Island voters approve paid parking on seawall

In the islands only, but widely popular election Saturday, voters approved implementing paid parking on the seawall.
Approval for the proposition pulled forward early in the night before final results cemented the win.

More than 3,000 people voted for the referendum, while about 1,900 voted no, with about 5,000 total casting a ballot.

We were hoping to make a statement, said James Yarbrough Jr., who headed the Yes political action committee. Thats the statement we were looking for getting Galveston going more in the right direction.

Grass-roots Effort

In 2004, voters rejected paid parking on the seawall, but this time around, Yarbrough said the Yes committee was rallying voters who were ready for change.

The old Galveston ways said, we cant do that, he said. I think now were more open to the idea. Galveston needs fresh ideas and new ideas.

The Yes committee primarily relied on a grass-roots effort to sway island residents in favor of the parking charge.

It all came from the chamber (of commerce), he said. We had a great campaign manager, too. We were knocking on doors, advertising, doing robo calls and working the phone.

When you put the boots on the ground, the work counts, he said.

Yarbrough said the Yes PAC raised about $38,000 for the campaign. Comparatively, the NOPE committee raised nearly $5,000.

I congratulate the other side, and I wish them all the best, Greg Roof, of NOPE, said. Our group will now turn its attention to making sure the city implements this in accordance with state law.

We hope they implement a program that is good for the city, he added.

The Plan

Implementation of the new parking system would probably start Jan. 1.

Parking will cost up to $8 a day to park along the seawall. The charge would be $25 for an annual pass, while hourly parking would be available at $1 an hour from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Fees could be collected through electronic means on both the north and south sides of the boulevard through about 100 meters placed some 300 feet apart from one another. The pay stations for nearly 1,300 parking spaces will run from Fourth to 83rd streets.

Some special events, such as Mardi Gras and the Lone Star Rally, would be exempt from the charge.

Within the proposal, voters approved a sunset clause that will end paid parking seven years from the day collections start. After seven years, voters can extend the clause.

Seawall Enhancements

Up to 10 percent of income from the paid parking meters could be used for administrative costs, 15 percent would replace capital improvements and 75 percent of the income would go to seawall enhancements.

Parking revenue, which could total about half a million dollars annually, would be used for showers, restrooms, litter control, neighborhood security and lighting.

Council recently approved putting two restrooms in at the seawall if the measure passed. The city will not collect revenue from the meters until the restrooms are in place.

The vote not only means the seawall is ready for a new era, it means the city of Galveston is ready for a new era, Mayor Joe Jaworski said. Its more than just seawall enhancements, its Galveston saying its time to invest in ourselves.

Neighborhood Feedback

With the approval of paid parking, the city now has to implement a neighborhood enforcement plan to keep tourists from funneling into island neighborhoods.

Under the plan, six areas from Sixth to 69th streets, excluding the half-mile stretch from 61st to 69th streets, would need residential permits with visitor passes. The permits would mirror those in other neighborhoods that already use permits.

Jaworski said the council could consider assembling a citizens advisory committee of a handful of residents to represent the neighborhoods and give feedback on how funding should be used.

Improvement of Galvestons seawall is worth $8 a day or $25 a year, he said. Im proud of the voters for taking a step forward.
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