Community feedback wanted on Del Mar Highlands Town Center’s planned new parking garage

By Karen Billing

Del Mar Highlands Town Center continues to solicit feedback on its new parking garage. Construction on the parking garage is scheduled to begin in the fall.

The new three-story garage is planned for the back of the center on Townsgate Drive, along with an expanded Cinepolis and a new KinderCare building. (Del Mar Highlands Town Center was entitled to 425,000 square feet of retail space in the late 1980s, but only 283,000 square feet has been developed on the space.)

All of the center’s businesses will remain open during the yearlong construction in alternate locations within the center, except for Barnes & Noble. The bookstore will close in July.

The Carmel Valley Community Planning Board’s regional issues subcommittee reviewed the plans and took a tour of the property at its May 7 meeting, with a handful of center neighbors in attendance to also review the plans.

In looking at a rendering of the parking garage, a neighbor from Pell Place across the street asked Highlands manager Elizabeth Schreiber where the three levels were going to be because she couldn’t see them. Schreiber said that is exactly the point — they will not be visible because of the elevation changes between the center at Townsgate at that location. The three levels will sit in the existing hole, bringing the top level of the garage to street level.

The garage fronting Townsgate will also have trellises and landscaping, as well as multiple pedestrian access points to activate the back of the center.

Making that Townsgate frontage walkable has long been a goal of the planning board, as the center sits within walking distance to community resources such as the Carmel Valley Library and the Carmel Valley Recreation Center, subcommittee co-chair Anne Harvey said.

“(Townsgate) was supposed to be our ‘Main Street’ and it just hasn’t happened that way,” Harvey said. “Everybody built with their backs to it.”

The 800-space garage will represent a net gain of 600 spaces and will hopefully provide some relief for the busy center that has heard a number of complaints about a lack of parking.

Schreiber said they have exhausted nearly every effort to make parking an easier experience at the Highlands, including reconfiguring and adding 200 spaces, short-term spaces, valet parking and shuttle service.

Employees’ workplaces can even receive a $50 fine if employees aren’t parked in the right place.

The hope is the second floor of the garage could be a place employees might park, which would free up a multitude of spots in the front of the center, she said.

Board member Hollie Kahn expressed concern that the garage may not solve all of the center’s parking issues. She stated a “huge problem” exists over by Ralphs and the McDonald’s where it gets very backed-up and cars have to queue to get through.

Schreiber acknowledged there is an issue in that area but she hopes people will be retrained on the different options available to them for parking. For example, if they’re going to Davanti Enoteca, they can park in the garage instead of in front of Ralphs. It will be much easier to get around, she said.

Neighbor Janette Littler also voiced concerns about the safety of the parking garage, noting she has heard that the back of the center is a hotspot for drug deals.

Schreiber said they are working closely with the police on any reports of illegal activity and they are working to ensure that the garage will be well lit with lots of security cameras. Already they employ security patrolmen on Segways that can quickly get from point to point in the center to deal with any issue.

“Security is highly important to us,” Schreiber said.

Once the garage is complete in 2015, the center will begin its next phase of renovations that includes a new, larger Jimbo’s in KinderCare’s old location and a new two-story retail space replacing the natural foods store after it moves.

To offer feedback to Del Mar Highlands on the next phase of renovation, such as what kind of retailers, services and amenities you would like to see, log on to