How did it happen?

By George Conkwright

1201 Camino del Mar

Prop. “J” supporters and opponents both agree: Most buildings in Del Mar’s Central Commercial Zone are in need of renovation. But there’s disagreement on how to incentivize commercial property owners to redevelop.

The City has conducted over 90 meetings, most of which were used to promote the Planning Department’s concepts. At none of the meetings was the question asked: “How did it happen?” How did Del Mar’s planning and design review process create world-class residential properties but fail in development of the downtown?

I think we all know. Since 1967 Del Mar has had an impossible parking ordinance, and for the last 25 years, City Councils have been unwilling to address the problem. Non-descript old buildings with little or no parking were given back-door permits for uses way beyond their ability to provide parking for those uses; and thus are not candidates for redevelopment. Del Mar’s current parking problem is empirical evidence that this happened.

If you’re driving from Del Mar to LA on Interstate 5, and the sign says “to San Diego” you must first acknowledge your mistake, and then turn around at the next off ramp.

Prop. “J” is a 500-page document that vests even more power in a Planning Department whose policy of issuing back-door permits to under-parked properties has failed. Yet instead of acknowledging their mistake . . . and establishing reasonable parking standards . . . their plan is to coerce commercial property owners to convert their private parking to public parking lots in return for reasonable (SANDAG) parking standards. This not only violates Amendments 10 and 14 of the Constitution, it provides no net gain in parking. If my tenant’s parking spaces are given to the public, my tenants will simply park where the public is currently parking.

The City has basically enriched these under-parked restaurants by millions of dollars. Solving this problem will now require Del Mar residents to spend millions of dollars to build a public parking garage. The million dollars recently spent on drafting the Village Specific Plan would have better spent to hire an architect to design a public parking garage, or draft and publish a Request for Proposal to develop the City Hall property.