Del Mar council discusses proposed $30,000 in-lieu parking fee

By Claire Harlin

Based on construction costs and land values, the City of Del Mar has come up with $30,000 as a fair number to set for the in-lieu parking fee, which was established in 2008 to help fund the construction of a parking garage in the central commercial zone.

The city staff came to the Del Mar City Council on March 18 for direction regarding the fee and how it’s collected from property owners as a way to waive their on-site parking requirements. While the council expressed support for the methodology the city used in coming up with that number, varying input from councilmembers suggested the city’s work at the drawing board is not done. The council was united, however, in its concern that the city’s businesses and parking situation are in major need of help.

Under the ordinance, if the city reaches 50 new parking stalls, as added by businesses to meet their requirements if choosing not to pay the in-lieu fee, the city must implement a shuttle. While specific routes and operations will be established if and when the city reaches that point, the shuttle’s purpose is to ease patrons from walking long distances between parking spots and places of interest.

When the fee was established in 2008, the amount was yet to be determined and the city has been working to come up with a number that will bring in enough money to meet its goals without disincentivizing owners’ participation.

The city proposed $30,000 per stall because a new parking structure would cost upward of $35,000 per stall, and land values are also in line with that number, according to information gathered from around the state.

The city would secure debt with a covenant or contract, and financing would look like $2,000 per stall per year for 30 years. As construction costs change, the fee could also escalate with time, and the city also proposes an administration fee.

Mayor Terry Sinnott also said he’d like to do everything possible to keep the fee low, but he said he supports the city’s proposal to increase the fee over time if necessary to accommodate land and construction costs to incentivize owners to pay in sooner rather than later to get efforts rolling.

Councilman Don Mosier said he’d like to see a more comprehensive solution, that takes into account factors such as parking location and other sources of revenue.

“As part of a comprehensive parking plan for downtown, I’d like to see the revenue distributed more equally,” he said, adding that more meters downtown might bring in more revenue from visitors and allow the city to bring down the in-lieu fee.

Mosier also agreed with a suggestion by former mayor and Del Mar Village Association Board Member Richard Earnest to take into consideration the different sizes and types of businesses.

“For small business owners who are already having trouble complying … it’s going to be a big disincentive,” Mosier said. “As far as new development, well, there isn’t any … You want to catch the new developments but not trap the existing ones in a situation they can’t get out of.”

Sinnott added, “I don’t think we should have a price that’s going to cause everyone to go home and not participate … This should be a very good value from perspective of biz owners.”

According to city staff, similar fees vary greatly across the state, from $1,000 in Ventura to $53,000 in Palo Alto. A 2007 study by the City of Del Mar showed that a three-level parking garage accommodating 200 cars on the city property at 1050 Camino Del Mar would cost between $5 and $7 million, however, the site of a future structure has not been set in stone, as the city is also looking at other options.

Del Mar staff will return at a later date with a resolution establishing a fee schedule.