Back-Seat Driver

Sacramento’s central city residents want parking rights protected

A downtown can’t prosper if its people can’t park their cars. Same goes for fragile central city neighborhoods.

With a new arena rising and a surge in downtown development plans, Sacramento officials have been busy figuring out how to adapt their parking program to bring more order to downtown and avoid problems spilling into residential neighborhoods.

“It’s a balancing act,” said City Councilman Steve Hansen, who represents downtown. “It requires constant tweaks to keep it headed in the right direction.”

The city has held several forums, offering tidbits about possible changes and asking for input. Several residents at a midtown forum last week pleaded with the city to bolster its residential parking permit program to ensure that they and their visitors can park in their neighborhoods on nights when the arena is active and restaurants and clubs are booming.

Midtown resident Karen Jacques and others say the city needs to extend residential permit hours into the night before it starts operating downtown meters after 6 p.m. Officials say they are considering extending meter hours past 6 p.m. and perhaps past midnight. They say they don’t know yet when they’ll do it. But it likely will happen before the October 2016 arena opening date. Kings basketball games typically run from 7 to 10 p.m., and the city will want fans to pay to park, either on the street or in garages.

Parking officials also plan to ask for City Council approval in the next month or so to raise meter hourly rates from $1.25 to $1.75. That move angers arena opponents and some downtown parkers, and it has prompted a petition drive opposing it. City officials counter that they haven’t raised rates since 2008. They say higher meter rates will push more longer-term parkers to use garages, where the city wants them, freeing street spots for short-term parking, and hopefully reducing parking spillage into nearby neighborhoods.

Also on the table:

▪ One notable announcement that has received cheers: Starting sometime next year, residents will be able to renew their annual parking permits online, instead of having to mail information in or drive down to City Hall to submit forms.

▪ The city also is talking about allowing residents to print out “temporary” permits for visitors. Currently, the city provides households just one or two visitor permits in restricted neighborhoods. Officials say they aren’t sure how many temporary permits they may allow.

▪ Street parking availability during the day continues to be a problem as new businesses sprout. The city and Sutter and Mercy medical centers have worked out a deal to allow employees to park under the W-X freeway, reducing competition for street parking. The city is looking to do more of those deals.

▪ The city is about to test a program, called SPOTzone, that allows parkers to stay longer at two-hour meters if they’re willing to pay a premium. The program sends an alert to a person’s smartphone, allowing them to remotely buy a third hour at $3, or a fourth at $3.75. The city will test the program on a midtown block and one in Old Sacramento. If it works, they will extend it to all meters.

▪ Parkers who illegally use disabled placards continue to plague downtown, clogging blocks. Cities have talked for years about changing state law to eliminate this abuse but have not made significant headway.

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