“We have very high-profile buyers from San Diego and Orange County ready to step up and buy the Antique Center property, but not with that shared parking agreement on the table,” said Tony Franco, the realtor handling the sale of the property.
The Antique Center is the largest parcel in Ocean Beach’s retail corridor. The 18,000-square-foot building at 4864 Newport sits on a 30,000-square-foot lot. The shared parking agreement is a thorn in the side of owners Scott Allgaier and Craig Gerwig. It’s something they both signed of their own free will in 2009, but Franco said they never would have if they had known it was going to be forever. They did it as a favor for their buddy Donald Purvis two blocks down (5059 Newport Avenue) at South Beach Bar & Grille.
The impetus for the shared parking agreement happened in 2009 when South Beach remodeled — thus triggering the city’s requirement for additional parking. The agreement gives South Beach the use of 31 out of 33 Antique Center parking spaces in perpetuity.
Franco said he is within 60 days of closing a deal if he can get the city onboard. “After 25 years, the owners are ready to retire and the city refuses to get rid of the parking agreement. I was told the mayor would have to sign off on it.”
Franco said South Beach patrons aren’t even using the Antique Center parking. This rings true as not one of the twenty or so South Beach customers I asked in 2016 knew there was any off-street parking available. When asked where I could park, South Beach staff told me to park on the street.
Franco’s most compelling argument is that a lot of new paid parking spaces have sprouted up since the agreement was signed. He emailed me a map highlighting 564 new parking spaces near South Beach – most of them closer than the Antique Center parking lot. This doesn’t even include the city parking lot right in front of South Beach with 102 spaces.
Not all the spaces Franco highlighted came on board after 2009. The CVS parking lot offered paid parking as far back as 2007. Still, this doesn’t dilute Franco’s point that several hundred parking spaces are closer to South Beach — and that customers are more likely to choose to park in these spaces or on the street versus the Antique Center’s lot. Especially since anyone that drives onto that lot is greeted with a sandwich board threatening to tow anyone that's not an Antique Center customer.
When the sale finally goes through, what will be the fate of the 88 tenants currently renting space at the Antique Center? Franco said some buyers want to keep everything as is while others want to divide the space up to rent out to more tenants. One investor wants to start over and create a mixed-use development. The current zoning (CC-4-2) allows for commercial and residential uses.
If the Antique Center goes, it will be another one that bites the dust. “They are all closing down – one just closed in Solana Beach recently,” said Franco.
Native OBcean, Nicole Ueno, would love to see the space be used for something to serve the community. “A co-op public market similar to the one in Liberty Station would be amazing, with each micro-business serving different food items, jewelry and clothing or crafts.”
As far as parking, Ueno said, “These overly restrictive parking regulations seem to be doing more harm than good in our community, by keeping new businesses from opening. Especially in a local-centric place like [Ocean Beach] where most people walk, ride a bike, or skate to their destination. It seems ridiculous to me that South Beach, which is right next to a huge public parking lot, would be required to provide additional off-street parking spaces."
Ueno’s sentiments echo conversations past that I’ve had with local planning people that said it’s time to rethink land use requirements so that development isn’t catering to cars at rest.
Kerry Santoro in the city’s development services department gave me her take on the Antique Center's predicament. Santoro said, “The agreement can be terminated if the required parking is provided through other means. Examples include a shared parking agreement with another property, providing additional parking on site...."
Does Franco’s argument that a lot of new paid parking has sprouted up since the agreement was signed hold water? “Yes. Neither the conditions of approval for the approved coastal development permit nor the San Diego municipal code require that free parking be made available for this use.”
Donna Cleary from Councilmember Lorie Zapf’s office said her office has been in contact with Franco about this issue. As far as the trigger that requires businesses to find more parking where none is to be found, Cleary said that establishments faced with this requirement can get a variance.
I tried to get someone from South Beach to say if they have explored other parking arrangements but wasn’t able to touch base with anyone.
However this washes out, it doesn’t look like shared parking agreements are going anywhere soon. They allow restaurants that need extra parking in the evenings to borrow that parking from nearby 9-5 business like banks. A BBQ joint a few doors down from South Beach has just such an agreement with Union Bank on Cable Street.
Another local that didn’t want to be named said “There ain’t no easy about it when parking at the beach. To expect a beach business to pull more parking out of their ass is like asking The Three Stooges to make another film. It ain’t happening.”