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Sacramento officials want metered parking until 10 p.m.

New parking meters near Sacramento's City Hall in Sacramento on Tuesday, February 4, 2014.
New parking meters near Sacramento's City Hall in Sacramento on Tuesday, February 4, 2014. RBenton@sacbee.com

Sacramento parking officials will ask for City Council approval next week to extend parking meter operating hours downtown to 10 p.m., and some midtown meters to 8 p.m.

The request, to be made Tuesday, is part of the city’s ongoing effort to modernize and manage street parking downtown, which has become crowded as the central city’s night-time food and entertainment districts grow.

If approved, the extended hours will be phased in over the coming six to seven months, city spokeswoman Marycon Razo said, allowing time for the city to install signs and get the word out to visitors.

Currently, most parking meters in Sacramento close out at 6 p.m.

City parking chief Matt Eierman, who was not available for comment Thursday, has said the parking changes are not directly related to the downtown arena under construction at Fifth and K streets. But the city notably has committed general fund revenue to help finance its $255 million contribution to the arena and is counting on robust parking revenue to help bolster the general fund in the coming years. The arena is scheduled to open in seven months.

The proposal would extend meters to 10 p.m. in a large rectangular area covering all of downtown, from Front Street in Old Sacramento to the west side of 16th Street. The north end of that 10 p.m. zone would be C Street and as-yet unopened Railyards Boulevard, and the southern boundary would be W Street.

Parking meter hours would be extended to 8 p.m. in a second, smaller zone in midtown. That zone would be from the east side of 16th Street to the east side of 19th Street, and from C Street on the north to W Street on the south. Time limits on non-metered street parking spots also will be enforced those same later hours in those two areas.

All meters outside of those two zones would maintain their 6 p.m. shutdown time.

Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents downtown and midtown, said city parking staff had proposed extending meters even later, but after discussions, decided on the 8 p.m. and 10 p.m. hours.

“It reflects a compromise,” Hansen said. “I think this is a start, not an end. The project overall is a work in progress.”

He said city and parking officials will continue to talk to downtown and midtown residents, as well as merchants and others, about what steps will protect parking for residents and are appropriate for the city’s growing entertainment districts. “We have to get the balance right.”

Meters in Old Sacramento currently run until 8 p.m. and meters near the Wells Fargo Pavilion at 15th and H streets continue to collect until 10 p.m.

The city also is proposing allowing drivers to add extra meter time if they need to go beyond the meter’s stated time limit. The technology, called SpotZone, allows drivers to pay either at the meter or via a smartphone app for extra hours at progressively higher rates.

The current hourly meter rate in Sacramento is $1.75. Under the proposal, at a two-hour meter, for instance, drivers can opt to pay for a third hour at $3 and for the fourth hour at $3.75. City parking garages typically charge $3 an hour. Eierman said the city hopes that more of those who need a longer-term space will opt to park in a garage, freeing up more meters for shorter-term parkers.

The SpotZone program, if implemented, likely will generate more revenue for City Hall. But city officials say it’s a win for downtown visitors and merchants, too, allowing visitors to spend more time, and money, at downtown businesses and restaurants with less risk of a parking ticket.

The city has been testing Spotzone on two blocks in downtown and midtown.

“The Spotzone project was a big success,” Councilman Jeff Harris said. “I think it is a very good plan that will make better use of our available spaces and make parking easier at city center. The shift will be toward better usage of parking garages and may well make parking work better for small businesses.”

Tony Bizjak: 916-321-1059, @TonyBizjak

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