By Shawn Raymundo
Paid-parking hours at some of San Clemente’s coastal lots are likely to increase soon, as the California Coastal Commission (CCC) next month is expected to approve a proposal from the city to implement changes to its metered parking areas.
The CCC on Sept. 9 will consider a coastal development permit (CDP) that, if approved, would allow the city to extend the hours of operation for metered lots at North Beach, Linda Lane, Pier Bowl and T-Street, as well as remove meters at Avenida Calafia and Camino Capistrano.
Currently, the metered lots only require visitors to pay for parking as early as 9 a.m. and as late as 6 p.m. Paid parking specifically at the Pier Bowl and North Beach, the city’s biggest and most popular lots for beach access, ends at 5 p.m. and 6 p.m., respectively.
Under the proposed CDP, the city would extend the paid parking hours at those four lots from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. The hourly parking rate would remain at $1.50. The city would also remove the 15 meters from Camino Capistrano and 12 meters from Calafia, making parking free but with a four-hour limit.
The pending approval comes more than a year since city councilors approved plans to submit the proposal to the Coastal Commission. During a council meeting in May 2019, city staff presented a report on the metered parking areas, prompting councilors to propose the changes.
According to the May 2019 report, the city had collected about $982,000 in revenue from metered parking in Fiscal Year 2018, with more than 90% of those monies coming from the Pier Bowl and North Beach parking lots.
City staff at that time also estimated that increasing the metered parking hours at the Pier Bowl to 10 p.m. would likely give the city an additional $220,000 in annual revenue. Conversely, the city said in the report, if the hourly rate increased to $1.75, while keeping the current metered hours, an additional $103,000 in annual revenue could be expected.
In a report to coastal commissioners for their upcoming meeting, CCC staff noted that the increase in paid hours where the lots will have previously been free “could make access prohibitively expensive for some.”
The proposed increase “has the potential to disproportionately impact members of the underserved communities who have less disposable income and fewer options for enjoying public access to and recreation on the coast,” the report said.
The new hours of operation, the report added, could impact service employees of the local restaurants and shops, “particularly those held by low-income individuals or low-wage jobs that may park regularly after 5 p.m. in the area, which even if inexpensive at $1.50 (an) hour could add up quickly if employees need to park every day for an extended period.”
The report goes on to state, however, that that those who want to park for free could find free peripheral parking lots and can also use public transportation such as the city’s summertime trolley to get to North Beach, the Pier Bowl and commercial districts.
Some local businesses such as Casino San Clemente in North Beach and Fisherman’s Restaurant and Bar at the Pier questioned the need for extending the hours of operation, expressing concern for its impact on customers and those who visit the beach in the evening.
“Is this any way to support and celebrate the resurrection of our historical district and welcome outside visitors? By adding an additional tax to patrons of the Ole Hanson Beach Club events, Casino San Clemente live music events and wedding celebrations; and the locals who will celebrate in the forthcoming resurrection of the Miramar Theater? No thanks, San Clemente,” Casino owner and operator Linda Sadeghi said in an email.
Robert Novello, the owner of Fisherman’s, echoed the sentiment writing in an email that the extended hours “would be adding an extra financial burden to those folks who use the pier at night to exercise and just want to come down to enjoy the sunset.”
The CCC’s Sept. 9 meeting is scheduled for 9 a.m. and will be conducted via teleconference. The meeting will be livestreamed and can be viewed at coastal.ca.gov.
Shawn Raymundo is the city editor for the San Clemente Times. He graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in Global Studies. Before joining Picket Fence Media, he worked as the government accountability reporter for the Pacific Daily News in the U.S. territory of Guam. Follow him on Twitter @ShawnzyTsunami and follow San Clemente Times @SCTimesNews.