Santa Cruz Good Times

Apr 02nd
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Pay to Park

news1Two main downtown lots to start charging parking fees
As of March 1, two free downtown Santa Cruz parking areas will become pay lots. Anyone wanting to park in the Cedar and Church streets Parking Garage (Lot 3) or the Cedar and Cathcart streets Parking Lot (Lot 4) will have to pay $.50 an hour or $5 a day. These lots, more familiarly known as the two-story garage by Regal Cinemas (formerly Cinema 9) and the Farmers’ Market parking lot, were previously free three-hour parking areas.

According to Marlin Granlund, City of Santa Cruz parking programs manager, the new fees “will go to the parking district and will be replaced back into parking district services.” This includes the maintenance of public restrooms, streetlights and sidewalks, in addition to the parking garages and lots themselves. Part of the profit will also pay for an additional patrol officer.

“The city council authorized pay parking in the Farmers’ Market lot to pay for some security measures,” says Granlund. “One is to fund an additional police officer for the downtown area.” The pay stations are expected to generate about $100,000 annually.

The switch to pay parking was partly prompted by the Master Transportation Study, a joint effort by the City of Santa Cruz and the University of California, Santa Cruz to create a community-based transportation plan. “The MTS spells out about moving away from free parking to pay parking. This is one of the ways we’re going forward,” says Granlund, adding that it is the only MTS transportation demand item they are currently acting on.

Now faced with fewer free parking options downtown, Granlund recommends that residents utilize the Ecology Action or Santa Cruz County Regional Transportation Commission websites for information about alternate forms of transportation. In an email to Good Times, Piet Canin, program director for Ecology Action’s Sustainable Transportation Group, says that more cities are reducing their subsidies for parking a car by increasing parking fees “to reflect the true cost of garages and on-street parking.”

“I think in general [Ecology Action] is in favor of reducing the subsidies for parking,” he says. “But in order for Santa Cruz to reduce its carbon footprint, the city needs to have more incentives for alternate transportation, in addition to disincentives for driving. If you want to increase mobility for people to the downtown sector there are other ways to do it.”

In addition to complying with the MTS and raising revenue for the city, Granlund says the new pay stations are intended to cut down on employee misuse of the parking lots. “There is so much abuse from employees that park there for three hours, and then move their car every three hours,” he says. “That’s been a problem since we switched the lot from two hour to three hour parking back in the ’80s.”

Granlund demonstrates the new pay machines, which have also recently replaced the machines in the Calvary Church parking lot (Lot 5), explaining that there will be a person on site at the new lot on March 1 to assist downtown visitors with using the machines. Granlund says the machines, which cost about $15,000 each, are far superior to the old machines.

During the demonstration, a downtown business owner approaches to tell Granlund how unhappy he is with the change. The owner, who goes just by Kelsey, his last name, believes that the parking fee may discourage potential shoppers from stopping by. Kelsey has owned New Deal, a clothing boutique on Pacific Avenue, for two and a half years. He is strongly opposed to the switch to pay parking, and thinks it will hurt his and other local businesses.

“What the hell was wrong with our system before? It was actually admirable ... it was so nice to just zip downtown and park your car, and then get out of there,” Kelsey tells GT in a separate interview. He worries that people will go somewhere else to shop. “People will walk five blocks to return a shirt because they saw it somewhere else for two dollars cheaper,” he says. “You can’t tell me people aren’t going to resent the fee. In this economy, they should have left it alone. If I’m wrong and it increases shopping, great. But I just don’t see that happening.”

Kelsey adds that he finds the new pay stations to be too expensive and not user-friendly. “They’re way too complicated,” he says. “I’m an average Joe guy, and I had trouble with them—if they had to have someone out there explaining how to use them, something’s wrong.”

Granlund believes that the change may actually make parking easier for downtown customers, as there will no longer be a three-hour limit, which infers a $40 ticket for those who overstay their time. “The complaint we were getting was that people couldn’t park longer than three hours,” Granlund says. “You don’t get free parking anymore, but you can stay as long as you want—it gives you a whole lot of options.”

Responses from other downtown business owners and employees range from indifference to anger. Some were unaware that the change was even happening, while others say they have already heard from annoyed customers and think the anger and frustration will increase once the fees are in place. One employee, who wishes to remain anonymous, says that she’ll be personally affected by the fee: she parks in the Farmers’ Market parking lot because it’s right by her work and she gets off late at night. “I don’t want to be walking around alone at night, especially downtown,” she says.

Employees at another shop, who also wishes to remain anonymous, were less concerned. “I look at it this way: our customers will come downtown regardless,” says one, adding that he was pleased the money would fund an additional patrol officer. “If the money is going into something positive, then great.”

Christy Paul, the owner of Lolly Tree Toys, was concerned that the fee may “negatively affect the businesses right around here.” She also mentioned the hundreds of dollars that downtown businesses already pay to subsidize the parking costs and wondered if the parking lots are now charging a fee, will they still need to pay the several hundreds dollars?

According to Granlund, the answer is yes. The parking deficiency fee required of downtown businesses (buildings built within the City of Santa Cruz are required to have a certain amount of parking spots; since downtown businesses don’t, they pay a fee) will remain. In fact, Granlund says that “the city council looked at increasing the deficiency fees by 3 percent, but decided to make the Farmers’ Market parking lot a pay lot instead. They decided to have the public pay for parking instead of businesses.”

This switch to pay parking follows not long after a controversial proposal to build a five-story garage where the Farmers’ Market lot currently sits. The switch to a pay lot doesn’t mean that the proposal is completely off the table. According to Granlund, the five-story garage is “a possibility down the road.

“With the economic downturn, it just wasn’t the right climate for building a $30 million structure, so it’s kind of been put on the back burner,” he says. The garage was also put on hold because many other projects that had been planned for downtown and would have necessitated more parking are not happening.

Comments (14)Add Comment
written by Amelia Olson, April 08, 2010
While I agree it is frustrating to suddenly pay for downtown parking, my major beef is with how ridiculously inefficient these machines are. They are incredibly user-unfriendly and it seems that half the time one of the machines isn't working properly and so there's only one machine for the entire garage. It takes forever to process so the line starts to pile up, and the machine is often opposed to taking cash and requires the use of a debit/credit card or parking card. It's about a fifteen minute drive to Santa Cruz for me from Ben Lomond but now I need to leave fifteen minutes to wait in line to get to the machine only for it to tell me that it's not accepting cash.

My Mom recently had the experience of being behind someone who was trying to use the "add time" option. It took two of them to figure out which five digit number the machine was asking for, he kept trying to put in his four digit space number. Finally they went around to the back of the machine to read some fine print that informed them in order to add time, he needed to use the five digit number given to him on his original receipt which he had thrown away.

It's one of the most ridiculous parking systems for a lot that busy I've ever seen in my life. My guess is they want to encourage the sales of parking tickets. But forget that, I'll just go down to the Locust Garage. It's so much more reasonable.

Contact List for Paid Parking comments
written by Les Gripkey, February 26, 2010
There is now a webpage with a one page contact list (for Santa Cruz Parking Programs Manager, City Council members and Downtown Association) for those who would like to more easily voice their opinions regarding the change from free to pay parking at:

There is also a link for a printable copy for those so inclined to distribute it.
Parking Problems
written by PeevedAtParking, February 24, 2010
Santa Cruz: Get a clue, you self-righteous town. This is one of the most disgusting actions this city has taken in ages. Tons of people work downtown, and now we're going to be financially strapped having to park downtown. I drive from Scotts Valley every day, and I have a job that requires me to use my car to get to and from work, in part because my job requires me to be off-site at times. Therefore, if I use the parking lots that I've been using for the last 10 years working down here, my new fees to park, just to go to my job, could cost more than $100/month. Great timing for something like this—right in the middle of a recession. Santa Cruz, you have zero compassion for your downtown employees who serve your community every day. And to say that one of the reasons for taking this action was to limit parking abuses by downtown employees is gross. What else do you expect people who work downtown to do? We can't all ride our bikes to work. We can't all walk to work. Get realistic and generate some understanding for your downtown employees. And downtown businesses should do the same for their employees, since we're the ones getting screwed here.
Way to go Santa Cruz
written by Paul Johnson, February 23, 2010
Congratulations Santa Cruz, you are once again the leader in ways to drive business out of downtown. Oakland and their extension of parking meter times was ahead for a while, but even they saw how much business was going to be hurt and backed off.

You already run meters till 8:00pm and now this? Parking lots that shoppers have depended on for years being taken away?

Sorry downtown businesses but I will take my dollars to the Capitola Mall or San Jose where I don't have to worry about being fleeced for a couple of extra dollars.

Downtown merchants, the city has sold you out - just like the car dealerships long ago (how did that work out for you Santa Cruz?).

westside wingnut
written by clarke, February 22, 2010
what alternatives?. i checked out santa cruz transit a few years ago. to go downtown with my 2 kids cost 4.50 each way and took half an hour each way. 9 bucks versus 50 cents worth of gas if i drive. 10 minute drive at the most, half hour bus ride each way. the transit system seems to be 90% about serving UCSC. it is not practical for many others. at the very least have discounts for kids. otherwise they will never be encouraged to see it as an option.
written by Ron Slak, February 22, 2010
Greg C,

There is plenty of bike parking lockers downtown, and you can rent the lockers for your bike at $.03 per hour.
written by britteny Westphal, February 21, 2010
"employee abuse" without the employees that work down here there would be no economy! no downtown to even police. I hate that 1/3 of my paycheck goes to parking tickets! How about a free permit system for employees? Because without us there would be no reason to charge for parking, and no economy at all!
written by John P, February 19, 2010
great. please let me know what alternative transportation I can use from up Graham Hill Rd around Henry Cowell.... thanks. I do gather a bus runs a few times a day, one way. amazingly inconvenient schedule.

guess I and my family will be going elsewhere with our entertainment and shopping dollars.

Seeing Pink
written by AnonyMiss, February 19, 2010
How can you learn to hate a color? I'll tell you how: After seeing it sitting atop your car neatly folded beneath your windshield wipers too many times when you didn't have the exact change to last your meter that extra half hour or when your psychic powers weren't in tune to predict you'd be late. Or when you find it greeting you (once again, underneath your windshield wiper) after a long day's work at your office downtown--giving you the realization that you just worked all day to earn money you'll have to use to pay the City of Santa Cruz for parking in order to work. This, after your tireless search for an all-day parking spot that morning was futile. I wasn't born despising the color pink, society has taught me to think this way. I want to salvage my relationship with the color pink but it may be too late.
written by cee titius, February 19, 2010
How about parking validation?? It works at other places and gives both customer and shop owners a break.
written by joe dirt, February 18, 2010
This is nothing but more bad news for SC. Its another good reason for people to not come, but dont you worry they will still come and by the millions. California needs to do something about the population problem but that is another conversation. This is just another poor excuse by the CITY to TAX the people even more. Welcome to CA people. Pay, Pay, Pay. Nice comment Jesse. Yeah TAX those ____ing liberal students. I wonder if the rent a pig will do anything about the 500 million illegals and the gang bangers clogging up the streets and system? This may be the right time to leave SC. Oh yeah and the new sign that identifies the san lorenzo river is totally pointless. As if we didnt know that was the san lorenzo river. smilies/sad.gif
written by Greg Churchill, February 18, 2010
The problem is the political dolts making the changes and rules do not reflect the majority of Santa Cruz's population.
I love to ride my bike downtown and would do so to shop however the areas for bikes to park are few and far between.
A large parking garage outside of the downtown area and pedal taxis would solve parking problems and create jobs for the taxis operators...but then one more Boardwalk Barney promoted to carry a gun for the City of Santa Cruz makes much more sense!
Way to go City Council...
written by Jesse Ferris, February 16, 2010
This is lame. Why would we get charged so the city can hire another ticket cop to in turn give us tickets? Sounds great. Here is a good idea, instead of pinching the wallets of long time Santa Cruz residents, why doesn't the city just raise the prices for UCSC student parking passes that allow them to park on residential streets. Ohhh also those new guardrails that were put up on Westcliff drive were a complete waste of money.. the old ones were fine!
written by doug salesky, February 16, 2010
I see Santa Cruz is being it's old self and telling lie's to make up for it's short comings

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