The Ventura City Council decided in a 4-2 vote Monday night to do an impact analysis of the paid parking initiative that recently qualified to appear on the November ballot. If the initiative passes, the city would have to remove the meters and would be mandated to get a two-thirds voter majority for future parking fees. The city will return with its findings on the impacts of removing the meters on July 11, including how, if possible, to recoup the $1 million-plus investment and deal with losing an officer the meter revenue currently pays for, according to Mayor Bill Fulton.
Fulton’s main concern, however, is not putting the initiative on the ballot, but rather if the initiative is lawful.
“I asked our city attorney if it is lawful, particularly, section 1 [of the initiative], pulling out the meters. Is that a legislative act or administrative? If it legislative, the voters vote on it, if it is administrative,” then it is a city issue, Fulton said. He continued, saying that the initiative will go on the ballot regardless of the findings, but the power behind the initiative to enforce the removal of the meters is yet to be determined.
He also said that the details are vague regarding how the initiative would impact paid parking programs enacted since 2006. The measure addresses that paid parking programs enacted before 2006 would not be affected.
Ventura Councilman Neal Andrews cast one of the dissenting votes regarding the impact analysis on Monday, along with Councilman Jim Monahan. Andrews has been against various parking management plans since he came into office in 2001. But the decision to do an impact analysis, he said, was a waste of taxpayer money.
“My objection was, the Council proposed to do an impact analysis. As they reformed their requests, they were all slanted to degenerate the data to make them look right and everyone else look wrong,” Andrews said. “We shouldn’t use the taxpayers’ money to defend the Council’s opinions.”
Fulton disagreed with Andrews.
“I was a little disappointed in Neal’s comments, that he would pre-undermine this analysis that hadn’t even been commissioned,” Fulton said. “He asserted it would be biased, but didn’t put forth anything that he wanted to know.”
Fulton went on to say that he didn’t think it would cost the city any hard dollars, but rather just staff time to complete the analysis.
The measure to remove the parking meters in Downtown Ventura qualified last week to appear on the November ballot, due to a volunteer petition effort over the last couple of months that yielded more than 8,000 valid signatures of local residents.
Dave Armstrong, the chairman of the Downtown Ventura Organization (DVO), said that most business owners approve of the meters.
“Our executive director has been out talking to merchants, and a vast majority is in support of the meters,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong said that he felt that some of the volunteers misled those who signed the ballot. He recalled volunteers telling locals that if the ballot didn’t pass, the city could implement other paid parking programs, such as forcing residents to pay for parking in front of their homes.
Because that fear is already in place with many Ventura residents, Armstrong said, he knows there will be a battle to diminish those fears.
“If that [fear] is what motivates people, I would hate to see something that is good for downtown go away because of what people in the rest of the city feel is something that is happening to them,” he said.
He said that some people have complained that the meters aren’t meeting revenue projections, but the issue was never about making money for the city but rather was about parking management. Because the city has altered the paid parking program in downtown to include various free 24-minute and loading zones and has removed meters along the 700 block on Main Street, revenue projections will be down. The hourly parking rates also went down to $1 an hour, and the time period for paid parking was also reduced.
Armstrong said that a committee against the measure will be formed, but it will not be in collaboration with the DVO.