Gaslamp Pacific Theatres were under construction in 1997 and local business owners were getting nervous — fifteen screens and no new parking. Customers already complained that parking was a hassle. In response, City Councilmembers Wear and Kehoe proposed that 45% of meter income should be returned to districts where it was generated. The idea won approval and created a revenue stream to be used for parking and transportation improvements.
Subsequently, members of the community (including me) worked with Mark Wardlaw at the Centre City Development Corporation (CCDC – the City’s redevelopment department) to develop the original Downtown Comprehensive Parking Plan. It resulted in the building of Park-It on Market, a 500 space garage, and 6th and K Parkade with 1000 public spaces. Both structures now produce revenue is excess of debt service.
In his 2003 budget, City Manager Uberuaga proposed increasing City revenues by hiking rates on existing meters from $1.00 to $1.60 per hour. Business owners in Downtown and Uptown strongly objected since nearly all 5200 San Diego metered spaces were in their neighborhoods. To get two hours you’d need to feed 12 quarters and 2 dimes into the coin-only meters. But street parking would remain free in Pacific Beach and La Jolla.
If the City was so desperate why not add meters in other “parking impacted” areas? Everyone knew that council members would be inundated with opposition.
Councilman Zucchet worked a compromise lifting rates to $1.25 and creating a task force to study parking issues citywide. An investigation confirmed our expectations. The real problem was underutilization. Enforcement at all meters was 6 days a week, 10 hours per day – 8am to 6pm. Overall utilization was 30% — i.e. 3 hours per day! Some spaces were heavily used while others, especially in large areas of East Village, sat empty.
The task force met over the course of a year and worked up revisions to Council Policy 100-18. A primary goal was to manage parking supply to the benefit of communities by boosting overall meter utilization to 85%. The policy also created Community Parking Districts. This low-tech, neighborhood-up approach has become the hallmark of parking management in San Diego.
The story will continue soon in Part Two…