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Del Mar seeks $3/hour parking

Coastal commission concerned cost would limit beach trips for many

Pay spots at Del Mar's dog beach
Pay spots at Del Mar's dog beach

The cost of parking where the surf meets the turf (at Del Mar) is going to go up later this year, but the question of how much is still up in the air.

The city asked the California Coastal Commission to authorize an increase from $1.50 per hour to $3 per hour for 392 prime beach parking spaces, some of which are also used by people attending events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds who don't want to pay the $10 to $20 parking fee.

Repeated attempts to contact the fairgrounds spokeswoman to get specific fees did not garner a response.

It also turns out that some of Del Mar's coastal fee parking may be, well, less than legal. The coastal commission noted that "175 of the [existing] 185 paid parking spaces in the city's proposal are operating without the benefit of a coastal development permit. The only authorized paid/time restricted parking is at 29th Street."

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The commission staff thinks the proposed fees are too high for people to pay for access to public beaches and has recommended reduced parking fees of $2 per hour for prime beach parking; and, they say the permit for the 392 spaces doesn't cover the 175 unpermitted spaces. Those will need a separate permit.

The parking-fee scheme is complicated. Rates would vary from $3 per hour and a $15-per-day maximum during peak season — May through September, holidays, special events, and the autumn horse-racing season; the rest of the time, Del Mar wants to collect $2 per hour.

"We recently added about 160 parking spaces in the north part of that area," said Jon Terwilliger, a senior management analyst for the city. "We added a sidewalk at what everybody calls the dog beach and added parking on the east side of Camino del Mar."

Beach-goers over last weekend seemed to shrug off the parking increase.

"The big problem for me is that I have to carry my wallet around once I pay," said Jim Connelly. "You pull it out to pay — nobody has $10 in coins — and it would be just stupid to be seen putting it in the car and heading to the beach."

The city will have to add 11 more pay machines for the new pay-parking on Border Avenue, Camino del Mar, Via de la Valle, 29th and 17th streets, and Coast Boulevard.

"We think what we proposed is fair because it's the revenue we need to provide services at the beach, for lifeguards, capital improvements, beach maintenance and clean-up, sheriffs, and fire services," Terwilliger said.

The coastal commission staff doesn't dispute the costs. Their concern is that, with a $15/day maximum for beach parking, the public's access to the beach — particularly poorer people who can't afford those fees — will be reduced. Only one California beach — Corona del Mar in Orange County — has permission to charge more than $2 per hour, and beachgoers there can expect to pay $4 per hour on summer weekends, according to a commission report. The commission has approved higher rates in commercial districts, including Long Beach, or in locales where lots have been developed specifically for beach parking, like those at the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach and the pay lot at San Clemente State Beach.

But for street parking in Del Mar, the commission recommends limiting costs to a high of $2 per hour, with off-season rates of $1 per hour. The city says that the higher fees will encourage more turnover in the spaces, which means more people can have access. And, the city believes the higher fees will keep those penny-pinching fairgrounds patrons from taking up street parking.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club spokesman Mac McBride says that the racetrack has no research on where people park, though they offer 10,000 parking spaces at $10 each. They also have free parking on opening day (July 15) with a shuttle to the track.

"We have no way of knowing if any of our fans park locally," McBride said. "We absolutely do not suggest that any of them do so."

Coastal commissioner and San Diego County supervisor Greg Cox's staff said he declined to comment on the matter until it is heard.

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Pay spots at Del Mar's dog beach
Pay spots at Del Mar's dog beach

The cost of parking where the surf meets the turf (at Del Mar) is going to go up later this year, but the question of how much is still up in the air.

The city asked the California Coastal Commission to authorize an increase from $1.50 per hour to $3 per hour for 392 prime beach parking spaces, some of which are also used by people attending events at the Del Mar Fairgrounds who don't want to pay the $10 to $20 parking fee.

Repeated attempts to contact the fairgrounds spokeswoman to get specific fees did not garner a response.

It also turns out that some of Del Mar's coastal fee parking may be, well, less than legal. The coastal commission noted that "175 of the [existing] 185 paid parking spaces in the city's proposal are operating without the benefit of a coastal development permit. The only authorized paid/time restricted parking is at 29th Street."

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The commission staff thinks the proposed fees are too high for people to pay for access to public beaches and has recommended reduced parking fees of $2 per hour for prime beach parking; and, they say the permit for the 392 spaces doesn't cover the 175 unpermitted spaces. Those will need a separate permit.

The parking-fee scheme is complicated. Rates would vary from $3 per hour and a $15-per-day maximum during peak season — May through September, holidays, special events, and the autumn horse-racing season; the rest of the time, Del Mar wants to collect $2 per hour.

"We recently added about 160 parking spaces in the north part of that area," said Jon Terwilliger, a senior management analyst for the city. "We added a sidewalk at what everybody calls the dog beach and added parking on the east side of Camino del Mar."

Beach-goers over last weekend seemed to shrug off the parking increase.

"The big problem for me is that I have to carry my wallet around once I pay," said Jim Connelly. "You pull it out to pay — nobody has $10 in coins — and it would be just stupid to be seen putting it in the car and heading to the beach."

The city will have to add 11 more pay machines for the new pay-parking on Border Avenue, Camino del Mar, Via de la Valle, 29th and 17th streets, and Coast Boulevard.

"We think what we proposed is fair because it's the revenue we need to provide services at the beach, for lifeguards, capital improvements, beach maintenance and clean-up, sheriffs, and fire services," Terwilliger said.

The coastal commission staff doesn't dispute the costs. Their concern is that, with a $15/day maximum for beach parking, the public's access to the beach — particularly poorer people who can't afford those fees — will be reduced. Only one California beach — Corona del Mar in Orange County — has permission to charge more than $2 per hour, and beachgoers there can expect to pay $4 per hour on summer weekends, according to a commission report. The commission has approved higher rates in commercial districts, including Long Beach, or in locales where lots have been developed specifically for beach parking, like those at the Balboa Pier in Newport Beach and the pay lot at San Clemente State Beach.

But for street parking in Del Mar, the commission recommends limiting costs to a high of $2 per hour, with off-season rates of $1 per hour. The city says that the higher fees will encourage more turnover in the spaces, which means more people can have access. And, the city believes the higher fees will keep those penny-pinching fairgrounds patrons from taking up street parking.

Del Mar Thoroughbred Club spokesman Mac McBride says that the racetrack has no research on where people park, though they offer 10,000 parking spaces at $10 each. They also have free parking on opening day (July 15) with a shuttle to the track.

"We have no way of knowing if any of our fans park locally," McBride said. "We absolutely do not suggest that any of them do so."

Coastal commissioner and San Diego County supervisor Greg Cox's staff said he declined to comment on the matter until it is heard.

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