Over the winter, the city of Del Mar widened and repaved its northern boundary, the busy Via de La Valle, between Coast Highway and Jimmy Durante Boulevard. They also added a bike lane and a sidewalk for the six-tenths-of-a-mile stretch overlooking the Del Mar Fairgrounds.
But on June 1, the other thing the city added is ticking off longtime fair-goers: parking meters.
“It’s a shame because that’s where a lot of workers and volunteers would park for free,” said Chris Platis, a long-time host in the fair’s woodworking exhibits. “Locals would also park there just to run into the fair for a few hours.” (The “Solana” gate on Via de La Valle is known as the local’s entrance to the fairgrounds.)
The revenue-generating idea may have backfired on Del Mar, the only city in the county infamous for enforcing their parking meters seven days a week, even on legal holidays.
On one of the fair’s busiest days to date, Sunday, June 11, at 4:00 p.m., only about 20 motorists chose the paid parking option. Most of the street, even spaces closest to Coast Highway and Dog Beach, were vacant. However, on the other side of the street, which is in Solana Beach, the free parking spots were jam packed, with fair parkers extending up onto the side streets of the neighborhood.
With new parallel and reverse diagonal parking, the project added about 125 new spaces to the few formerly free spaces. At $15 for the day (or $1.50/hour), it's $2 more than paying for parking inside the fairgrounds. Less than two miles east on Via de La Valle, at the Horse Park, hundreds of free parking spots can be found with shuttles that run every ten minutes to the fair. (The Horse Park, being just inside the San Diego city limits, is out of Del Mar’s jurisdiction.)
“I think they went overboard and got too aggressive,” said one source inside the city. “I wish they [the meters] would go away after the summer.” But he conceded he expects the new paid parking would probably be full over the fair’s Fourth of July weekend and opening day of the races.