Parking in downtown San Mateo could be a little pricier in the near future as officials hope increasing rates and fees will help eventually ease the city’s parking crunch.
Parking woes could be a good sign that the business district is bustling, but projections that show an additional 400 new spaces are needed to accommodate growth over the next 10 years are prompting changes to San Mateo’s outdated fee structure, officials say.
The City Council is considering doubling the hourly meter rates from 50 cents to $1 per hour in prime spaces while eliminating time restrictions for many off-street spaces. It will also vote Monday, April 6 whether to triple its outdated in-lieu fees downtown developers must pay if they can’t provide spaces over the next three years, according to a city report.
“We obviously want to be aware of other cities in the Peninsula and where they are with [parking rates] so we don’t want to get out of scale with the market,” said City Manager Larry Patterson.
The council will consider an ordinance adopting the new rates anticipated to generate an additional $500,000 annually as part of its continuing effort to institute its Downtown San Mateo Parking Management Plan, which it approved last year.
To account for varied parking needs, the city will implement new rates and hourly maximums based on location.
For prime on-street spaces in the downtown core, the rates will be increased to $1 per hour and the time limit reduced from four hours to three hours. Spaces on the second floor or higher in prime garages will run 50 cents per hour with no time limit. For on-street spaces outside the core, parking is proposed at 50 cents per hour with a three-hour maximum.
Premium street spaces are within the downtown core bordered by Fourth Avenue between El Camino Real and B Street, Second Avenue between B Street and San Mateo Drive, Third Avenue between San Mateo Drive and El Camino Real, and along El Camino Real between Third and Fourth avenues.
Value off-street parking lots off Fifth Avenue include near the Ravioli House and Talbot’s Toyland, which will also be 50 cents per hour with a three-hour maximum; and lots at the Samaritan House Worker Resource Center and the former Kinkos Lot, which will cost 25 cents per hour with no time limit, according to the report.
“We actually have two functions behind raising the rates. First, we’re trying to get spaces appropriately priced, and it helps us manage the use of the spaces. For example, we have lower prices where we want [downtown business] employees to park,” Patterson said.
Councilman Joe Goethals agreed, adding the dynamic parking rates should encourage “people who work in the shops and the restaurants downtown to park in the [low-cost] lots and that will free up street parking for seniors and people trying to patronize the businesses.”
To include developers in the mix, the council may adjust in-lieu of parking fees that have been stuck at $9,000 per space since 1989. The council identified this as a key priority within its parking management plan as it’s anticipated to cost between $30,000 and $35,000 to create one new parking space within a garage.
The proposal would increase the in-lieu fee to $12,000 starting July 1, 2015, then up to $18,000 by July 1, 2016, then $25,000 starting July 1, 2017, and finally increasing by the area’s consumer price index in subsequent years, according to the report.
Patterson noted the significance of easing into the changes for downtown parkers and developers, adding they don’t want to discourage people from investing in downtown.
Staff felt increasing the rates in one fell swoop could “provide a real hindrance to some of the things going on, something like the three-corners projects,” Patterson said. “We don’t want to adversely impact them, but on the other hand, we want to get to where we need to be.”
The city will likely work with the Downtown San Mateo Association to conduct extensive public outreach educating people and businesses about the increases, Patterson said.
The new fee structure is aimed at helping support the eventual construction of a new parking garage for which Patterson said there isn’t yet a cost estimate, but added the Main Street garage cost $13 million to build.
As city officials continue to discuss the future of the Downtown Area Plan, it’s likely they will consider the worker resource center lot as a potential site to construct a new parking garage, Patterson said
If the council approves the proposed parking fee amendments Monday, it must again vote during a second reading April 20 before it could go into effect July 1, 2015.
In a continued attempt to ease parking downtown, the city may continue to work with the company Streetline to implement technology that could show real-time parking availability via a smartphone app, Patterson said. As officials continue to promote economic activity downtown, Patterson said parking is an inevitable challenge that needs continued work.
“There’s always that time when the economy is active and a lot of people want to come downtown and there’s new uses and intensified uses and it’s hard to keep up. Every retailer will tell you there’s not enough parking,” Patterson said. “In reality, we think there’s a strong supply of parking but we don’t argue the fact that we need to be adding spaces.”
The City Council meets 7 p.m. April 6 at City Hall, 330 W. 20th Ave., in San Mateo. For more information on this item go to cityofsanmateo.org/DocumentCenter/View/45164.
(650) 344-5200 ext. 106