Santa Rosa council embraces parking changes

A novel suggestion to solve downtown Santa Rosa's chronic parking problems by fluctuating meter and garage rates got an enthusiastic nod Tuesday from City Council members.

In the first meeting on the subject since hearing the proposal to raise and lower rates with demand, council members pledged support and directed a subcommittee composed partly of business owners to pursue the next steps.

"Performance-based parking just makes total sense to me," said Councilman Gary Wysocky, echoing others on the seven-member panel impressed by the idea.

Councilwoman Jane Bender said additional money generated by the scheme would be earmarked for downtown improvements that could make it more attractive to shoppers.

"I'm going to be pushing as hard as I can," Bender said.

Two weeks ago, the council received a presentation from parking guru Donald Shoup, a UCLA urban planning professor, who believes Santa Rosa doesn't charge enough for street parking during some parts of the day and think it charges too much during others.

He said fluctuating rates would help ensure more spaces are available and encourage people to use parking garages at peak hours.

Also, Shoup suggested a system in which people who wanted to park longer could. He recommended a tiered parking ticket policy that let first-time violators off with a freebie.

Shoup pointed to Southern California cities that employ the model, spending all or a portion of the revenue on sidewalk repairs, cleaning, plants and benches.

Many said his idea could help solve Santa Rosa's perennial parking woes and could be incorporated in a broader goal of encouraging the use of mass transit.

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