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Council to consider fewer paid parking hours for downtown

Wednesday, August 17, 2011 by Josh Rosenblatt

It looks like Council members may have found a way out of their stalemate over the extension of paid parking hours downtown. A proposal put forward by Council Member Mike Martinez and co-sponsor Mayor Lee Leffingwell responds to the concerns expressed by some of their colleagues by limiting both the hours of the original proposal and its geographic boundaries.


On March 3, Council voted 6-1 to keep downtown parking meters running from 8am to midnight, Monday through Saturday. Currently, parking meters in the area shut off at 5:30pm on weekdays, and parking is free on the weekends. The city is scheduled to implement the new hours Sept. 6.


The vote was a controversial one, and the Council member who voted against the measure, Laura Morrison, responded to concerns from citizens and downtown stakeholders with a resolution that, if approved, would delay the implementation of the law until Jan. 1. In the meantime, the city manager would conduct a public input process.


At yesterday’s work session, Martinez called his proposed resolution a “shot at a compromise” between the current ordinance and postponement.


The new resolution would amend the March 3 ordinance by limiting the days with extended hours to Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. On Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday, the meters would shut off at 6pm (to correspond to a system-wide 30-minute extension agreed upon in the original resolution). Parking will remain free on Sundays.


In addition, the compromise resolution would decrease the size of the area affected by the extended hours by two blocks. That area currently runs north to 10th Street. The new resolution would cut off the area at Eighth Street. Martinez pointed out that every church in the downtown area save one is located north of Eighth Street, and that one has a six-story parking garage for its members.


Church representatives were particularly vocal in their opposition to the extended hours, Morrison wrote in the proposal to delay, claiming their members, clergy, and volunteers would be adversely affected by the change.


Morrison applauded the compromise proposal, saying it mitigated many of her concerns and the concerns of people she’s been hearing from. “Certainly the Monday through Wednesday exemption is very important,” she said. “For me the idea of charging for only Eighth Street down … is critical.”


Morrison said she would not only vote for the resolution but would make a motion at Thursday’s meeting to withdraw her resolution to delay implementation of the extended hours.


Leffingwell called the proposed amendment a “starting point” and said it was better than delaying, which, he said, “would have budgetary impacts for basically a quarter of a year.” Still, he expressed concern about revenue loss resulting from decreasing the number of extended-hour days.


“I’m predisposed to think that Thursday, Friday, and Saturday isn’t quite enough,” Leffingwell said, “that we need to add a day or two to that.”

Transportation Department Director Rob Spillar said that extending parking hours until midnight from Monday through Saturday would generate an estimated $7.25 million a year, plus an additional $1 million in ticket charges. He estimates implementation of the compromise plan, with its fewer paid hours, would mean a reduction of about $1.3 million.


The compromise proposal would also direct the city manager to provide either a pre-buy or delayed ticket referral options, establish load-in zones for live music venues, and develop a plan for low-cost garage space for service industry employees and volunteers.

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