May 2011 home page

  Parking Perplex
Here There Everywhere
Bill Michalsky | Stratford Court


Photo courtesy City of Del Mar.


Parking… Downtown revitalization… so intertwined. We’ve been here before and it appears we are returning. In 1999 an Ad Hoc Parking Committee was formed by the City Council. Much time was spent by a group of residents and a consultant to study parking in the Downtown Central Commercial district including the immediate residential zone and North Beach areas. This study and its varied recommendations, that included valet parking, was adopted in May, 2000. Priorities were established and may still be valid. Some of the priorities were acted on. The on street parking deficit in Downtown was also identified. The results were well documented and should be the basis for beginning new discussions on this third rail issue. This study and its results are available to all, to review, on the City of Del Mar website, under the Government tab, tucked away with other plans in City Development Documents; we should all be familiar with this and other many other important documents stored here. Another document in that same tab is Vision 2020, this undertaking also spent time digesting the parking issue and recommendations were made; some could fit within the Streetscape Plan, which is also available for view.

One should consider that parking downtown, in any configuration, has an enormous impact on the adjoining neighborhoods. This is not new to any who live within two to three blocks of the Central Commercial District or Beach Commercial zone. New business is great and offers new jobs and taxes as well. In addition to parking needs for customers the reality of employee parking must be understood and layered in; whatever parking change is proposed for our Downtown it must be balanced with immediate residential needs.

And what about beach visitors? We have a responsibility to live and deal with that need as well. Residents are the recipient of visitor parking needs in many areas from the Beach Colony south to about 11th Street, perhaps further. Sunny days and good surf bring many visitors and not all are utilizing our Downtown. The pressures on parking are growing and we must remember that parking is NOT an infinite resource but a limited commodity.

There are many off-street parking spaces in Downtown. Some are available through the Valet Program; but this is only a seasonal option that absorbs, through agreement, some of the private off-street parking spaces. There is still an amount of this parking that has not been made available for many reasons. So where are the unseen spaces? Who will build, at considerable cost, the future parking lots and who will bear the cost? And what about the on street parking spaces in Downtown; is this commodity well managed? Then there is free available parking on many side streets, most all of it in residential zones. But employee use, visitor and residential use, curb cuts and red curbs have added their impacts in recent years.

Smart Urban Development is being discussed; do the residents of Del Mar want urban? Or a functional pedestrian friendly Village environment? We don’t have user friendly community transit for the immediate area and one must realize that it carries a big price to put in place, operate and maintain. Automobiles are very much the tool people use who live in or visit Del Mar. Sadly they don’t seem to be shrinking in size or use. The book “Traffic” by Tom Vanderbilt, notes that “parking is an innocuous gateway drug to a full-blown traffic-abuse problem.” Do we need more? This is not to say that many residents don’t walk or use alternative methods, but that by itself will not solve our parking shortfall.

As noted recently in the Del Mar Times, “During its March 28 meeting, the Del Mar City Council agreed to start the ball rolling on amending those parking standards, a lengthy process that must be approved by the California Coastal Commission and could take 18 months to two years.” Interesting discussions ahead with hopeful solutions I think we can all agree.

Will we resolve this Del Mar Dilemma?


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