Santa Rosa lowered the cost of some of its downtown parking permits by 40 percent Tuesday in an effort to stimulate use of a parking lot across from the Santa Rosa Plaza mall.

Instead of $140 a month to park at the city's Ross Street lot, the council dropped the price to $85.

An analysis by the city's parking department showed the lot is underutilized, with an average of only three to five permits issued per month for the 145-space lot.

The lot is virtually empty in the morning, but fills up after 6 p.m. most nights when the city stops charging at its meters, said Cheryl Woodward, the city's deputy director of economic development and housing.

Councilwoman Susan Gorin praised the move as a "first stab" toward instituting parking policies that adjust parking rates based on demand.

Woodward said the city also might want to consider changing the hours it charges to park instead of fiddling with the rates.

For example, the city could choose not to charge during the relatively light period of 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. but extend the hours it charges past 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. to catch the downtown dinner traffic, Woodward said.