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Santa Barbara’s Historic Landmarks Commission Pans Plans for Waterfront Parking Machines

Agency wants to see more design options from city staff as questions arise over permitting for already-installed self-park kiosks

Computerized parking systems, like this one at Santa Barbara’s Harbor West parking lot, would replace all of the coastal parking lot kiosks, according to a Waterfront Department plan.
Computerized parking systems, like this one at Santa Barbara’s Harbor West parking lot, would replace all of the coastal parking lot kiosks, according to a Waterfront Department plan. (Lara Cooper / Noozhawk photo)

A proposal to place automated parking stations in most of Santa Barbara’s waterfront parking lots was swiftly snubbed by members of the Historic Landmarks Commission earlier this month.

The plans involved installing seven automated pay stations in several waterfront lots, which would allow drivers to park and pay instead of paying at a kiosk with a parking attendant.

Another 10 of the systems could be installed in the next three to five years.

Four kiosk stations that either formerly or currently housed parking attendants would be demolished, with one rebuilt as part of the plan.

The proposal would have removed the kiosk at the Leadbetter Beach parking lot, as well as the ones at the Garden Street and Chase Palm Park lots.

A fourth kiosk would be replaced at the base of Stearns Wharf in the next six to eight months, as city staff says the existing one is in disrepair.

Commissioners effectively put an end to those plans, at least for now, and voted unanimously Dec. 2 to have waterfront department staff return with more alternatives.

The city has installed 13 of the automated systems in the past five years, but commissioners took particular umbrage at the fact that the pay stations already installed in the waterfront lots may not be properly permitted.

“(The waterfront department) didn’t think they needed permits,” said Jaime Limón, senior planner with the city. “HLC did not like that.”

The commission also “did not like the contemporary nature of the kiosks” and directed waterfront staff to return with ideas about how to improve the design, as well as the signage directing people to the pay stations.

Portions of the waterfront fall into the city’s historic El Pueblo Viejo District, which requires stricter design guidelines than other parts of the city. That’s why automated parking kiosks have been approved in other parts of the city, but not in those waterfront areas.

Waterfront Department manager Brian Bosse said the automated stations replaced the inefficient large boards that required motorists to stuff dollar bills inside.

“Those were all approved and went through the various approval processes,” he said, so when the opportunity came to install automated stations that were “smaller and less intrusive,” staff went forward.

“We were under the understanding that by going from one self-pay station to another self-pay station, with the latter being significantly less intrusive, we were under the assumption that was OK,” Bosse said.

The first automated pay stations were installed in 2011, and allowed motorists to pay with cash, change or credit and debit cards.

Bosse said the staff is meeting about the Historic Landmarks Commission’s concerns, which will be addressed at Wednesday’s meeting.

He also stated that employment won’t be affected by the changes.

“Nobody is losing their job,” he stressed.

The harbor operation has three full-time parking employees, with all of the others are paid hourly. 

Many of the latter are hired seasonally to deal with higher parking volumes during the summer, and are mainly high school and community college students, Bosse said.

Noozhawk staff writer Lara Cooper can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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