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Randy Rowse: Committee Committed to Maintaining Free Downtown Parking

PBIA discussions about equity between businesses, not revenue generation

Recent print and television news articles have inaccurately reported positions of the city of Santa Barbara’s Downtown Parking Committee regarding discussions about the Parking and Business Improvement Area assessments.

These articles reported that the DPC was advocating for the elimination of the 75-minute free parking period in downtown Santa Barbara. These articles are grossly inaccurate, and have caused a great deal of confusion and consternation for the businesses and residents.

The DPC does not support the elimination — or even a reduction — of the 75-minute free period, and it will vigorously oppose any efforts to do so, including those in the proposed Plan Santa Barbara general plan update.

The PBIA discussions were about clarifying the procedures and formulas used in calculating the quarterly assessments that businesses pay. These assessments may be based on dollar sales, square footage or other factors that — depending on the type of business — combined with proximity to public parking facilities help offset the costs of operating and maintaining the city-operated parking lots.

The funds are restricted and can only be used to partially offset the operations and maintenance costs of providing the 75-minute free period for customers downtown. This assessment report, and any proposed changes to the fee formulas, must be brought before the DPC each year for approval and recommendation for public hearing and final approval by the City Council. The city’s Municipal Code requires that this process be followed every year with the budget approval process in order to legally assess the downtown businesses.

PBIA assessments are an important part of the downtown parking program’s revenue stream. Our present budget estimates a total PBIA assessment of about $840,000. It is estimated that the proposed changes would potentially add about $27,000 in annual collections — hardly a make or break number in a total operating budget in the neighborhood of nearly $6 million. In short, this is about equity between assessed businesses, not about revenue generation.

Again, at no time during these discussions did the DPC discuss any actions that would affect the 75-minute free period. The DPC continues to be a strong advocate, a leader in the community, in all discussions to preserve a free period for customer parking in perpetuity.

Some of the confusion could have been a result of some of the recommendations brought forth by the consultants working on Plan Santa Barbara’s draft environmental impact report to explore the impacts of metered on-street parking. The Downtown Organization has submitted a position paper to the Planning Commission strongly opposing any recommendations for such a move.

A downtown parking program that provides convenient, safe and clean customer parking is essential to the economic vitality of the city’s downtown business district. The downtown businesses continue their ongoing efforts to work closely with the city on ways to attract customers to the downtown, including contributing more than $400,000 to alternative transportation and providing funding for maintenance and security along the State Street corridor this fiscal year.

The downtown parking program is a self-sufficient program that pays for all of its operational and maintenance costs from its own revenue stream. Providing the highest levels of customer service and exercising fiscal responsibility are the driving forces. Your continued patronage to our businesses and cultural venues is the key to the future and preservation of Santa Barbara.

— Randy Rowse is chairman of the Downtown Parking Committee.

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