West Sacramento has toiled for years to turn its riverfront Bridge District into a real downtown – a modern and densely-packed live-work area like the one Sacramento is trying to create in its downtown across the river.
Next month, city officials say they will take what they consider the necessary next step toward urbanity – paid street parking.
The plan, which includes eliminating residential parking permits in the district, has some squawking: Why, they ask, charge for parking in an area that is still mainly a row of empty lots?
Mayor Chris Cabaldon said it may seem like a tough pill, but it’s part of the plan, and needs to be done now to set the tone for the kind of development the city wants.
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Ultimately, tens of thousands of people will live and work in close proximity in the district, which sits on several hundred acres south of the Tower Bridge, and includes Raley Field. Paid street parking sends a message to developers, future residents and potential businesses, he said, that cars will be a part of the district, but not a big part.
Already, city officials say there was “parking friction” in the district last summer as residents of the first townhouse-style homes and apartments competed for free street parking with Rivercats baseball fans and people attending events at the newly opened Barn event center on the Sacramento River.
The City Council will hold a hearing on the matter at 7 p.m. Wednesday at City Hall. The council is expected to vote on parking fees at the close of that hearing.
If approved, the city could have parking payment stations in place on district streets by mid April. For simplicity, West Sacramento will charge the same rates as the city of Sacramento does, $1.75 per hour, with premium prices of up to $3.75 for extended-hours parking.
The most controversial element of the plan involves doing away with the city’s residential permit parking for the district. Those permits cost residents $10 a year. Instead, the city plans to open a city-owned parking lot at Bridge and Central streets and could charge residents up to $60 a month to park in it. That change could affect up to 200 residents who don’t have parking spots in garages at their homes or apartments.
Several residents protested that that was too expensive, and asked the city to to keep the residential permit parking plan in place, allowing them to continue to park on the street, until more development happens in the district.
“We are years away from that (community) actually being built out,” Jessica Kreigel, a Park Moderns homeowner, told the council at a meeting earlier this month. “At this point it seems odd.”
She said she and other residents are talking with city leaders about ways to make the changes easier on residents. Some residents complained about being required to pay for parking lot that is a few blocks from their residence. In response, city officials said they are contemplating allowing some residents farthest from the lot to continue parking on the street, if they pay the parking lot fee.
City staff members also said there may be some flexibility on the monthly parking lot fee for residents. The staff is recommending the $60 monthly amount because officials say that will assure that the city covers its construction debt and ongoing operations and maintenance costs for the lot. But a staff report indicates it is possible to cover basic operating expenses by charging as low as $23 per stall.
Several council members acknowledged the planned parking fees will cause pain for residents, but said the city has been clear from the beginning that the district will be urban and that parking ultimately will come with a price tag.
“We are serious about this is going to be a place were we would like to deemphasize cars,” Mayor Pro Tem Mark Johannessen said.
City officials say they expect that developers over time will build parking garages to allow for longer-term paid parking for workers and residents. Street parking is seen as shorter term parking, typically three hours or less, for people going to restaurants or stores in the district.
The city also hopes to build a streetcar line that would run through the neighborhood and connect over Tower Bridge to downtown Sacramento. The streetcar project, however, has not yet fully funded. It remains uncertain whether the Trump administration will honor previous federal commitments to help finance the project.