The Fallbrook Village Plaza LLC, the parking lot between the Fallbrook Library and the Fallbrook Art and Cultural Center, is generally assumed to be "public parking" and possibly even county property by some. The truth is that it is private property owned by seven property owners.
The property is at a crossroads due to escalating repair costs and tax reassessments. The lot has been a community staple for over six decades, offering crucial parking spaces for local businesses, special events, and the county library.
The history of the lot dates back to 1959, following the demolition of the old Ellis Hotel where the library now sits. Several business owners in Fallbrook purchased the property, forming a trust to utilize it for parking for their businesses downtown where parking is scarce. Despite being privately owned, it has been freely available for public use, contributing significantly to the community.
In recent years, however, the parking lot has deteriorated, and repair estimates have soared above $150,000 – a cost beyond the owners' capacity. To manage these challenges, the owners converted the Parking Trust into a Limited Liability Company (LLC). This move inadvertently led to a drastic increase in property taxes, jumping from $800 to over $12,000 annually, as the county reassessed the property considering it under new ownership.
The financial strain has put the owners in a tough spot, unable to afford necessary repairs or bear the potential liability risks of the deteriorating lot. Amidst this, a short window of opportunity arose with San Diego County's recent revitalization study for Fallbrook, which recommended that these parcels be rezoned.
The rezoning would allow for diverse uses while maintaining parking facilities, possibly including a commercial enterprise and a parking structure. This change is seen as a potential solution to cover maintenance costs, subject to county approval.
The county, reportedly, informed the property owners that they would have to have the zoning approved by the Fallbrook Planning Group. The change of zoning has been taken before the Planning Group twice and failed twice. Eileen Delaney, Chairman of The Planning Group, said the concern for the Planning Group is that they want to know what the owners will do with the property before they agree to a rezoning.
Roy Moosa, who owns a portion of the lot said, "We don't know yet exactly what we would like to do. But in any case, we have to come back to the Planning Group again for approval with any plan. We still have to follow the rules."
Another community leader, who wished to remain anonymous, said, "Other people have to pay to change their property use. Why should they get away with not paying like everyone else?" Some of the parking lot owners were disappointed to hear this from an anonymous community leader and referred to their generosity over the decades and their desire to continue to make the parking lot available to the general public as long as they can cover the costs. They saw it as a win-win for them and the community.
Without rezoning, the owners face the difficult decision of restricting public access to the lot, a move they are reluctant to make given its long-standing community service. The county is set to present its Revitalization Plan to the Planning Group on Dec. 5, a meeting that could be pivotal for the future of Fallbrook Village Plaza and downtown in general.