At a special city council meeting last night called to discuss the proposal of paid parking in the downtown area, Half Moon Bay city councilmembers, downtown merchants and residents all appeared to agree that more research and information was needed before moving forward.
Though a $2/hr parking fee 365 days per year between the hours of 9 a.m. and 7 p.m. as a way to generate an estimated $1 million annually — and recoup estimated installation costs of over $600,000 less than a year later — no councilmembers, merchants or residents spoke out in favor of such a configuration.
Currently, there is no fee charged for downtown parking. Saying that the $2/hr proposal seemed to be too high, several in attendance favored a lower hourly rate — perhaps $1/hr to $1.50/hr. Others were interested in shaving an hour from the period when parking fees would be charged so that actual enforcement would take place between 10 a.m. - 6 p.m., rather than the proposed 9 a.m - 7 p.m.
All advised the council to proceed with caution and asked for more information, questioned the impact of paid parking on local businesses, and asked about revenue sources which could be generated from a paid parking program.
"I'm quite skeptical of the initial idea," downtown business owner Charles Nelson said in regards to a $2/hour parking fee.
Nelson said 40 percent of his customers at — an upscale cooking and appliance store on Main St. — were local. Expressing a desire to make it as easy as possible for customers to shop at his store, he advised the council to act cautiously.
"A lot of businesses on Main St. are in a pretty delicate situation, so we have to proceed carefully here," Nelson said. "We don’t want to do anything to tip the balance."
Downtown business owners Robin Jeffs and Dave Worden told the council they preferred setting up a parking district with revenues which would create a connection in the way the money was generated and the way it was spent.
executive Charise McHugh, who researched parking programs in Truckee and Ventura, said that she preferred a $1/hr option and cited other parking policies, such as a special rate for locals in the city of Ventura.
"This needs to be very well thought out as it's very important to all our businesses and community members and visitors. Most income does come from our visitors," McHugh said. "We have to be very careful and think about how it will affect them."
Councilmember Rick Kowalczyk said he only wanted to charge fees on what the market would bear, and suggested a variable parking program where the cost per parking spot would vary based on demand at the time.
Vice Mayor Allan Alifano said he preferred a $1/hour fee. He cited a paid parking program in Augusta, Ga., where parking proceeds were spent on a sidewalk alley, street lighting and landscaping.
Community members gave input on how such proceeds should be spent at town hall meetings, Alifano said.
Councilmembers and business owners appeared to be in favor of starting paid parking at 10 a.m. in order to provide time for locals to patronize merchants selling coffee and breakfast items.
"It's important to keep in mind that if you reduce certain components, such as hours or days, the program starts to become less feasible," City Manager Laura Snideman said.
McHugh said she felt the cutoff hour for paid parking should be 6 p.m. to accomodate people coming to Half Moon Bay's downtown to eat at Main St. restaurants and checking into hotels, but Kowalcyzk implied later in the meeting that the influx of people at that time was the reason why there should be paid parking charged until 7 p.m.
"I’m more open to the idea — I can see more benefits from it," Nelson said after the meeting. "$1 instead of $2 would be much better. I think it needs to be thought through completely," he said.
City council members agreed on the desire to move forward with the idea of implementing a paid parking program, but felt they needed to do more research before determining fees, the hours of enforcement and the areas of enforcement.
At the council's direction, staff was directed to collect more information about paid parking as it relates to cost, enforcement, and pay station technology.
"We can’t look as it as a tax, we have to look at as investment," Councilmember John Muller said.
"We have to look to the future on how we can maintain such a wonderful community," he continued.