Heading downtown for dinner? Get out your wallets. The long run of free evening parking on central Sacramento streets is officially over.
Starting Thursday night, the city is extending parking meter hours to 10 p.m. downtown and 8 p.m. in a slice of midtown.
The move is one of several major steps the city is taking this month, mainly to prepare for the opening of the Golden 1 Center arena downtown Oct. 4, when thousands of drivers will hit downtown streets in search of parking.
City officials say they also plan to launch an online service Thursday called SacPark that will allow downtown visitors to reserve and pay for a spot in advance in one of a handful of garages, some at discount rates that make them cheaper than street meter parking near the arena.
City parking head Matt Eierman said the goal is to entice arena-goers, including those attending the opening-week Paul McCartney concerts, to reserve a garage spot in advance, leaving street parking for people who are visiting downtown or midtown for shorter periods during evenings to dine at restaurants.
The evening meter hours and discount pricing at garages also should reduce the number of people driving in circles looking for limited meter spots, and will create quicker meter turnover for restaurant patrons on arena event nights.
“There is a lot of vibrancy going on downtown; we want to make sure we make good policy, and get long-term parkers into parking lots,” Eierman said. “We have plenty of supply, but we want balanced use.”
People who reserve a garage spot will generally pay $11.25 in a city garage for an entire evening under the city plan. Some private garages are expected to offer $11 prepaid parking; others more expensive parking. People who park in a city garage without reserving ahead of time will pay $15.
When large arena events take place, drawing 15,000 people, street meter parking within three blocks of the arena will cost a premium flat rate of $18.75 for those who stay three hours or more.
When events are not happening at the arena, or for people who stay shorter even during events, meters downtown will charge an hourly rate of $1.75 until the meter’s time limit is reached, typically two hours. Another new city smartphone app, called Parkmobile, will allow parkers to pay for an extra hour or two for a premium price of $3 or higher. (At some point, the city plans to merge the SacPark and Parkmobile systems into one app.)
The bottom line, Eierman said: “If you are going to be under two hours, use the street; over two hours, use a garage.” Also, he said, make sure to read the meter signage for instructions, as well as changing messages on the meter read-out screen.
Added parking revenue will bolster the city general fund, which is responsible for paying off a portion of the city’s $255 million subsidy for construction of the downtown arena. Annual arena rent payments to the city by the Sacramento Kings will be used by the city to pay off the bulk of its arena bond debt, about 60 percent.
The complicated new pricing structure is likely to cause confusion, but officials and downtown business representatives say they hope over time that arena attendees and other visitors find parking patterns that work for them.
City officials said they will offer a one-month grace period before they issue citations for meter nonpayment after 6 p.m. During September, city code enforcement officers will place information sheets on windshields explaining the new rules. Ticketing starts Oct. 1.
“We expect some people to not be informed,” Eierman said. “This is our opportunity to get the information out there.”
The extended night regulations include nonmetered residential parking permit areas downtown.
The new downtown parking price scenarios likely will encourage some arena attendees to choose light rail instead. Others may park at work and walk in, or bike to the arena and park their bike at a bike valet parking spot, city officials said.
Kings ticket holder Terry Siler has already done his due diligence. A few weeks ago, he rode light rail into downtown on a Friday evening to check out the costs, timing and feel of the system. He said he liked it, but decided instead to pre-purchase a parking spot from the Kings in one of the garages the team controls near the arena. His season-parking package will cost him a bit more than $17 per event night, he said.
The upcoming parking changes have received cautious support from the Downtown Sacramento Partnership, or DSP, which represents business and property owners in the core central business district around the arena, as well as the Midtown Business Association and the R Street Partnership, which represents businesses on the R Street corridor.
“We will be monitoring the effectiveness,” DSP official Emilie Cameron said. “Businesses will be the eyes and ears on the streets, hearing from their customers, to see if parking on the street is really turning over.”
DSP representatives will visit business owners throughout the central business district in late September, informing them of the parking changes, including the two new online offerings from the city, the existing Parkmobile app that allows parkers to buy extra time on the meter beyond the regular time limits, and the newer SacPark webpage – eventually an app – that will allow parkers to reserve a garage space.
“The last thing we want is anyone to come downtown and get a ticket,” Cameron said.
Midtown Business Association executive Emily Baime Michaels said her group also is getting the word out about several parking options for midtown visitors and workers. That includes the state-owned garage at 17th and L streets, which charges a flat night rate of only $2 ($5 on Second Saturday).
“That garage is a hidden gem that sits (largely) empty most evenings,” she said.
Restaurant workers who now park on the street likely will have to adapt. The city offers discount parking in its garages, as low as 50 cents an hour, to qualifying workers. Workers can apply on the city parking webpage.
The city also is working with Sacramento Regional Transit on potentially providing shuttles for workers who park in city-controlled lots under the W-X freeway south of downtown. Some business owners have concerns about that, however.
“The city would need to show it is safe and clean under the freeway before employers are going to want to suggest their employees get on a shuttle,” said Michelle Smira Brattmiller of the R Street Partnership.
The city is offering the W-X freeway lots as well to the public for parking at $2 a night, a substantial discount compared with most parking in downtown. Members of the public who park under the W-X can either walk, take a bus or catch light rail at the Broadway station into downtown, city officials said.
The Kings basketball team reportedly is arranging for its 1,000-plus arena employees to park under the freeway and ride a shuttle to work. The team hasn’t released details.
City parking head Eierman said the city plans to watch the early results on the streets and in garages and make adjustments. “It is a fluid system,” he said. “It can change.”
Kimio Bazett, owner of Hook & Ladder restaurant, is already asking for changes. The city put one-hour maximum parking signs at the non-metered parking spaces outside his restaurant at 17th and S streets, he said. That will make it impossible for patrons to park near the restaurant when the late-hours ticketing begins in October. Restaurant employees also won’t have a place to park.
“I’m not disagreeing (the parking changes) are an idea whose time has come,” Bazatt said. “But, there has to be a solution. We’re trying to nail down a meeting with the city. They’ve been responsive.”