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Sunday, November 18 , 2018, 10:36 pm | Fair with Haze 50º


Santa Barbara Council to Add Its 2 Cents to Parking Rate Debate

City leaders will be asked to approve a staff report on business-subsidized parking downtown

Pulling into one of the city’s lots, where parking is free for less than 75 minutes, is something most Santa Barbara residents take for granted. But that parking isn’t really free.

That’s because the downtown parking budget is funded not only by hourly parking fees paid by customers who stay longer than 75 minutes, but also by businesses in the Parking and Business Improvement Area.

So, whenever you dash into a downtown business to grab a sandwich or to pick up dry cleaning, the owner of that business is probably paying to subsidize that free parking.

How that bill is divided and which businesses pay how much is part of an annual staff report the Santa Barbara City Council will be asked to approve on Tuesday.

In addition, that free parking means big business for local businesses. Last year alone, there were 4.3 million free customer transactions, according to city staff reports, and businesses in the PBIA contributed about 20 cents per ticket toward the maintenance costs for free parking.

The revenue generated last year from PBIA amounted to $840,000, or 12 percent of the parking budget.

“If the PBIA annual report is not approved, options such as charging for all parking, even the short-term parking, will need to be considered,” a city staff report stated.

Contrary to several news reports last week, that free parking is not endangered because of the changes up for approval Tuesday, according to Randy Rowse, chairman of the Downtown Parking Committee.

“You wouldn’t find bigger free-parking advocates than on this committee,” he said. 

Rowse, who also owns Paradise Cafe, said he considers it a good value, because he could never foot the bill to maintain his own parking lot.

In 2006, the committee authorized engineering company Penfield & Smith to look at the fees paid and see if there were ways to make the fee structure more equitable among businesses.

The simplest way to explain what they came away with was that businesses will pay primarily based on their impacts to the lots, how close the business is to the parking lots and so on.

Businesses specifically mentioned for increases are movie theaters, and changes for health clubs, financial institutions and hotels and motels also are mentioned.

The Granada and the Lobero Theatre aren’t included in the changes, but the parking committee recommended that nonprofit performing arts theaters be charged a 20-cent rate for 50 percent of the seats in the theater per performance. That change won’t be proposed until next year, however, to allow the theaters to include the rate in booking fees.

“The PBIA adjustment is meant to reflect current situations as equitably as we see it today,” Rowse said. “It’s not a hunt for revenue. ... Some places will be paying less. It’s a reshuffling based on a today’s snapshot.”

With the Downtown Parking Committee an advisory body only, the City Council will make the final decision on Tuesday.

The council meeting will begin at 2 p.m. Tuesday in Council Chambers at City Hall, 735 Anacapa St.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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