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City of Santa Barbara staff propose increase in parking rates

May 27, 2023May 27, 2023

Staff are urging the Santa Barbara City Council to raise parking rates in city-run public lots by 50 cents an hour, and to reduce the time allowed for free parking by 15 minutes — and warn of dire consequences should the council say no.

The proposed rate hike would increase the hourly rates in public parking lots from $2.50 an hour to $3 an hour, and cut the amount of free time before drivers are charged from 75 minutes to 60 minutes.

"The increase (in parking rates), along with deferral of capital projects to reduce expenditures, is necessary because the Downtown Parking program would otherwise be facing a $2.9M deficit for FY24," Sarah Clark, downtown plaza and parking manager, told the News-Press.

In addition to increasing the parking lot rates and reducing free parking time for motorists, staff are proposing an increase in the cost of a lost ticket from $20 to $33. Also, the cost of parking at the Amtrak train depot lot would double, from $5 for 24 hours to $10 for 24 hours.

If approved, staff's proposals are projected to raise about $2.7 million in annual revenue that would nearly cover the parking program's projected deficit. These changes would take effect July 1.

However, "if the rate increase is not approved, the projected increase would exhaust our reserves, and we would likely require a subsidy from the General Fund," Ms. Clark said.

The problem with this is that the council is already under the gun to cut $2.7 million from the General Fund to help offset a structural $3.8 million deficit in Fiscal Year 2024. (The other $1.1 million would come from the city's reserves.)

"Alternatively, expenditures could be cut — to avoid the rate increase, we would need to eliminate our entire capital program and all of our contract services on the State Street Promenade (janitorial, pressure washing, landscaping, hanging flags), so there would be a major impact on services," Ms. Clark said.

"This proposal was discussed during our 5/31 Public Works budget presentation (to the full council), as well as at recent meetings of the Finance Committee," Ms. Clark said.

Some council members have said that while they don't like the idea of raising parking rates, they see no alternative at this time in order to keep the downtown parking program operational.

The city council was expected to discuss staff's proposal Wednesday night as part of its Fiscal Year 2024 budget deliberations.

The parking program's reserves Ms. Clark mentioned are not part of the city's overall Reserve Funds. They only apply to that part of the Department of Public Works budget that pertains to the downtown parking program.

"Downtown Parking is an enterprise fund, so we have our own reserves separate from the General Fund and other funds that we are required to maintain," Ms. Clark said. "We are funded entirely through the fees we collect from the services we provide (primarily hourly parking). For us to provide services, such as Promenade upkeep and parking garage maintenance, we have to collect sufficient revenue to offset those costs."

The Downtown Parking Program is part of the Public Works Department. While portions of Public Works are funded by the General Fund, the large majority of DPW programs are supported by other revenue streams.

email: [email protected]

News-Press Staff Writer

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