Downtown may march to a metered beat

Downtown may march to a metered beat

Parking meters touted as solution to Ventura’s parking crunch

By Hannah Guzik 05/01/2008

Meeting the parking need in Downtown Ventura may soon mean meeting the meter.

Plans pitched by the Downtown Ventura Organization and city staff call for 60 parking meters to be placed in the Downtown core, along Main Street from Ventura Avenue to Ash Street and on surrounding blocks between Santa Clara and Poli streets.

The DVO held two town hall meetings April 28 to brief locals on the plan and to gauge responses from Downtown business owners and residents.

“It’s anticipated that there will be significant growth in Downtown,” said Greg Smith, treasurer of the DVO Board. “We want to continue to make it easier to shop and park in Downtown.”

City planners and the DVO deemed the meters necessary after the city completed a supply and demand study last summer on the number of empty parking spaces in varying areas Downtown, said Michael Kodama, city parking manager.

“There’s a lot of parking, and there’s a lot of parking available,” Kodama said, noting that less than 60 percent of Downtown’s 7,000 spaces were used throughout the study days.

However, 93 percent of the spaces in the Downtown core were occupied during the same time, he said. An area with more than 85 percent of its parking spots full is considered at capacity, because of the difficultly drivers have in finding empty spaces, Kodama said.

But some locals say the meters will put the pinch on shoppers and visitors, forcing them to go elsewhere and hurting the Downtown economy.

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” said Ventura resident Eliane White, who parked Downtown on Main Street on April 29 to visit the library. “It’s just not convenient, and it’s costly. It’s hard enough as it is to find parking Downtown.”

City planners say installing meters in the highest occupancy areas, as well as on surrounding streets, will free-up parking in front of shops and restaurants for visitors.

They say Downtown employees often park in the free, two-hour spots on Main Street now, shuffling their cars to different spaces every few hours to avoid parking tickets.

Parking will remain free in the city’s existing structure on Santa Clara Street, as well as in other city lots.

The meters would be electronic, so users could pay using a credit card, cash, coins or even their cell phone if they created an account online. Parking fees have not yet been decided, but would likely be 50 cents or $1 per hour, Kodama said.

Funds gained from the parking fees would go into an account to be used strictly for Downtown improvements, like lighting, security and maintenance upgrades.

Two meters would be placed on each block and users would type in their space number in order to pay for parking. Police officers could check which spaces were unpaid using their cell phones.

The meters and their installation would cost about $600,000, Kodama said.

The Ventura City Council will vote on whether to install the parking meters, as well as other related issues, at a meeting in late May.

If approved, the meters would likely be installed early next year, said Kodama.

A new parking structure is also included in the Downtown parking redesign. The structure would be located at either the parking lot at the corner of Santa Clara and Palm streets that serves as the site of the Farmer’s Market, or at the lot behind a former American Legion hall across Palm.

The structure, which is in the design phase now, could be constructed as early as 2011.

The plan also calls for a division of Downtown Ventura into parking districts. In residential areas, signs would likely allow parking for only a few hours without a residential parking permit.
City Transportation Manager Tom Mericle said the parking redesign encourages a “walk rather than drive” mentality and a “park once strategy.”

Mayor Christy Weir, who attended Monday’s morning meeting, said she supports the parking plan.

“I love it. I think it’s what we need to do, but the money has to go back to the district,” she said.    

Additional meetings, covering the same material as the previous two, will be held Tuesday, May 13 at 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. at the Knights of Columbus Hall, 36 Figueroa St.


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