San Diego Becomes Newest City To Pay More To Park

SAN DIEGO -- Get ready to pay more to park on San Diego streets. On Tuesday, the city voted on a rate hike at parking meters across the city to offset a $30 million budget shortfall -- one coin at a time.
Right now, the city is collecting a little more than over $5 million a year from its 5,000 parking meters. The City Manager's Office recommended a rate increase of up to 60 percent at some locations, which means it would cost $1.60 an hour. The hike at the meter, said the city, will raise another $2.6 million.

It was hard to find somebody in the city Tuesday who thought raising the rates was a good idea.

"You can look around -- there's no parking downtown to begin with," said Mark Frazier, who was driving downtown. "You have to park blocks and blocks away already. So then what if you have to park blocks and blocks away and run back to the parking space just to pay an extra 60 cents an hour? That's really bad."

City officials, however, said it was good for the budget, that this is the first meter-rate increase in San Diego in 11 years, and that the rates in Los Angeles and San Francisco are even higher.

"I just think it's a bunch of baloney," said Janice Reinicke, another motorist. "They just keep upping prices on every little thing and I think we pay enough."

Business owner Bill Keller, who owns Le Travel, pleaded with the council not to pass the measure

"The rates that are being proposed will take 12 quarters and two dimes to come down for two hours into my neighborhood and shop and dine."

Inner-city and downtown business owners said the rate hike may prove so unfriendly to motorists that customers will do business in the suburbs instead, where free parking abounds and they're not being nickeled, dimed and quartered at every turn.

Despite arguments to the contrary, council members finally agreed by a 6-3 vote to hike rates 30 percent citywide and expand enforcement times by two hours a day (8 a.m. to 8 p.m.). The council believes that the moves will raise $2.3 million in new revenue that can help shrink the city's budget gap.

The council called for a task force to study raising fines on both metered and time-regulated parking spaces, as well as other, more creative ways to maximize revenue, such as replacing current meters with new ones that accept dollar bills and read credit and debit cards.

In other fiscal moves, the council rejected a call to impose a $450-per-day fee on filmmakers who use public property, which was estimated to have raised $180,000.

The council also reviewed -- and in some cases tweaked -- other recommendations for fee hikes on:
*Library services
*The "6 to 6" after-school program
*Special events
*Swimming lessons
*Cemetery plots
*Municipal airports.

The council believes that these fee increases will result in an additional $2.5 million in new revenue.
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