“Parking in Ocean Beach is always two bitches and a rabid dog,” a Yelp review read about finding parking when visiting the South Beach Bar & Grille at 5059 Newport Avenue.
What the Yelper probably didn’t know was that there’s a free parking lot two blocks away — at 4864 Newport Avenue, the Antique Center — reserved for South Beach patrons.
And that’s a huge problem for Tony Franco, the realtor handling the sale or lease of the Antique Center, the largest commercial building on Newport. According to Franco, there’s significant interest from big-named restaurateurs and developers, but they’re all walking away because of the shared parking agreement with South Beach.
Franco and the city's Development Services Department permits confirm that South Beach (first opened in 1992) remodeled and expanded their upstairs eating area in 2009. According to Franco, this triggered the city requirement that South Beach find 28 additional off-street parking spaces.
“Because they’re friends with the owners of the Antique Center, they let them say they could use their parking,” said Franco. “Unfortunately, they didn’t read the fine print, because they’re friends. The parking [arrangement] goes on forever, into perpetuity.”
Franco emailed me two shared-parking agreements from November 2009. One of them shares 23 spaces in the Antique Center parking lot with South Beach customers between the hours of 5:00 a.m. to 2:00 a.m. The other shares eight additional spaces in the alley behind the Antique Center between the hours of 5:00 p.m. and 2:00 a.m. The agreements state that they can be terminated only if replacement parking is found. The documents are signed by Donald Purvis (South Beach property owner) Scott Allgaier, and Craig Gerwig (Antique Center property owners) and the city's development services director.
John Ambert, chair of the Ocean Beach community planning board, said he has been in talks with multiple individuals interested in the Antique Center that can’t move forward because of the parking agreement.
“I find it amazing that a business by the beach can utilize a parking lot two blocks away as an acceptable means to meet the requirements. This [shared parking] agreement not only inhibits the antique mall from drawing in a new tenant, but it extends the reach of businesses across the community.”
Ambert said this is part of a bigger problem in Ocean Beach with parking requirements that demand more parking spaces than the number of off-street parking spaces available.
“Any change to a business that intensifies use triggers additional parking requirements per zoning. Some businesses, like the beer and wine tasting rooms, are able to avoid this requirement because the zoning code doesn’t consider these tasting rooms an increase in the intensity. The reality is that these establishments, without question, have significantly more people than were in the predecessor retail spaces. The result is an increase of occupants and an increase in traffic congestion.”
“Over the past two years, five of these establishments [OB Brewery, Culture, Belching Beaver, Gianni Buonomo, and Helm’s] have opened on Newport Avenue alone, further exacerbating the issue. While I love good beer, and the craft-culture these businesses bring, I disagree with the zoning classification of these establishments, and I seek to find a way for it to be more equitable with the requirements of a restaurant.”