Downtown merchants seek parking solutions

Spurred by a petition from downtown merchants, San Clemente is hiring experts to do an analysis of the supply and demand for parking in the central business district.
Clemente.jpgThe City Council last week hired Walker Parking Consultants to do a survey during August, the peak season.

With the data collected, the consultants will project parking demand and advise the city on what to expect if future restaurants and retail stores are added.

The city will pay Walker $22,800. This is the same company that did parking surveys for the city in 2002, 2006 and 2008, Community Development Director Jim Holloway said.

Parking spaces have become increasingly hard to find this year since two new restaurants The Shore and Nick's San Clemente opened on the 200 block of Avenida Del Mar.

In a report to the City Council, Holloway said there are now 10 restaurants on the 200 block, and parking patterns have changed because restaurant patrons typically stay longer than retail customers. At the request of Nic's Vacuum and Small Appliance whose owner said business at the store at 216 Avenida Del Mar has dropped as restaurant parking took up available spaces for long periods the council agreed to convert two two-hour spaces to 20-minute spaces.

There could be more such requests. The city received a petition from 55 merchants asking the council to "pursue all options available" in response to what they termed "the parking crisis in the downtown village."

Christina Morgan president of the Downtown Business Association and owner of Villa Cucina, a home-decor and kitchen-products store at 124 Avenida Del Mar said a parking structure would be wonderful, as parking is scarce and customers need more time than the city's two-hour limit allows.

"I have customers who are running out of the store: 'Am I going to get a ticket? Where can I go to park?' They're circling the block three and four times. They are not finding anywhere," Morgan said. "I have people they'll be at the counter, they've got merchandise and they're suddenly, 'I have to go; the meter maid is outside!' They say they'll be back. They don't come back. That's really a problem for us."

Walker Parking Consultants offered to do a second level of analysis for $8,500 to look at ways to modify or combine existing parking lots or the feasibility of a parking structure. Council members decided to see what comes of the August survey before proceeding further.

"It's a really, really wonderful downtown," Morgan said "The restaurants have really been a huge impact to the downtown. It's wonderful. Our nightlife is phenomenal. Every single person who walks in says, 'This is fantastic, we want more.'"
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