New Rule: Parking Requirements Eliminated for Most San Diego Businesses – Coastal Commission Approval Still Needed for Coastal Zone

by on November 17, 2021 · 26 comments

in Ocean Beach, San Diego

The big news from San Diego City Hall Tuesday was the New Rule: for many businesses starting January 1, parking space requirements are eliminated.

The City Council unanimously voted a change to the municipal code that eliminates parking space minimum requirements for many businesses.  Commercial tenants and building owners in transit priority areas and commercial neighborhoods citywide, beginning the New Year, can decide to provide as much parking as they think their customers need, or use those spaces for outdoor dining or outdoor spaces.

Also, new entrepreneurs will no longer be prevented from starting a new business because their building doesn’t have enough parking.

The new policy won’t take effect in the city’s coastal zone, defined as neighborhoods west of I-5, until the California Coastal Commission approves it.

Currently, businesses in these areas are required to provide a certain number of parking spaces. This all changes in a month and half for much of the city. Proponents, such as the mayor and council members, argue that providing parking for customers adds significant costs – “up to $25,000 for installation and maintenance per parking stall ….”

Proponents also claim that by forcing businesses to provide parking, it “can lead to an oversupply of parking spaces in the city.” (That’s quite a claim!) They also say the current parking regs make “it harder for businesses to adapt to changing transportation and economic trends,” plus by providing parking, it only encourages “more driving, further contributing to climate pollution.”

On the other side, critics say this is a drastic step that San Diego’s transit system isn’t ready for, that it’s not nearly comprehensive enough. Plus, they point out (this is an issue for Jen Campbell) senior citizens and disabled people can’t easily take transit, bike or walk places. In addition, many residents live in suburbia and are forced to lead car-reliant lifestyles due to the nature of housing development in San Diego County. In fact, last spring when the proposed changes were first released, the Committee of Planning Committee heads voted 21 to 3 against them.

Not to mention, all kinds of arguments that say, that by eliminating parking, customers and residents will be forced to drive around more looking for available spaces. Talk about adding pollution.

Then there’s those of us who complain that by giving parking spaces away to private businesses to do with them what they please, a part of our Public Commons disappears. The encroachment of public space by private interests continues. And it’s the mayor and city council doing it.

If you want to read the official pronouncement, just go to the online Beacon, which republished the notice without comment or critique. But the Rag is different.


{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Sam November 17, 2021 at 12:09 pm

“up to $25,000 for installation and maintenance per parking stall ….”

This is the most ridiculous statement I’ve ever heard. Where are people in the city of San Diego building new business structures that require them to spend money on installing parking spaces? Without beating a dead horse too much, this is just another give away to the developers. And so it goes…


Gregg Sullivan November 17, 2021 at 3:20 pm

Yes, it does cost $25K and up to $60K for underground parking per stall. If a person were to build a new commercial building on a property, currently they would be required to have x amount of parking spaces. Yes, it costs for design and construction of a parking lot. It’s a separate cost to the building. It’s called site work. There’s cost for grading and drainage, paving, curbs and gutters, landscaping, etc. This is a good call to get rid of parking spaces.


Sam November 17, 2021 at 4:37 pm

I understand that it costs money to build new underground parking. My point is that there don’t seem to be any businesses tearing down old structures to replace them with new ones that would require that kind of engineering. They simply open up in existing structures, so as Paul points out there is a lot of intellectual dishonesty being spewed out there.


kh November 17, 2021 at 4:44 pm

Where easing of parking requirements has applied to residential developments in OB it has only resulted in more bloated, more expensive builds, and not more density. These policies reward speculators and builders, at the expense of the neighboring community. This is the entire point of creating the Parking Impact Overlay Zone. We have already experienced a severely under-parked community for decades and it hasn’t resulted in greener transportation habits because the transit alternatives do not exist. Not to mention increased demand for off-street parking will raise rents on families and blue-collar workers who don’t have the option of taking transit, even if it is build.

I agree 100% with the CCC staff comments on this. The Commissioners would in violation their mission statement by approving this.

The map applicable to this ordinance can be found here, and does not include any of OB. But it likely will in the future by simply planning a “high frequency transit stop” for the year 2050 with a few pen-strokes from SANDAG and no fanfare or public vote.


Mat Wahlstrom November 17, 2021 at 9:31 pm

Hallelujah! Eliminating parking without any community benefit offsets or viable transit options will automatically result in less unhoused, ‘vibrant businesses,’ and more affordable housing!

Nothing less than gutting every neighborhood for private profit at public expense by our electeds is being planned.


Paul Webb November 18, 2021 at 10:14 am

I’m not sure why there is a difference between the SANDAG map and the City’s map, but the City’s TPA map shows all of OB in the TPA – of course that’s because we have such great transit in OB! I have read, but not independently verified, that 60% of San Diego’s population live in areas designated as TPAs. So, ultimately development in 60% of the city would not be required to provide parking. What could possibly go wrong?


kh November 18, 2021 at 10:49 am

I believe the map with more coverage is based on a 30 year outlook and the other is based on a 5 year outlook.

The map with more coverage defines the “Transit Priority Area Overlay Zone” (TPA) and applies to all of OB. This comes into play in certain development instances, but generally does not reduce parking requirements. (It used to, but was amended and the parking requirements in OB increased as a result.)

The map with less coverage is the “Parking Standards Transit Priority Area Overlay Zone” (PSTPA) and currently includes none of Ocean Beach. This map applies the zero parking rules to certain properties, and in the Coastal Zone pending CCC certification of the LCP update. The zero parking for multifamilty located in PSTPAs passed in 2019 and was certified by Coastal recently, even though CCC staff recommended against it.

This newest law is applicable to commercial and will likely pass Coastal as well. But again, OB is not in that overlay zone. Yet.

That said, the Coastal Commission tasks the city with enforcing its Local Coastal Program, but the city has a history of jumping the gun and approving permits that are not certified/legal in the Coastal Zone.

Clear as mud?


Paul Webb November 18, 2021 at 11:50 am

When I was on the staff of the CCC, we fought developers constantly to provide more parking, as parking was considered to be requisite for coastal access. I don’t know if the current staff has the same attitude, or, if it does, if it has the willingness to go to the mat for parking.

I remember vividly the battles we fought with the Sunshine Company when the wanted to add the second floor roof deck, but could not provide any additional parking that was, at that time, required for the additional floor area. It got so bad that I was very uncomfortable going to most of the businesses on Newport Ave. as the restaurant owners all sided with Sunshine Company and were openly hostile to me. There was one restaurant owner who I feared might actually get violent with me.

After I left the CCC the City had its LCP certified and took over permit jurisdiction. Sunshine Company expanded, and did not provide any additional parking. When I asked how that happened, I was told that they were allowed to count the spaces on Newport Avenue in front of the bar toward its required parking. Couldn’t get the CCC staff at all interested in following up on enforcing the City’s rules as outlined in the LCP that (at that time, at least) did not allow for counting street parking to meet the minimum requirement. So it goes…


Vern November 17, 2021 at 1:58 pm

No parking spaces… except for rental e-scooters?


Paul Webb November 17, 2021 at 4:00 pm

Greg Sullivan gets it exactly right. People like to throw around the $40k per parking stall number to make parking sound absurdly expensive. That number, which sometimes is an under estimate, is only true for underground or structured parking – not for surface lots. Some, however, apply that to all parking. There is a lot of intellectual dishonesty bandied about when it comes to development issues, and especially about parking.


kh November 18, 2021 at 9:03 am

The city quoted $90,000 per spot when they first pushed this propaganda 2 years ago.

Required parking has reduced the cost of my build because I can’t build the units as large. Or charge as much rent. And I’d argue the same applies to most residential zones in the city. It stems from this BS argument by builders that every property must be built out to maximum living area and price.


nostalgic November 17, 2021 at 4:21 pm

Are vacation rentals or rental apartments considered businesses?


kh November 18, 2021 at 9:10 am

Nice try. The city considers them as residences now. The census considers them as empty houses. Probably why the D2 population has decreased by 10K people in the past 10 years. I’m pretty certain we have more houses now.


eric b November 17, 2021 at 6:34 pm

Great news! Let’s move away from cars and car infrastructure!


Paul Webb November 18, 2021 at 10:25 am

I’m just a few months away from turning 70. While I’m in pretty good shape now, and I can do many of my errands on foot or by bike, I’m pretty sure that in the not too distant future I’m going to be a lot more reliant on cars and car infrastructure than I am now. It’s great for millenials (who seem to be the ones leading the charge on reducing parking requirements, reducing lanes on streets, etc.) to believe that everyone should be biking everywhere, but that is just not possible or practical for a large segment of our population. And it’s not as if transit is a viable option. Most of my medical providers are not located in places that can be reached by transit in a reasonable amount of time. I think that is true of many people in our neighborhood – think of Scripps and UCSD in La Jolla, Sharp in Grossmont and Kearny Mesa, Kaiser in Mission Gorge and Clairemont. Those are long transit rides with multiple transfers. Transit is just not a practical option. And please remember that we are talking about eliminated car infrastructure now, but the fabulous high speed transit promised by SANDAG is not a certainty nor will it come on line in the anything like the near future.


Greg November 18, 2021 at 1:21 pm

We are not even getting the minimal bicycle infrastructure required to safely travel to any major employment center from OB. It’s all developer handouts and nothing else.

If we’re talking downtown; no street in OB, nor Voltaire, Nimitz, or Harbor are truly safe enough for the non-experienced rider to take the plunge.

Any other employment center? No chance.


Vern November 19, 2021 at 12:15 pm

As millennials age (and have a kid or two and a dog) they realize the need for a vehicle or two. They ditch their bikes & rental scooters and climb into personal vehicles, certainly not public transit vehicles. And they hunt for homes in single-family zoned areas.

True story.


Chris November 22, 2021 at 9:46 am

I believe the ultimate goal is to re-build communities and neighborhoods in such a way that cars will not be needed as much. People won’t need deal with long commutes to their jobs, appointments, etc. Better bike infrastructure, better public transit, communities where most wont need to travel long distances to their jobs but if they do then better transit. That is the goal. How realistic and achievable remains to be seen, but I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t sound nice.


Sam November 22, 2021 at 11:26 am

How is commuting to work going to magically disappear? Unfortunately the city was not designed in a way that is conducive to the efficiencies of high density living, like New York for instance. We are just too spread out and the major employment centers are not in a concentrated area, hence the driving all over town. Additionally, I don’t believe that people will take public transit on a large scale until the homeless population is dealt with. Those buses and trains have essentially become homeless shelters.


Chris November 22, 2021 at 11:41 am

I didn’t say it would automatically disappear, just what the goal is.


Vern November 22, 2021 at 12:40 pm

All public servants should be required to take public transit to and from work, every day.
What could go wrong?


Paul Webb November 22, 2021 at 1:42 pm

I remember having meetings at the airport with City and SANDAG officials who insisted that the airport not build a new parking structure because nobody should drive their private vehicle to the airport. Then they would ask to have their single occupant vehicle parking validated, even though their offices were and are located along the 992 bus line that goes to the airport every 15 minutes.

They only want other people to take transit.


TL November 18, 2021 at 6:22 am

Legislation paid for by Uber, Lyft and Amazon


Vern November 23, 2021 at 6:06 am



Earthy November 18, 2021 at 5:52 pm

It allows flexibility. They can
Add 10 times the amount of parking.
If people demand it they can.
If it turns out to be not a desired item and say only the subject dejour of a few online
People they may reduce existing spaces.


kh November 19, 2021 at 11:30 am

I have yet to see a permit application here that provided more than the minimum required parking.

It’s always more profitable to use that space for living or business use, and let the neighbors and customers deal with the parking issues.


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