Redwood City merchants cringe at proposed parking hike

A move to make parking pricier in the city’s revitalized downtown shopping district might meet opposition from merchants and shoppers already frustrated with high-tech meters.

City officials are considering raising meter rates — currently between 25 and 50 cents per hour — or extending the 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. enforcement hours to make up a $1 million deficit in the parking fund.

Some merchants believe the city’s computerized, pay-by-the-space meters, installed in 2007, already discourage customers from coming to Redwood City, and a price hike wouldn’t help, said Adam Ocegueda, manager of the popular Vino Santo Bistro on Broadway.

“A lot of the downtowns I’ve been to don’t charge,” Ocegueda said. “I don’t understand why they do it here.”

Ann McClelland, a sales associate at the Brick Monkey home furnishings store, said, “Personally, I just think it’s not the right time to do it. It’s just another stab at the public.”

The revenue the city expected to get from the meters has never caught up with the cost of the $2 million parking fund, which pays for police patrols, parking enforcement and maintenance of the downtown parking garages, officials said. For the past four years, the city has been sapping $1 million from the general fund to subsidize the parking program.

Now, as the city faces a $2.7 million deficit, the City Council is expected to consider later this month raising hourly rates, expanding meter hours or charging for garage parking, which is currently free for up to four hours for movie theater patrons.

Officials note that the city’s rates are currently lower than other nearby cities’. And its meter hours start at 10 a.m., whereas others start at 8 a.m.

Councilwoman Barbara Pierce said another idea is increasing the use of paid parking permits for office workers.

“I haven’t completely made up my mind on what the right answer is,” Pierce said. “I think there are a lot of moving parts.”

In response to complaints in 2008, the city reduced rates in some areas and rolled back hours. But many are still unsatisfied, and frustrations with the computerized meters — which were intended to encourage parking turnover — remain high.

One customer came into the restaurant in tears because she was so frustrated with the high-tech parking meters, Ocegueda said.

“A lot of elderly people get frustrated [with the meters],” Ocegueda said. “Overall, it does affect business.”

Polly Garcia, 24, said she doesn’t like having to walk to a machine, some of which don’t take cash.

“I’d rather have just the meter in front of the parking spot,” said Garcia, who was getting her nails done at Elegance on Broadway.

Meter madness

Parking meter rates vary among Peninsula cities:

– 50 cents per hour in the downtown core; 25 cents per hour outside the core; no time limits

– 50 cents for the first two hours; $1 for the third and fourth hours

– 25 to 75 cents per hour around Burlingame Avenue
– 10 to 50 cents per hour near Broadway

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