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Mixed reaction to Santa Rosa parking fine increase

  • Tracy Grant places a parking voucher on her dashboard on Fourth Street, in Santa Rosa, on Wednesday morning, September 16, 2009. (CHRISTOPHER CHUNG/ PD)

Tracy Grant prefers shopping in downtown Santa Rosa versus in Marin County where she lives because she said parking is less expensive and easier.

Her enthusiasm was not dented by the Santa Rosa City Council voting Tuesday to raise the cost of tickets for expired parking meters and overtime parking violations another $5 — to a total of $30 — with the prospect of an additional increase next year.

“That's a pretty reasonable fine by Marin County standards,” Grant said.

Downtown parking, long a touchy issue in the only city in Sonoma County with metered parking, has become even more of a focal point in recent months. Some people are unhappy with the new ticket-dispensing machines that replace parking meters in some areas and with a proposal to charge different amount in different zones of the downtown.

Critics also complain of what they believe is over-zealous enforcement of parking regulations.

An informal survey of motorists in downtown Santa Rosa Wednesday revealed mixed opinions about the council's unanimous action to raise the fine.

Councilmembers were swayed by the state raising the amount of money it takes from every parking ticket from $4.50 to $9.50. Without the increase, city officials estimated the net loss to the city would be $200,000 annually.

“I think it's a legitimate way to raise revenue, so long as there are enough meters and spots to park in,” said Bernie Hernandez of Santa Rosa, who fed a meter on Mendocino Avenue.

But James Walsh, also of Santa Rosa, said he considers parking tickets less a way of raising revenue than a way to get people to comply with what the city wants them to do.

He said raising the fine to $40 — which the parking department originally had proposed — would not increase the odds people will follow along.

“I think 25 bucks is enough to spur compliance,” he said. “If you raise it to $40, it won't change it. You just won't be able to pay your bill.”

Martha Riggio of Windsor also is not a fan of the ticket increase, saying she sometimes can't help it if she gets stuck in line at a restaurant or store and the meter expires.

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