Del Mar Council considering several strategies to alleviate city’s lack of parking

The Del Mar City Council kicked off 2015 by inching forward on what has long been one of the city’s goals: establishing a parking management plan.

During the Jan. 5 council meeting, staff unveiled a draft plan to help alleviate parking problems in the downtown commercial area. From establishing a parking management implementation team, to expanding paid parking, the plan proposed dozens of strategies.

“This is a comprehensive start, but it’s got too many options and no prioritization,” said Councilman Don Mosier, adding that the city should tackle Del Mar’s most “severe” parking problem — employee parking.

He suggested encouraging employees to use a rideshare program or establishing a shuttle service, among other possibilities.

“The one thing that’s essential is, we don’t do strategies that drive more parking to residential areas,” Mosier said. “We don’t want that spillover parking problem to get worse. We’ve got to take steps to make that problem better.”

Del Mar has initiated numerous parking studies over the past 14 years.

At the direction of the council, staff started this latest study about 18 months ago, dividing the city into five geographic areas: downtown commercial area, beach colony area, fairgrounds and north commercial area, hillside area, and the area south of 10th Street and west of Camino del Mar.

Focusing first on the downtown commercial area, staff found a lack of accessible and convenient parking in the commercial corridor, a surplus of private off-street parking, and an impact on neighboring residential areas — all problems detailed in previous reports.

The study also found that the area has a total of 1,875 parking spaces, including 691 on-street spaces and 1,184 off-street spaces. Approximately 500 off-street parking spaces are underused during peak demand periods, but the city has little control over these spaces because they are privately owned, according to the report.

The plan estimates that the city needs about 140 additional parking spaces for local employees and customers, as well as a minimum of 50 in-lieu parking spaces, for a total of 200 spaces in the area.

To meet that demand, Mayor Al Corti said the city should be creating a citywide parking management plan, not focusing on one segment of the community at a time.

“I’m much in favor of an overriding citywide plan,” said Corti. “I’m not in favor of taking this in bits and pieces. I think it needs to be an overriding plan that fits for the entire community.”

Council members also agreed the local business community needs to play an active part in resolving the parking problems. Corti pointed out that the two largest employers in the community, the Del Mar Plaza and L’Auberge Del Mar, do not have representatives on the city’s Business Support Advisory Committee.

“I’m willing to walk hand in hand, but I’m not excited to walk alone if the business community’s just expecting us, at taxpayer expense, to solve their employee and customer parking problems,” said Councilman Dwight Worden.

After much discussion, the council appointed Worden and Terry Sinnott as an ad hoc committee. The pair will analyze behavioral groups (employees, customers, recreational users and residents), review the plan and work with the staff, reporting back to the full council within 30 days.

“The problems that we have are pretty straightforward,” said City Manager Scott Huth. “They’ve been the same problems in the community. They’re these groups. We know what they are. The reasons why they’re still a problem is commitment of resources. If we’re going to make a change, we have to commit resources.”

“Let’s do something,” Corti said. “Make it a priority. We haven’t made it a priority. We haven’t done anything about it.”