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City Council votes down paid parking structures on First Street

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. 

The Alhambra Source encourages comment on our stories. However, we do not vet comments for accuracy or endorse links to posts in the comment section. The thoughts and opinions expressed belong solely to the author of the comment.

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7 thoughts on “City Council votes down paid parking structures on First Street”

  1. This is a huge mistake by city council. The south first parking structure has been a disaster because they were so against any form of paid parking at that location. Why do the same thing in the new structure? Just ask the business community what the problems are.
    Guest of the Downtown area want safety, certainty, flexibility, and availability in parking. So called “Free” parking structures are anything but. Two hours free and small hourly fees “Is the Answer”. All of us sometime have to admit we are wrong. It’s time for all five council members realize this, and get the job done right!

  2. Great! Congratulations to the city council for turning down paid parking at the parking structures and I agree it would hurt, not help downtown businesses. If they start charging for parking I know I WILL NOT DO BUSINESS IN DOWNTOWN ALHAMBRA, BUT WILL PATRONIZE OTHER NEARBY CITIES THAT DO NOT CHARGE PARKING. (I think this was a dumb idea put forth by the Downtown Business Association, that instead of attracting more customers, it would have discouraged more customers like myself).

  3. I have multi-generational heritage in Alhambra and I love coming home and bringing my family to visit my 80 plus year old parents in the home I grew up in. Recently events made me feel unwelcome and I fear the negative message it is sending to others. We purchased the requisite permit to park in front of my parents’ house but neglected to write in the dates of use on the permit – a technicality. We woke up to find an expensive parking violation ticket on the windshield. I was appalled! We had dutifully purchased the permit after all. I took the time out of the morning, that I could have spent visiting my elderly parents, to contest it at City Hall. What was the reply? To fill out paperwork which of course was not considered and the expensive fine had to be paid. This left a horrible taste in my mouth. What kind of a city government treats their citizens in this cold, bureaucratic way? You are sending a message of hostility not only to your voting, taxpaying residents, but to their guests. It is shameful. City Council needs to start considering the needs of their residents rather than bending over backwards to accommodate “business” all the time.

    1. I know you don’t live in Alhambra now, but I recommend you go to a city council meeting if you happen to be in town while they are in session. Let them know how you feel.

  4. The entire city council should be thrown out office. The just don’t get it! Every city that has a vibrant downtown charges some sort of parking fee. Employees and local residence from the apartment buildings will take up the parking stalls and the patrons who want to visit the local restaurants and shops will have no where to park. If the Downtown Merchants want paid parking, why should the city not allow it? Why would city staff take all the time to prepare a report and partner with local businesses to create a plan. The one great thing about “term limits” is, we will finally get rid of Queen Barbara Messina! Only four more years!

    1. Culver City has several downtown parking garages, and parking is free for at least the first hour (maybe two). Santa Monica allows 90 minutes of free parking in its garages. Even Pasadena (some garages) are free for the first 90 minutes or longer. It will take city resources to patrol the lots on a schedule and issue citations. Not sure it’s worth that. We at least should wait until the Mosaic parking garage is finished and has been open for a few months (possibly a minimum of one year) before making a decision.

  5. How about the city stop charging it’s residents to park overnight on streets and instead charge for parking in these structures and elsewhere in the downtown area. It’s really unfair HOMEOWNERS and residents have to pay to park in front of their freaking house overnight! I’m sure the parking permits and citations issed are a HUGE money maker for the city coffers. I wonder what they spend that money on?? Alhambra really needs to get with the program and improve it’s infrastructure. Many traffic signal, street lights, and signs need upgrading in this city. Look at Rosemead, Temple City and others. They have done major rehabilitation projects to their streets traffic signals, etc. Get with the program Alhambra.