Alhambra City Council voted unanimously on Monday not to pursue paid parking in two of First Street's parking structures, arguing that charging for parking would be detrimental to businesses in the area and that the city may be able to find better parking management strategies.
The request for paid parking came from the Downtown Alhambra Business Association, according to Director of Community Services Martin Ray. The group of restaurants and businesses asked that the new Mosaic parking structure on north First Street and the existing structure on south First Street become paid parking facilities.
“In May we received a letter from the president of the Downtown Association stating that they feel in order to manage the structures in the future efficiently, and to have the intended parking available, they felt it needed to be on a paid basis," Ray said.
Monday's vote stopped city staff from issuing a request for proposal (RFP) to parking management companies. RFPs are not a binding commitment and City Council could vote again after the proposal process to stop paid parking, according to Ray. But City Council members voted to halt the process at this time.
Councilwoman Barbara Messina argued that paid parking would hurt businesses in the downtown area. “I’m totally objecting to going to a RFP at this point because I totally do not support paid parking at this time. We are finally getting to a point where we are trying to build up our businesses. We are not Nordstrom and we are not Forever 21," she said. “To have paid parking right now, I think would be the kiss of death for us.
Councilman Luis Ayala also opposed paid parking, saying that he did not feel City Council was given enough time to consider the issue. “To be quite frank, I feel like this is the first time I’ve heard of this," Ayala said. “As a council, we deserve at least the opportunity to sit down and think about how this is going to affect our residents on a daily basis. I'm sure we can come up with a solution that meets everybody's needs. But I feel to jump to an RFP right now without having really gone through the brainstorming process on how this may affect residents, positively or negatively, is just too much for me to act on right now."
Councilman Stephen Sham was not completely opposed to charging residents for parking. He proposed that allowing two free hours in the structures and charging after that would be a better way to encourage customer parking. Sham also felt this method would better manage employee parking, bringing up concerns that employees take up parking spaces intended for customers.
“Basically I think the idea for charging for parking is not necessarily to make money but more of a mechanism to control the parking space, to make it ready for use for the customers and not the employees,” Sham said. “I’m supporting some sort of mechanism to control, making sure that the parking spaces are available for the customers, not the employees.”
Sham ultimately voted not to issue an RFP.
Messina agreed that there are other ways to manage employee parking, noting that city employees park on the second underground level of the library, while patrons park on the first level. City Manager Mary Swink also stated that downtown employees with free parking permits can park on the top floor of the south First Street structure, leaving the other floors available for downtown visitors. Swink said perhaps a similar system could be put into place at the Mosaic parking structure.
City Council also voted to scale back parking enforcement in the downtown area to Monday through Saturday, 8 a.m.- 5 p.m., starting Oct. 1. Council voted in January to extend parking enforcement to 10 p.m. seven days a week to alleviate the lack of parking during the construction of the Mosaic structure. The structure is scheduled to open in November.
Weren't able to attend the meeting? You can watch it here . City Council usually meets every second and fourth Monday of the month on the second floor of City Hall: 111 S. First St., Alhambra, Calif., 91801. The next regular meeting will be on Oct. 13 at 5:30 p.m. but the Council will also host an open study session on Sept. 29.