Del Mar’s parking ordinance must change

This letter to request a modification of Del Mar’s parking ordinance was addressed to Del Mar Mayor Terry Sinnott and the Del Mar City Council, and submitted to this newspaper for publication.

Dear Mayor Sinnott and City Councilpersons:

While most Del Mar residents agree that Del Mar needs re-vitalization, they voted “No” to the complex and far-reaching Village Specific Plan. If the City is to succeed in re-vitalizing the downtown, the question must be asked: How did it end up this way? How did a planning and design review process that created beautiful residential properties fail in developing the downtown?

While I welcome any other explanation, from my perspective, Del Mar’s planning process failed because its parking ordinance was so restrictive that the Planning Department “creatively” waived parking requirements and issued permits to numerous under-parked properties. Today, Del Mar’s commercial district is mostly non-descript old buildings that were given permits for uses way beyond their ability to provide parking for those uses; and Del Mar’s current parking shortage is empirical evidence that this happened.

For the last 45 years, the objectivity of reasonable parking standards has been replaced by subjective Staff Reports, which provided misinformation to City Councils, who then approved restaurant uses for properties with little or no parking. A review of the prior permits the City granted to the following under-parked properties demonstrate how objective parking standards were replaced with “creative subjectivity” in attempt to circumvent the parking requirements for these properties. (Exhibit A).

While I welcome any other explanation, from my perspective, Del Mar’s unreasonable parking standards caused this sub-standard development, and thus re-vitalization of Del Mar’s central commercial district can never occur until the City adopts reasonable parking standards. While it may seem counter-intuitive to reduce the parking standards when Del Mar is faced with a parking shortage, the fact is that Del Mar has repeatedly failed to enforce its parking resolutions, which I have summarized in Exhibit B.

On April 19, 2012, I filed a “Citizen’s Complaint” requesting that the City take action to enforce Del Mar’s Parking Ordinance on 16 properties developed in violation of the parking ordinance. Eight months later the City has not responded to this Citizen’s Complaint letter, nor have they taken any action against any of these under-parked properties which overburden Del Mar’s curbside parking. My April 19, 2012 letter offered to withdraw this complaint if the City would establish reasonable parking standards. I again request the City Council to either establish reasonable parking standards, or enforce the parking ordinance in a uniform manner.

I have previously proposed the following revisions to Del Mar’s parking ordinance:

(1) Adapt SANDAG parking ratios

(2) Adapt the Urban Land Institute’s (ULI) methodology for calculating peak hour parking requirements for mixed-use buildings.

(3) Eliminate parking requirements for outside dining areas.

(4) Include curbside parking in a building’s inventory of parking spaces.

In a Del Mar Times article, the Planning Director defended the million dollars spent on developing and promoting the Village Specific Plan by stating that the analysis is valid. The analysis presented in the VSP, included both: (a) the Urban Land Institute methodology for calculating peak-hour parking, and (b) reducing parking ratios to SANDAG parking standards. Thus two of these four proposals have already been proposed by Del Mar’s Planning Department.

Establishing reasonable parking standards will replace the Planning Departments power to subjectively decide which properties to enrich . . . with an objective process that returns power to Del Mar’s residents. If you disagree with, or if you would like documentation for any of my statements, please advise me. I encourage residents to post their thoughts on the Del Mar Voices ( bulletin board.

George Conkwright

Del Mar