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By Collin Breaux | Twitter: @collin_breaux

Currently, parking in the downtown lot near Trevor’s at the Tracks and Rancho Capistrano Winery—officially known as the multi-modal lot—is free, though visitors and locals might spend time circling the lot trying to find a spot during busy periods, particularly on weekends.

Come June, though, that will be no more. Parking in the multi-modal lot will be on a paid basis—$2 with a four-hour limit from 9 a.m.-2 a.m.—beginning on June 4. The San Juan Capistrano City Council approved the change as recommended by city staff in a 3-1 vote during a meeting on Tuesday, April 20.

Parking in the downtown multi-modal parking lot will be $2 with a four-hour limit beginning on June 4. This parking lot tends to fill up, particularly during weekends. Photo: Collin Breaux.

Councilmembers Howard Hart, Sergio Farias, and Troy Bourne voted yes. Mayor Pro Tem Derek Reeve voted no. Mayor John Taylor, who lives in the nearby Los Rios Historic District, recused himself from the vote and discussion since his home is within 500 feet of the lot.

Though Hart said the question of why parking will no longer be free could be raised when examining the issue from the outside, the only thing worse than paid parking is no parking.

“That’s too often the case. I think we’ve all done the trips around the parking lot in downtown in recent years,” Hart said. “That was a notable change when the council instituted the pay-for-play version of parking. This makes an awful lot of sense, honestly, as much as I don’t like paying for things.”

Farias said locals will know where to park for free, and paid parking is a nice option to have.

“The proposed parking rate and time limit are intended to, of course, deter employee parking in these highly desirable parking spaces but also to promote turnover in the multi-modal parking lot,” Public Works Director Tom Toman said.

City staff wanted to implement the change based on a similar pilot program instituted in summer 2019, as a result of feedback from downtown businesses. The pilot program consisted of metered hourly parking in the Franciscan Plaza parking structure. In October 2020, the council approved formalizing and adopting permanent parking rates for the plaza.

“The multi-modal parking lot is comprised of multiple parcels—some owned by the city and some by a private owner,” Toman said during a presentation to the council on the matter. “There are 79 total spaces available to the public. They’re available on a first-come, first-served basis.”

According to information from the summer 2019 program, parking occupancy tended to be 97% or higher from 10 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekdays and weekends.

“Additionally, the occupancy study revealed that all parking spaces in the multi-modal parking lot, on average, experienced a parking duration of five to six hours,” Toman said. “This parking duration correlates directly with the downtown employee shift.”

Most downtown business customers park in the Franciscan Plaza and multi-modal lots, while most downtown employees park near Los Rios Park and in the Mission Promenade, Franciscan Plaza, and multi-modal lots, according to a survey done with downtown business owners and property owners and managers.

Downtown employees are encouraged to continue parking outside the immediate downtown area. Parking spaces have been added, and will continue to be expanded, at the Ramos Street parking lot for downtown employees.

Two new automated pay stations will be installed in the multi-modal lot at a cost of $30,000, which will be appropriated from the parking maintenance fund.

Reserved uses for weddings and special event venues will also be available for $20 per space in the Franciscan Plaza structure, from 4 p.m.-2 a.m., in spaces 1-108. Additionally, a temporary loading zone near the intersection of Verdugo Street and Camino Capistrano frequently used by ride-hailing companies and on-demand food delivery services was made permanent, based on feedback from nearby businesses. Spaces 1-34 are still available for overnight commuter parking with a 72-hour limit, often used by Metrolink train passengers.

The city will keep all revenue generated from the multi-modal lot until costs are recovered from related implementation, and revenue exceeding city costs will be split on a 50/50 basis with the private owner of the lot. Revenue from the reserved use in the Franciscan Plaza structure will be split on a similar basis with the owner of the Franciscan property.

“All of these actions will have a very positive fiscal impact and are expected to provide funding that can be used for additional parking expansion opportunities, and maintenance and operations of our parking lots,” Toman said.

Toman also gave an update on the city’s summer trolley program, which was discontinued early in the COVID-19 pandemic. Service is planned to begin on June 4 and run on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. Friday service is from 5-9 p.m., Saturdays from 11 a.m.-9 p.m., and Sundays from 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

There will also be special event and holiday trolley services for July 2, 3, and 4 for Carnival and Fourth of July; Sept. 6 for Labor Day; and for the city’s summer concert series on Aug. 18 and Sept. 15 from 4-9 p.m.

Collin Breaux

Collin Breaux covers San Juan Capistrano and other South Orange County news as the City Editor for The Capistrano Dispatch. Before moving to California, he covered Hurricane Michael, politics and education in Panama City, Florida. He can be reached by email at

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