In letters to the City Council’s Municipal Services Committee, local residents decried a recommendation to end 90-minute free parking at city garages and other proposed changes to the city’s parking policies.
“Eliminating 90 min free [parking] will certainly impact our decision to go to Old Town for anything!” wrote Christina Equihua. “Please don’t do this! It will negatively impact the few businesses that remain there. Wake up!! Look at your homeowners and their average age… we’re getting older and parking is a decision point on where we go and spend $$$.”
All told, the committee received more than 50 letters opposing a report on the matter, which appeared as an information item on Tuesday’s agenda. The committee took no action on the report.
The city-owned parking lots allow motorists to park for free for the first 90 minutes, with a maximum parking rate of $6.
Other recommendations from city Transportation Director Laura Rubio-Cornejo and a consultant tasked with creating a parking strategic plan for the city include eliminating free parking on holidays, implementing a merchant parking validation program, and increasing the daily maximum parking rate to $12.
The suggested changes come at a time when businesses and many residents are struggling due to a loss of income caused by the pandemic. If the changes were to go through, causing or contributing to a slow-down in local businesses, they could be devastating to already struggling companies.
“I have glimpsed at a summary of the parking report and recommendations made by the consultant,” said William K. Morris. “I think the changes recommended are ill-advised. Increasing the rates for parking will only hurt Pasadena businesses (and lead to less sales tax revenue). Eliminating the 90 minutes free, eliminating free holiday parking and increasing rates is not the solution we need for Pasadena.
“I am a real person who attempts to shop in Pasadena whenever possible – convenience and to support my community. This parking consultant is in ‘La La Land’ — please simplify and cheapen parking. I have several friends in business on Lake and they have never liked the metered parking on Lake and behind the businesses on the East side. Go ahead and enforce time limits – those overstaying should be fined. I (like many of my friends and neighbors) will just go elsewhere — La Canada, Altadena, Arcadia, Sierra Madre to shop, eat and recreate. I understand there are revenue issues — but this is not the way to solve them.”
The Transportation Department started working with the consultant, Dixon Resources Unlimited, in March. To review the city’s parking program, Dixon started holding stakeholder meetings, coupled with an online survey, to obtain information to better understand Pasadena’s parking needs and concerns. Dixon also reviewed the city’s parking ordinances and policies and evaluated the city’s off-street and on-street parking fee structures.
In a draft submitted to the Transportation Department, Dixon’s most significant recommendations include modernizing both the city’s on-street parking technology and its parking rate model. Upgrading on-street meter technology should be coupled with utilizing parking payment data as one way to determine on-street parking occupancy, which would then help to determine parking rates.
The demand-based parking rate recommendation is intended to keep an 85-percent occupancy level on the street while providing drivers with different pricing options for their parking sessions. According to the draft plan, this, in turn, should increase vehicle turnover and maximize the volume of drivers that can visit a metered area. A flexible base rate is also proposed to be updated periodically based on historic parking occupancy figures, along with an escalating rate model that encourages parking turnover but allows customers to pay premium rates if they choose to stay for longer periods in a metered space.
“If you plan to end 90 minute free parking at old town parking garages, then prepare to lose significant spending in the Pasadena economy,” said Peter Cote. “This idea is absurd, especially at a time when both consumer spenders and businesses are struggling to survive the pandemic. As a Pasadena resident, I object to any parking changes at this time.”
Dixon is also recommending that parking meter holidays be eliminated. Currently, the city has nine parking meter holidays each year when drivers aren’t required to pay.
Dixon said these parking meter holidays made sense in the 1990s when the first city parking meters were installed because most businesses were closed on major holidays. Now, a majority of businesses remain open on most holidays, which have become some of the highest volume parking days of the year. Eliminating parking meter holidays would enable better management of parking spaces during holidays, the draft said.
Other recommendations included in the draft are for the city to consider eliminating or restructuring the citywide overnight parking restrictions for residential parking and updating parking signage to make them more user-friendly, directing people to parking spaces with ease, and more effectively communicating parking regulations.
After Tuesday’s presentation to the Municipal Services Committee, the Transportation Department said it hopes to be able to conduct further meetings with stakeholders and return to the City Council in the summer with final recommendations.
One Old Pasadena business owner who has been doing business in the city for the past six years said she was greatly concerned by the committee’s consideration of removing the free 90-minute city parking option as well as the suggestion that businesses pay for customer validations.
“After nearly a year of struggling with COVID restrictions, a move like this could be the final straw for small businesses in the area,” said Mia Mazadiego, owner/event & marketing director of Neon Retro Arcade on Raymond Avenue.
“Many community members are also struggling financially during these challenging times. Even with the 90-minute free parking option, parking issues are the number one complaint from my customers about our location in Old Pasadena,” Mazadiego wrote.
“Removing the free parking option will absolutely cost me customers and if you haven’t noticed, foot traffic in Old Pasadena is already at a record low. Incremental increases to the daily rate would be understandable. Making the significant changes being suggested by a company that is clearly not familiar with our community would not be the right choice at this time.”