A UCLA urban planning professor told Santa Rosa?s City Council Tuesday he has the the answer to critics who say they don?t shop downtown because it?s the one Sonoma County city that charges for parking.
His solution: charge more.
But Donald Shoup?s answer, however, was a bit more detailed than that.
He said that in Old Pasadena, where a 15-block section had deteriorated into slum-like conditions, an economic renaissance was fueled by charging more for popular parking spaces sought by shoppers and tourists and lower fees for spaces farther away.
?It turned from a skid row to a highly popular shopping area,? said Shoup, the author of a book called ?The High Cost of Free Perking.?
Shoup?s book questions traditional municipal parking policies that emphasize the need to build acres and acres of parking to entice commercial and industrial development.
Shoup said the idea of adding hundreds of parking meters to the retail streets of Old Pasadena and substantially raising hourly rates on the most highly sought-after spaces initially was opposed by the city political and business leaders.
But Shoup said that resistance dissipated amid promises that a share of the increased parking revenues would be shared with the neighborhoods in which they were collected.
That money was used to bolster renovation efforts that included weekly sidewalk steam cleanings and landscaping and other pedestrian-friendly improvements that turned Old Pasadena into a place-to-be for shoppers, tourists and new businesses, he said.
The city not only reaped more parking revenues but sales taxes as well, he said.
Shoup, who earlier toured downtown Santa Rosa, said it was his impression that ?there is a fair amount of parking in Santa Rosa.?
He said cities often claim they don?t have the enough parking to entice new retail and industrial development but that it?s his belief the issue ?isn?t we don?t have too few parking places but that we mismanage them.?
Shoup said Santa Rosa could benefit from the fluctuating pricing policies employed in Old Pasadena and a few other cities.
Santa Rosa currently charges a flat $1 per hour for curbside parking downtown no matter the location, and 75-cents an hour in its garages and surface lots.
San Francisco has a parking rate policy that charges $3.50 and more during the more popular early morning business and after-work dinner parking and entertainment hours but lesser amounts during late morning and early afternoon when those same spaces are less in demand.
Such a pricing policy will also help fill up city garages for those unwilling to pay the higher rates during the more popular curbside parking times, he said.
Shoup said he?s aware of criticism of Santa Rosa?s parking policies, including those who say in letters to the editor that they shop at Coddingtown or in other cities rather than in downtown Santa Rosa because the others offer free parking.
But he said those looking for free parking often are the people who wouldn?t be spending much anyway, the type of customer who likely would not tip service workers.
Shoup said in the additional parking revenues generated in Old Pasadena helped create a welcoming environment that made it the place-to-be for shoppers and tourists willing to pay for parking. ?I don?t think the future of cities are dirty sidewalks and free parking. I think the future is in clean sidewalks and paid parking,? he said.