.
The program, which was approved in 2008 by a council that included none of the current members, allows property owners to pay a fee to waive some of their on-site parking requirements. The intention of the program is to use collected fees for parking projects in the central commercial zone, but the amount of the fee wasn’t set when the program was established.
Council members said they supported the program during the July 1 meeting, but asked staff to return with options for distributing the program’s revenue before they approve the fee.
“I really want to have a feel that for the fees we are proposing we collect, the fees will be used for X, or X and Y immediately, so it isn’t an unfulfilled promise,” Mayor Terry Sinnott said. “That’s my worry—we say there’s an in-lieu fee, we collect money and there’s no way of moving forward.”
Based on construction costs for a parking structure and land values, staff suggested at the March 18 meeting the fee be set at $30,000 per stall. At the request of the council, staff also developed a payment program set at $1,000 each year, or $2.74 per day per stall, so the fee is more manageable for businesses.
Although he supports in-lieu fees, Councilman Don Mosier said he would like to see a comprehensive parking plan and added that the program was adopted as just one means to address concerns about the shortage of parking in the city and encourage redevelopment.
“This is a problem with multiple parts, and it seems to me that attacking one part without understanding how it fits into the whole parking plan doesn’t work very well,” Mosier said. “We have to have a more comprehensive solution. There’s nothing wrong with this plan except that it doesn’t solve the problem. It’s just part of the toolkit we’d like to have to help the parking problems.”
Kathleen Garcia, the city’s planning and community development director, said no one has applied for the program, but a couple people have expressed interest in learning more after the fee is set.
George Conkwright was one of four local business owners who contacted staff following the March 18 meeting to suggest lower fees.
“Whatever amount you determine to be the appropriate in-lieu fee, I’ll have to pay it because of the law requires that I mitigate my damages,” Conkwright said. “I agree to pay it yearly during the time those food-serving spaces are occupied … but in terms of paying $30,000 a space for 38 spaces, I’m not willing to put a million dollar mortgage on my property so you can allow me to lease it.”
Whether the revenue is used to lease property, build a parking garage or establish a shuttle program, Councilman Al Corti said the council needs to move forward with establishing a fee after more than four years of discussion.
“It’s hard to believe it takes us four years to have a discussion on it, never mind come up with a conclusion,” Corti said. “I say let’s move forward and give the public, and some of the businesses, an opportunity. I don’t think many of them are going to take advantage of it … but I think it can help some of our existing problems.”